Saturday, January 15, 2005

On Martin Luther Kings birthday I wanted to talk about the book I just finished reading Blue Rage, Black Redemption by Stanley Tookie Williams.

I found out about Tookie almost by accident, I heard the film Redemption starring Jamie Foxx was showing at the San Francisco Black film festival. I went to see it partially because it was a free screening and partially to see Jamie Foxx and Lynn Whitfield an actress I wish was more visible.

The film is about Stanley Tookie Williams one of the co-founders of the Crips, who while on Death Row at San Quentin has been nominated several times for the Noble Prize of Peace and Literature for his children books. The film and book are about his life transition from gangster to introspective peaceful man who reformed himself from the gangster mentality.

The hook for me to read Tookie autobiography was in the film Sportman Park was mentioned. I took swimming lessons at Sportman Park (now named Jessie Owens) as a child spent many summer days there. Living in the Black community I obliviously knew about the Crips. But gang violence never felt that bad until the late 1970's - early 1980's when the cocaine trade/war started. I wanted to find out how our worlds were parallel.

There were many parallels Washington High school, were I took drivers ed was Tookie first High school and the place the Crips originated. The Rialto Theatre on Imperial Hwy was a neighborhood theatre where I watched Sinbad films on Saturdays. But it was the place Tookie and some of his homies conjugated. George Clinton Concert at the Forum, seeing the Mothership Land. I was there. No self respecting teenager missed that concert even a nerdy Catholic School Girl like me.

Well I found the tries but our lives were so difference and took such difference paths. Stan Williams is in death row in prison and now reaches out to children to encourage them not to make the choices he did. I went to college, got a job and live a modest but comfortable life in San Francisco not too far from San Quentin.

Within his book he describes the factors that direct African-American children to failure. Poor economic options, lack of community support, institution within the community that don't support it's resident like schools and police and the embracing of self-hate which manifest itself in so many ways in the Black community Black on Black violence the most notorious.
While our lives where different I also knew the police were not supportive or helpful in our community. I remember my high school boyfriend trying to protect me from the police one night who greeted us in silence with a high beam search light, my boyfriend was walking me home. I also remember many neighborhood stores for years didn't have Black employees even though the neighborhood was African-American. The white folks working in those stores didn't live in our neighborhood. I also remember being discourage to attend college in elementary school by a woman who gave our class a test (not a teacher - I believe she was doing something for graduate school) and pronounced that none of us needed to aspire or prepare for college. I'm still amazed by this woman's arrogant and ignorance. These were my experiences Tookies were much worst. Yet he has transcended his environment and the role society has prescribed for him.

Stan Williams, also allows us into his head sharing his struggle in the prison system to find himself and dedicate himself to creating peace. He also shares with us the people who have provided him support throughout the years. I had never considered volunteering in a prison but after reading his book I realize the need to support individuals who want to get a grip on their lives and make productive change.
Read his book and let's all think how we can make our communities more supportive for our youth and peaceful.


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