Welcoming Troy Williams, new Bay View editor

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Editorial by Troy Williams

Dear Bay View,

Troy Williams – Photo: Uncommon Law

My name is Troy Williams. On Monday, Juneteenth, Black Liberation Day, I agreed to be the editor for the Bay View newspaper. It is with great honor, respect and much consideration that I step into this position.

I recognize that over the past 40-plus years the Bay View has been a voice for the people. Simply put, we speak truth to power, logic to the illogical, from the perspective of those who seldom have a platform to speak from. And, what greater truth is there than examples of people whose lives have been touched, transformed and empowered by what they read in the Bay View newspaper.

I first heard of the Bay View while serving time in prison. Two and a half years ago, I was serving a life sentence and paroled from San Quentin State Prison with $200 to my name, a skill set and a plan for my life. As we move forward, I will share more about me. But for the purposes of this introduction, I will state that I am most noted for founding a media organization inside the walls of San Quentin.

Dr. Willie Ratcliff, Bay View publisher since 1991, welcomes the Bay View’s new editor, Troy Williams. – Photo: Francisco Da Costa

My goal, much like I see the Bay View, was to create a platform for our voices to be heard. We were tired of the fearmonger shows and media outlets that portrayed us as one-dimensional and violent based on acts committed 20, 30 and in some cases 40 years ago. On a personal note, I wholeheartedly accept responsibility for the decisions I made that put me there. And still there is another side to this story that never gets told.

My resume includes working in some capacity to produce, write, direct, film, edit and/or assist with the organization of most video and radio productions done inside San Quentin between 2007 and 2014. I was one of the early members and among the first journalists reporting for the San Quentin News when it was reinvigorated in 2008 after a 25-year hiatus.

I cofounded the first satellite chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists inside a prison in the United States. I am also co-founder of the Financial Literacy Program at San Quentin and FEEL (Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy) philosophy in partnership with Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll.

I have co-organized restorative justice symposiums, health fairs, job fairs, numerous self-help workshops, as well as initiated the efforts to present a TED talk at San Quentin prior to my parole. TED talks began in 1984 as a conference about Technology, Entertainment and Design. Today, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in more than 100 languages in communities around the world. Former presidents, famous activists, scholars and celebrities have given TED talks. I was fortunate to be able to walk back into San Quentin a free man with my eldest daughter to speak at TEDx San Quentin.

Troy founded the San Quentin Prison Report, but it wasn’t easy, he says. Guards weren’t used to seeing prisoners with cameras gathering news.
Keith Wattley of Uncommon Law was the attorney who helped Troy win his freedom, and on Nov. 16, 2016, Troy spoke at Uncommon Law’s 10th Anniversary Celebration in Oakland. – Photo: Scott Braley

Over the past two years I have worked as a columnist for the Oakland Post, founded a media company, continue to engage in restorative practices, speak truth to power, as well as attempt to repair the harms of my past. The bottom line is that people in society seldom if ever hear from the men and women, all across this country, whose perspectives of self, community and government have been shaped by the wisdom of life’s experiences.

Troy speaks often with decision makers – here with Congresswoman Barbara Lee – about urgently needed improvements to criminal justice law and policy.

In this country, too many have been taught to view the totality of a person based on what they heard about the worst day of that person’s life. The worst day of someone’s life too often becomes the book cover for the story of his or her life. And I am here to remind us never to judge a book by its cover.

For over 40 years, writers for the Bay View have shed the light of truth in some of the darkest of places. And now that some of us have been removed from those dark places, the time has come for us to stand together and share our insights in a manner that will continue to strengthen our voices and move us beyond the pitfalls that came before or lie ahead.

On that note, it is with humble gratitude that I accept the position as editor of the Bay View newspaper. I am grateful to all the elders who came before and will be looking to you for support and guidance. Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and supporters who have held this paper down throughout the years. Thank you, Willie and Mary Ratcliff, for believing in me.

Thank you, Paul Cobb, publisher of Oakland Post, for providing my first opportunity to work for an outside newspaper when I came home. And thank you to all the men and women across this country, whether still serving time or home free, for being examples of what real transformation looks like. You are not forgotten. It’s time for change.

Bay View Editor Troy Williams can be reached at troy@sfbayview.com or 415-671-0789.

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