Free Talib Now!

Background:

On July 20, 2020 at approximately 3:00 in the morning, 200 incarcerated Black men were violently raided at Soledad State Prison for no other reason than being Black. The men were interrogated about Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, and the Black Guerilla Family, a prison gang established in the 70s. In the aftermath of the raid, one of the victims, incarcerated author Talib Williams and his wife journalist turned activist, Tasha Williams, became the most vocal critics of the prison and its refusal to acknowledge that not only were there mental and physical injuries, but that the men were targeted for no other reason than the fact they were Black. Writing numerous articles and doing countless interviews that were broadcast across the country and beyond, word began to spread about what happened at Soledad. It wasn’t long before prison officials caught wind and immediately began a retaliation campaign attempting to silence Talib.

Prison officials, mad that the truth is being exposed, are attempting to bury Talib under the prison. Since the raid. Officers have falsified documents in order to “validate” Talib as being a member of a prison gang. Officers have managed to suspend he and his wife’s overnight visiting privileges for five years, and are now attempting to turn the prison population against him by denying the building he’s housed in adequate access to yard, showers, phones, packages and canteen, saying that it’s because of Talib “writing articles and his wife protesting in front of the prison.” Luckily Talib is loved across racial lines, but all it takes is one incarcerated person lacking integrity to be offered drugs or a phone by an officer and Talib’s fate could change in the blink of an eye.

We must rally around Talib and find a way to bring him home to his family as soon as possible. But first let’s get to know him and his story.

How did Talib end up in prison?

In 2002 a 17-year-old Talib (then known as Marcelle) Williams, was pursuing his dream of becoming a professional skateboarder when a string of tragic events would alter the trajectory of his life forever.

Walking home from a friend’s house one night, having made it within feet of his front door, someone attempted to take his life; a hail of bullets were fired in the direction of his young Black body. Four struck him sending him to the hospital’s intensive care unit  where he would udergo multiple surgeries to save his leg.

Both his tibia and fibula were shattered but were able to be reconstructed. However, his dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder were shattered beyond repair. Also shattered was his sense of security; he had no idea who shot him or why anyone would want to. This left Talib traumatized. Soon he would be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by a psychiatrist named Deborah Spates who worked with the Ventura County Juvenile Probation Department; Talib was on probation for a graffiti charge that occurred when he was in 7th grade (12 years old).

Continued..

Trying to cope with his new reality while still living in the “unknown,” as to who tried to take his life, Talib would make the tragic mistake of purchasing a firearm for his “protection.” But his idea of Black male masculinity was not the dominant theme in his identity. This proved true when not long after he purchased the gun, he would learn the identity of the person who tried to kill him; instead of “taking the law into his own hands,” a terrified Talib would inform not only his probation officer, but the probation officer, or the person who tried to kill him, who not only lived in the same neighborhood as Talib, but was actually an acquaintance of his. Talib was told by a mutual friend who had been told by the shooter that he was high on meth and “just wanted to shoot someone.” What made it more troubling was that the shooter had actually visited Talib on multiple occasions after he had been shot, pretending to be concerned. It was the fear induced by this realization that caused Talib to notify the authorities; he didn’t know what the shooter would do next. But when the probation department failed to investigate, not even bringing this individual in for questioning, Talib felt abandoned and helpless.

Feeling an increased sense of terror, as the shooter lived only a block away, Talib once again to convince his probation officer to intervene. When she told him there was nothing she could do without evidence, he begged to be sent back to Hayward in the San Francisco Bay Area with his grandmother hwere he was raised. He had only been living with his mother for four years off and on. She had been released from prison in the mid-90s and moved to the Central California city of Oxnard, where Talib and his siblings would visit during the summers until 1996 began a long pattern of back and forth relocations. But this time was different; Talib knew he needed to leave for good before something happened to him or he did something stupid. But because he was on probation he was forced to stay in Oxnard.

Less than a month later a 17-year-old Talib, terrified and feeling abandoned, believing he had no other option, shot and killed the person who tried to kill him weeks earlier.

Highlighting the systemic failure of refusing to listen to Talib who was crying out for help, now under investigation for murder, Talib was allowed to move back home with his grandmother in Hayward. He would ultimately confess to the shooting believing the circumstances surrounding the events that led to this tragedy would be taken into consideration, primarily his being diagnosed with PTSD and alerting his probation officer concerning the identity of the person who tried to take his life. But Talib’s $25,000 lawyer failed to hire a single investigator or expert witness, not even calling as a witness, Deborah Spates, the one person who could have testified to the fact that Talib was in fact suffering from PTSD and that his attempts to move back home with his grandmother in Hayward, as well as the tragic choice to retaliate, were all symptoms of someone suffering from PTSD. His lawyer’s failure resulted I a teenage Talib being sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Talib’s path in prison:

Talib didn’t let this break him. He decided early on that although his body was confined, he would not allow his mind to be confined, nor allow it to conform to his environment; he was placed on the highest security level possible which meant the most violent. But Talib, being Muslim, was able to insulate himself away from the madness by immersing himself within the prison’s Islamic community spending his time reading, praying and studying. Talib’s best friends became his books, and he navigated his way through the twisted labyrinth that is California’s prison system, by his growing Islamic faith.

