As I am sure everyone knows, Stanely Tookie Williams was murdered by the State of California December 13th at 12:35 am PT by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison. He was 51 years old and had spent 24 years on death row. Williams' execution has inspired an outpouring of support from various people and groups.
Today our friend Brandon Bauer sent us a beautiful stencil in honor of Williams' death, writing:
Another reason why the death penalty must be abolished. Stanley Tookie Williams is another casualty of the injustice system --- I made a stencil in his honor and have attached the template as a PDF. Feel free to download the image, print it out on cardstock, cut out the dark areas with an x-acto and get the image up on the street.
Click here to download the stencil template (1MB PDF file).
Art against the death penalty and prisons has played a vital role in informing the public about the prison system and offering support to those unjustly locked up. One great example was SAW's Art vs. Prisons. Another comes from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. The following brief history introduces their exhibition, "Can't Jail the Spirit! Political Prisoners in the United States":
Throughout the twentieth century, posters have been one of the primary tools for organizing support for political prisoners. Potent graphics give witness to the prisoners' existence, inform the public about their status, mobilize support on their behalf, and prevent them from being forgotten by future generations. Can't Jail the Spirit! includes posters from the labor and anarchist movements of the early twentieth century, the McCarthy period, the Puerto Rican independence movement, the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and concludes with current political prisoners. Nearly thirty years of posters demanding freedom for Leonard Peltier remind us that these posters have a life-and-death function for those still imprisoned.
Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated in America, over 1,000 "convicted" prisoners have been killed. Though support is still high, it is declining as more and more people become aware of the profound flaws in the judicial system. Governor George Ryan also caused a sensation on January 11, 2000, when he commuted over 100 death sentences in Illinois, saying:
He had concluded that capital punishment was applied unfairly and arbitrarily and risked executing persons who were innocent. For these reasons, the Governor said he would no longer "tinker with the machinery of death."
More recently, Mumia Abu-Jamal has finally won a chance to be heard in court. It has been nearly 25 years since Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial that put him on death row. During this time he has witnessed wide support for his release, including some of the most inspirational and informative art about the prison system and the death penalty. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia agreed on Decemeber 7, 2005, to hear arguments on three separate defense claims of constitutional violations during his trail and state appeals. The catch however is if he loses, he may end up back on death row as "the Third Circuit is also considering the prosecution's appeal of a lower court ruling that overturned Mumia's death sentence."
Regardless of what your thoughts are about the death penalty or Williams's case, there probably has not been a better time in recent memory for a productive dialogue about the issue, especially as Abu-Jamal's case, and others, develop in the coming months. Do your part in any way you can.
As a reminder the deadline for posters on the Prison Industrial Complex that we featured over the summer is quickly approaching. The show is scheduled for Spring 2006 and will be held at the Watts Towers Art Center.
Deadline is January 30th, 2006. Once again the guidlines and where to send:
Criteria for posters CSPG collects: 1). It must be produced in multiples such as silkscreen, offset, stencil, litho, digital output etc. 2). The poster must have overt political content. If you would like to create a poster for an organization doing prison work or to donate posters, please contact:
Center for the Study of Political Graphics
8124 West Third Street, Suite 211
Los Angeles, CA
a big thanks to Brandon for sending us the stencil!