Redemption: From Original Gangster to Nobel Prize Nominee

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Milo, 2004 - Crime - 347 pages
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As co-founder of deadly LA street gang, the Crips, Stanley 'Tookie' Williams was the most feared man on the streets of Los Angeles. In 1971, at the age of 17, he teamed up with Raymond Lee Washington and they formed their own gang, which would later be known as the Crips.Since his conviction for the murder or four people in 1981, Williams decries his own bloody legacy and his continued efforts to teach young people about the dangers of joining street gangs has earned him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and a stay of execution on death row. This is his story.

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To what extent is this self-serving nonsense? It is apparent that Stanley Williams was a formidable person - it is not possible to get to the top of any organisation, even a criminal gang, without having considerable intellectual and personal resources. The problem is that the telling of the story lacks empathy. Oh, there are crocodile tears about the death of "my homeboys" - but the deaths, injuries and suffering he inflicted on other gang members and drug dealers?
He says that he was "redeemed" before his death - and he did write a number of books warning of the dangers of gang membership. Highlight of his prison life was a visit from Winnie Mandela - oops! given the nature and activities of her young bodyguards in South Africa in the latter apartheid years, not sure this is an unalloyed vote of approbation.
For my educative practice, perhaps the takeaway is that students such as Stanley Williams need more stretch and challenge - but at the same time, they need to learn patience. The world does not revolve around the Tookies of this world - they might be able to mould a small portion of it to their desired format for a short while, but his influence will not last as long as, say, Mandela.

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