Talib’s education and devotion to his faith would eventually place him in a leadership position as an Imam in the Islamic Community where he would deliver the Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) and lead congregational prayers at every prison he would be transferred to over the years beginning in 2008 until now in 2020 at Soledad where he is currently located.

But Talib isn’t your regular “Imam.” Talib’s Islamic education would coincide with an increasing display of televised police shootings of unarmed Black men and women (beginning with Oscar Grant), the emergence of Black Lives Matter, and a strong intersectional feminist movement, all of which had a strong effect on Talib who’s style of teaching synthesizes traditional Islamic concepts with the reality of being Black in a structurally racist, patriarchal America.

Talib has facilitated a toxic masculinity workshop along with other incarcerated activists, which was the subject of a CNN documentary called “The Feminist on Cellblock Y.” Talib also created an Islamic Feminist Workshop on Black masculinity, which draws heavily on often overlooked lessons from the life of Islam’s prophet, Muhammed, as well as neglected African expressions or Islamic thought while using as a sounding board, works of Black feminist author, Bell Hooks. However, Talib’s most consistent work, which gave birth to the Islamic Feminist Workshop, is his weekly “Thursday Night Lights” halaga (study circle) where for the past five years Talib has facilitated discussions every Thursday night on topics such as “Black Lives Matter and Revelation” discussing the role the Qur’an plays in a society so deeply rooted in anti-Black racism. “Abdul Qudiral jilani: Gang culture and reform through surism,” which delves into character reformation by looking at the methods used by one of Islam’s most renown mystics, and ‘Before Ghandi: Shmadu Banba and nonviolence in Islam,” which discusses the tradition of nonviolence in Islam by looking at the life of one of Sheica’s most revered mystics whose practice of nonviolence terrified European colonialists.

These teachings and Talib’s unique style inspired a journalist for the Monterey County Weekly to write a story on Talib titled, “Caged Seeker: An Inmate Tackles Racism, Toxic Masculinity and the Coronavirus from Within a State Prison in Soledad.”

Along with teaching, Talib is also an accomplished writer, being a regular contributor to the famous National Black Newspaper, the San Francisco Bay View. It was through his writing that he would meet his wife Tasha. As a couple, they would give life to Talib’s dream of creating a non-profit organization that would create programs teaching creative writing in prisons, as well as establishing a publishing company that would publish the works of incarcerated people for free. Thus far, Talib has written six books and published three. His last book “Soledad Uncensored,” a critique of Black male masculinity and the criminal system of injustice, despite its clear condemnation of violence, has resulted in Talib being targeted by prison officials.

Talib is being accused of being a member of a prison gang that was established in the 70s, long before he was ever born, solely because his father who, like his mother, has been incarcerated since Talib was three years old, was once an associate of the gang.

 

The Raid:

Talib, along with 200 other peaceful incarcerated Black people, was violently raided at 3:00 in the morning July 20, 2020, at Soledad State Prison as part of a racially motivated “intelligence operation.” Talib had his head slammed against the wall of his cell after being snatched off his top bunk out of his sleep, zip-tied so tight that his hands lost circulation and turned purple, forced to walk barefoot to the dining hall, forced to sit in a crowded kitchen without facemasks, all to be questioned by plain-clothed officers about Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, and his father’s past affiliation. Little did Talib know he was being targeted for validation, a process that allows the prison to arbitrarily label incarcerated people as members of a gang (also called a Security Threat Group). In Talib’s case, they used a picture of George Jackson as well as a quote from the best-selling author and prison activist as proof that Talib was a member of a Security Threat Group. However, the picture and quote were from Talib’s book “Soledad Uncensured.” But because CDCR has labeled George Jackson a Security Threat Group symbol, they are able to brand anyone who reads his writings as a member of a Security Threat Group. They also used a tattoo of a dragon that Talib has on his back, covered in Islamic symbolism, as proof that Talib was a member of a Security Threat Group. They even went so far as to mis-translate a verse from the Qur’an as being in reference to Talib committing acts of violence on behalf of a Security Threat Group. They were clearly reaching.

