I was skeptical about claims that Tookie Williams had an effect on our younger people and whether or not they joined gangs. But his funeral seems to have put my doubts to rest:
As police watched, mourners including gang members flashing hand signs gathered at the 1,500-seat Bethel AME Church in South Los Angeles and in a parking lot where a TV showed the funeral for Williams, who was executed Dec. 13 despite a celebrity-studded campaign for clemency.
. . . .
Several dozen gang members wearing blue attire associated with Crips gangs watched the funeral in the parking lot. One, who identified himself as “Killowatt the Third,” age 33, estimated there were 20 to 30 Crips “sets” there to honor Williams.
“That’s my role model, man. That’s the CEO of the Crips,” he said.
I guess Tookie did have an influence after all.
My initial skepticism had been fueled by what appeared to be the relatively poor sales of his books. Depending on whom you believe, Tookie Williams’s books sold anywhere from 330 copies on the high end (according to this critic) to fewer than 1000 copies per month (according to this link). (Technically, those numbers could be consistent; 2 is fewer than 1000, after all.) But take heart: these are pre-controversy numbers. That last link says there has been an uptick in interest in Tookie’s books since the uproar began over his then-impending execution.
So I guess his good message is finally getting out, to some people — thanks to the death penalty.
Unfortunately, the wrong message got out to the Crips who showed up to his funeral. And to many of the ones who didn’t, because they are in the penitentiary, or dead.