Edward Garza

From Prison Focus Issue 44
Fall 2014

It was the talk of the prison yard. Not since the vote to
change the three-strikes law were the black prisoners
expressing such deep contemplations. I stayed up until
midnight awaiting the outcome. Tookie Williams arrived to
San Quentin’s death row a young man. He departed a greying
middle aged man. I emphasize the word “Man.” He was
one of the founding members of the Crips gang compliments
of South Central, Compton, Watts. Over the television the
news showed a single photograph of him as a slender youth
yet to possess the full physique of a man, having an abundant
afro, his fi ngers dancing arcs throwing gang signs for the
camera lens. He was a mere child. When I awake the next
day I heard the news, he’s been executed by the state. He’s
written many children’s books warning them to stay away
from gangs and drugs. I suppose this was his way of trying to
re-enter civilized society to the best of his ability, to be part
of the simplistic, but they wanted no part of him and the only
redemption they were willing to concede to him was a lethal
injection. As long as you blindly graze with the herd, you’ll
live to a ripe old age, but if you stray, the system bares its
fangs. If you happen to be poor, this society says you’re poor
because it’s your fault. But let us turn back the time to Tookie’s
childhood in South Central Las Angeles and we see he
never stood a chance. His last act as a man was to refuse his
last meal, stating it was ludicrous to accept a meal from those
about to take your life. The white man hired by the state,
the death merchant, struggled to fi nd a ripe vein. He jabbed
nervously at the hard black tendons as the seconds ticked by
pushing into eternity. Finally Tookie fl exed his large muscled
arm and showed him the way. It was said if he’d only bowed
down and cried for mercy expressing remorse he might have
been saved.

But he knew of the lynched and castrated who’d pleaded
with the hooded night riders to no avail. America the ironic,
murdered another of its truest sons. The Governor of California
Arnold Schwareneggar arrived to America to realize an
epitomized dream propagated across the land. His grandfather
was a member of the Nazi party in Austria. And Tookie
Williams, was a descendant of African slaves brought to
America shackled in the bowels of some slave ship. The
Governor lived the American dream to its fullest and was
showered wealth and accolades.

Segregation was still one of the strongest lawful institutions
existing in America when Tookie was born. And so
not so distant from that pale green gas chamber, Arnold
Schwareneggar, the Nazi’s grandson, signed the execution
order to dispatch Tookie from the face of the earth, the reluctant
Native Son, more true to America than the newly arrived