When Talib was finally able to get to the phone and call home to let his wife know what happened, she wrote an article in the San Francisco Bay View and immediately began to organize protests in front of the prison. When, just days leading up to the protest Soledad witnessed its first cases of COVID, brought into the prison by officers involved in the raid, prison officials denied that officers brought it into the prison; they were monitoring phone calls between Talib and his wife, Tasha, who were talking about inviting the media to cover the protest, and prison officials didn’t want that information exposed. The day before the protest, Security Squad officers came to Talib’s cell saying tht they were concerned for his safety, that they were monitoring a phone call where he and his wife were talking about a disagreement whe had with some Latinx women about the scope of the protest. The Security Squad attempted to frame the disagreement – because one of the Latinx women was married to an incarcerated person who had been labeled as a member of the Mexican Mafia – as being indicative of potential conflict between Black and Latinx prison gangs. The officers on the Security Squad knew this wasn’t the case; what they were trying to do was find a way to ban Talib’s wife from prison grounds. If they could somehow show that her actions outside the prison were cause for a security concern inside the prison, that would be enough to ban her. But because Talib knew what they were trying to do, their plan failed. He told them he wasn’t concerned for his safety. So they left to come up with another plan.

While all this was happening, Talib was writing a detailed account of what was really happening. This piece was eventually published in the San Francisco Bay View titled, “They came for us in the morning: What prison officials don’t want you to know about the raid on 200+ Black people at Soledad.”

Talib’s family created a flyer advertising this article on his social media (Instagram) page using an image of Talib from 2018, a picture of him in a prison cell. Talib was caught with the phone this picture was taken on and pled guilty to being in possession of it in January 2019. But this didn’t stop the same officers who were monitoring his phone calls (and now his social media) from attempting to use this flyer against Talib. They said that the picture was recent and that it proved Talib was in possession of a cellphone and therefore were charging him with “constructive possession of a cellular phone.” However, although the charge was against Talib, the body of the Rules Violation Report was clearly targeting Talib’s wife, Tasha. They alleged, without presenting any facts, that Talib took the picture and posted it to his Instagram, and then sent it to his wife who posted it on her non-profit organization’s Instagram account.

The next day Talib would receive another Rules Violation Report, this time for a picture that was used as a featured image on the article mentioned above. They alleged, without presenting any facts, that Talib took the picture and sent it to the San Francisco Bay View.

Despite providing evidence that there was no possible way that the pictures were recent, and that they were in fact from 2018, Talib was still found guilty. Because the prison wouldn’t allow the evidence to be sent to Talib through the mail (we believe they destroyed it) his wife sent the evidence to the warden. However, when Talib requested that he be called in as a witness in order to present Talib’s evidence, they refused to call him.

Charging Talib for pictures taken on a phone that he already pled guilty to years ago, is illegal according to CDCR’s own policy, just as it is illegal to give him back to back Rules Violation Reports for images connected to the same article. CDCR’s policy calls this practice “Stacking’ and it is also a violation of the U.S. Constitution which provides protection from “double jeopardy” (i.e., being charged twice for the same crime).  However, this was the only way they could target Talib’s wife. CDCR recently instituted a policy that prohibits overnight family visiting for those found guilty of consecutive Rules Violation Reports for possession of “Constructive possession” of a cellular phone.

We don’t know what they will do next. We know they are targeting Talib and his wife. The longer Talib remains in prison the greater the risk of the system swallowing him.

Talib was failed by the system once as a child. Let’s not allow the system to fail him again as an adult.

#FreeTalib

Please Contact These Officials:

Governor Gavin Newsom

EMAIL: (TAP IMAGE) PHONE: (916) 445-2841

CDCr Secretary Kathleen Allison

EMAIL: kathleen.allison@cdcr.ca.gov

Soledad Warden Craig Koenig

EMAIL: craig.koenig@cdcr.ca.gov

CDCr Deputy Director of Internal Affairs Brenda Crowding

EMAIL: brenda.crowding@cdcr.ca.gov

Senate Public Safety Chair Nancy Skinner

EMAIL: (TAP IMAGE) PHONE: (510) 286-1333

Soledad Ombudsman Tami Falconer

EMAIL: tami.falconer@cdcr.ca.gov PHONE: (916) 324-5448

Director, Division of Adult Institutions Connie Gipson

EMAIL: connie.gipson@cdcr.ca.gov

Deputy Director, Facility Operations Kimberly Seibel

EMAIL: kimberly.seibel@cdcr.ca.gov

Here's What You Can Say:

“I am  _____, of (insert organization name here), and I am asking that the fabricated charges which led to an unchecked guilty finding against peaceful Black incarcerated artist Talib Williams (V69247) be dropped. In the interest of justice, Talib must be absolved of all guilt after the clear evidence is finally viewed. This means that Talib’s FAMILY VISITS must be reinstated immediately, and the recent RVR’s be removed from his record as well.

We are also asking for an internal investigation into the investigation practices of Soledad guards; practices seemingly lost on Warden Craig Koenig when he’s asked about them.

We demand that the frivolous investigations into Talib and Tasha Williams end now.

We will not stop. We will not back down. This is wrong. This won’t stand.

We want justice for the Williams Family NOW. #FreeTalib”

Donate To Talib's Legal Fund:

Zelle: tashachildress@gmail.com

Call-to-Action

Sign This Petition!

Signing this petition automatically sends emails to CDCR officials who need to feel the heat for the racist harassment of peaceful incarcerated writer Talib Williams. Please click below to sign.