Friday, December 09, 2005


Time Ticks Away for Tookie

THERE WAS NO WORD from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today on clemency for Stokely "Tookie" Williams, a co-founder of the notorious Crips gang, and a reformed gang leader and Nobel Prize nominee who is scheduled to be executed on December 13th.

An article in the Chronicle a couple of days ago suggested that without clear doubt about his guilt based on DNA or a turned witness, no modern governor would stay the execution. But, if I were Arnold Schwarzenegger, at this point, I would be asking myself, "Do I want the blood of this man on my hands and on the conscience of the state I love, and the subsequent blood that will be shed because of the reaction in the street? Or, can I handle the families of the victims being mad at me?" Well, from a political standpoint, and even more importantly as a legacy statement, the choice would be clear to me. In addition, the Governor should meditate deeply on the spiritual questions being played out here: questions of faith in the ultimate untarnished goodness at the center of every living being and the possibility of salvation.
"With him our belief in human redemption also sits on the gallows"
David Batstone Redemption on trial in California

In this particular case, the question must be "Has Stokely Williams been redeemed?" I, for one, believe that he has been saved. And, this clear turning, both in his character, action, and effect is reason enough to halt this execution. Moreover, the questionable credibility of the circumstantial evidence arrayed against him and the likely ulterior motives of the "witnesses" urge us to pause before now allowing, what amounts to, state-sanctioned murder. It can now be convincingly argued that killing Stokely Williams' would hurt us more than allowing him to live.
"Williams has become a major figure in the gang peace movement. He has co-authored 10 books from Death Row. The message is clear: Violence is never a solution. He urges young gang kids to get out before it destroys them and the lives of their family members. That's a powerful message from one of the founders of the Crips.

Williams first made a public plea to hundreds of gang members who gathered at a Los Angeles hotel in 1993 for a summit called Hands Across Watts. He did not hide his early role in the Crips, but on a pre-recorded videotape filmed for the summit told the young gang members that he lamented his history. Recounting this first public event to the San Francisco Chronicle, Williams said, "I told them I never thought I could change my life, that I thought I would be a Crip forever. But I developed common sense, wisdom and knowledge. I changed."

This clear turning toward the light that has occurred in Tookie Williams and its powerful and positive effects on his community supply ample evidence that we may not be doomed forever for our mistakes and transgressions; that good lies still within our power to create and to reap; that we are capable of being generative of peace, love, joy, respect and empowerment; that we can be freed from the shackles of hatred, violence and damnation; that we may even be redeemed in the hearts of those we love.

Short audio clip as a prelude to a longer interview with Mr. Williams that Tavis Smiley will be airing on his new nationally syndicated radio show the weekend of December 9th.

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