Tookie: From Chaos to Consciousness
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
The name Stanley “Tookie” Williams, is both famous and infamous.
Infamous because of his multiple murder convictions in California, which led him to Death Row; Famous because of his works while there, and the growing movement to spare his life, and perhaps achieve his freedom from California’s notorious San Quentin prison.
Those works include the writing of several, award-winning anti-gang and anti-violence books, many of them written especially for young folks, which have turned many away from the perils and pitfalls of gang life.
They respond to Tookie, because they know that he knows what he’s talking about. Tookie is one of the founders of the Crips gang, which has spread all across the nation. As one of the founders of Cripdom, his words have a resonance that others, either in government or the church, simply can’t match.
Tookie’s life example is also known to us through the acting of the Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx, who portrayed the muscular former gangbanger in a tele-drama called, “Redemption.” Foxx, the man and celebrity has joined the call to California’s Governor, former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to commute his death sentences to life. Just recently, Foxx was joined by his fellow actors, Will Smith, and rapper Snoop Dogg, who have echoed Foxx’s call.
Several months ago, the anti-death penalty publication, The New Abolitionist (published by the Chicago-based Campaign to End the Death Penalty) published a brief letter from Tookie in which he addressed the issues of both his innocence and his sincerity. He wrote:
“My detractors in the media and elsewhere have questioned my redemption. Their doubt is driven largely by my open apology to Black folks and others who might have been offended by the fact that I helped create the Crips youth gang in Los Angeles 34 years ago. My detractors argue that I could not be redeemed because I have not apologized to the family members of the victims that I was convicted of killing.
“But please allow me to clarify. I will never apologize for capital crimes that I did not commit—not even to save my life. And I did not commit the crimes for which I was sentenced to be executed by the State of California.
“Being a condemned prisoner, I am viewed among the least able to qualify as a promoter of redemption and of peace. But the most wretched among society can be redeemed, find peace and reach out to others to lift them up. Redemption cannot be faked or intellectualized. It must be subjective, experienced, and shared. In the past redemption was an alien concept to me. But from 1988 to 1994, while I lived in solitary confinement, I embarked on a transitional path toward redemption. I underwent years of education, soul-searching, edification, spiritual cultivation, and fighting to transcend my inner demons.
“Subsequently, the redeeming process for me symbolized the end of a bad beginning—and a new start.” [From: The New Abolitionist, August 2005, p. 2.]
Stanley “Tookie” Williams has been nominated several times for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, for his work in support of street peace, and in anti-gang efforts. He has written nine anti-gang and anti-violence books, and created the Internet Project for Street Peace, which connects youth globally in support of that end.
That said, Tookie has a date with death: December 13, 2005!
What makes Tookie’s case doubly disturbing is that the State played fast and loose with jury selection, by kicking off three potential Black jurors, resulting in a virtually all-white jury to decide both his guilt and whether he should live or die (there were 10 Caucasians; 1 Filipino and 1 Latino).
Is racial jury-rigging a “minor” thing?
Just recently, in Philadelphia, a man who had been on Death Row for over a decade, for multiple murders, had his retrial. His original conviction was tossed because of a violation of the “Batson” rule (which forbids the removal of Black jurors). A racially mixed jury acquitted him of all charges.
It can be said that Tookie didn’t receive a fair trial, by any standard. How can he then face death? The death penalty has been losing steam for years, largely because of cases which were ‘won’ by unfairness.
With the support of the people, that may be ending, as the fight for the life of Tookie begins!
—Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal, November 20, 2005
Note: Stanley “Tookie” Williams was executed by the State of California on December 13, 2005.