Redemption: A Perspective by Stanley “Tookie” Williams

Redemption: A Perspective by Stanley “Tookie” Williams
By Stanley “Tookie” Williams – Guest Columnist-

March 13, 2001

To say the least, I am a controversial figure with an unenviable gang legacy (Crips co-founder) that will forever haunt me.

Thus, it was highly improbable that I, a Black man on San Quentin’s death row, would overcome egregious odds to radically transform my life, author nine children’s books, create a viable program for youth (the Internet Project for Street Peace, an international peer mentoring and violence prevention effort), meet Winnie Mandela, gain worldwide recognition and be nominated for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

For nearly 20 years I have been pitted against the morbid mind-set of certain unethical prison officials and their confidential informants. On the other hand, I spent half of those 20 years functioning in a predictable pattern of negative behavior. Throughout that first decade on death row, I was a quasi-slave to the prison conditions that dictated how I should think, act and survive.

Being a “condemned” man, I was expected to languish, unchanged, in the silent misery of the doomed. However, from 1988 to 1994, while in solitary confinement, I learned how to battle my hypocritical conscience, gang mentality and personal demons. I underwent many years of soul-searching and re-education, without “debriefing” (another word for “snitching”), without a broken spirit and without violating my moral convictions.

By 1993, I had rediscovered my humanity through the knowledge of God, culture and self, which became the “natural elements” for reshaping my life. I had become a man of principle and accountability, and a servant of God. For me, it was both a spiritual blessing and therapy for my soul to meditate on the teachings of the Qur’an, Metu Neter, the Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible and other uplifting literature.

I became culturally conscious through the literary instructions of Cheikh Diop, Dr. Yosef S. Jochanna, Ivan V. Sertima, John H. Clarke, Jacob Carruthers and other Black historians. I even began to tackle topics such as politics, religion, law, math, psychology, philosophy, economics, leadership and others.

I have been disciplinary-free for over seven years. Still, prison officials continually challenge the merits of my positive transition; behind these walls, I remain the “whipping boy” for an unforgivable gang past. Hence, the public vilification of me launched by San Quentin’s spokesman, Vernell Crittendon. In a previous Final Call article dated December 26, 2000, the spokesman had stated, “We have many independent sources, the last as early as June, 2000, which indicated that he (Stanley Williams) is still involved with the Crips.”

Apparently, Crittendon has selective amnesia. I appealed the bogus June 2000 allegations through the inmate appeal process—and won. A copy of the document confirming that fact was mailed to The Final Call. San Quentin was somewhat tactful in hand-picking Crittendon, a Black man who was opportunistic enough to fabricate and deny his own conscience. But for Crittendon to rely upon his Blackness to project validity on his now-discredited statements made against me, will not work. Crittendon should really be ashamed of himself.

Needless to say, my nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize has been opposed by a few vulturous journalists, victim rights groups, death penalty proponents, law enforcement groups and other self-imposed opposition. The focal point continues to elude their train of thought. Obviously, the nomination is not for my gang past, but for the present Internet Project for Street Peace work that I initiated from a death row cell and for the nine anti-gang and anti-violence books for schools and libraries that I have authored.

Nonetheless, I have been called an unrepentant sinner, a moral coward, criminal beast, serial killer and a Fox News network reporter even compared me to Adolph Hitler. My belief is that such ungodliness in the judgment of me is the toxic product of American racism. A Black man is not supposed to be capable of redeeming himself.

People tend to forget the transitions of Saul, who became Paul, Moses, King David and Saint Aurelius Augustine, who was not always saintly, given the boy he sired by a mistress. Another controversial transformation was Alfred Nobel, himself, who invented dynamite and, ultimately, created the Nobel Peace Prize. A newspaper mistakenly printed Alfred Nobel’s obituary instead of his dead brother’s: the headline accused Alfred Nobel of earning his wealth through an invention (dynamite) that countless people had used to kill one another. The misprint served as a premonition for Alfred Nobel, allowing him to see how the world would judge him. It provoked his transition.

Yet, my detractors contend that it is inconceivable that I could reorient my life. Back in the day, I was devoted to building a Crip nation at the expense of other Black people. Today, my life is dedicated to building unity among youths, to promoting youth programs, computer literacy and youth empowerment, and to developing an initiative for a broad-based progressive agenda for youth throughout the world.

In fact, I hold out, here and now, an olive branch to those of you who desire to unite in peaceful solidarity to reverse the cycle of self-destructive madness afflicting too many of our people, Black people, young and old alike. Please contact me through my web site, In conclusion, I realize that the process of “self-transition” begins and ends with the determination of my faith. Indeed, the value of my transition cannot be determined by the perception of what people think I am, but rather by the ethics of my deeds.

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