Soledad: ‘What’s happening in society with Black Lives Matter ain’t gonna happen here’

Talib Williams, known as Talib the Student, was sentenced to prison at the age of 17 by an all-non-Black jury. Since receiving a virtual death sentence, Talib has striven to rise above prison politics and better his life. He has authored three books while incarcerated, started a non-profit organization, became a respected imam in the prison’s Muslim community, facilitating a healthy spiritual development for practitioners of his faith, and facilitated a toxic masculinity workshop for inmates, which was the subject of a CNN documentary on Soledad State Prison called “The Feminist on Cellblock Y.” Talib was offered an early parole hearing for good behavior in 2017 and is currently awaiting the decision.

by Tasha Williams

Now that all their dirty laundry has been aired and the story on sfbayview.com has been viewed by over 50,000 people across the country, Warden Craig Koenig of Soledad State Prison and other officials have decided that they’d better come up with a good reason for the brutal 3 a.m. assault on 100-200 Black inmates in which guards made it clear the raid intentionally exposed the men to COVID-19. They need a scapegoat, so that must be why they are trying to validate prisoners known not to be active in prison culture, including prison gangs. 

When an inmate gets validated, that means that he is on paperwork as a member or affiliate of a gang and subject to the California Corrections Department’s full arsenal of retaliatory abuse and often torture. For those who know my husband, Talib Williams, known as Talib the student, the thought of him ever having reason to be validated is simply laughable.

Talib preaches non-violence in both his written works, as well as his ministries to other inmates. He has never been tied to a gang, but that hasn’t stopped prison officials from trying to validate him for over a decade. Since 2011, the prison has claimed that it is Talib’s relationship with his own validated father that led to over 10 years of fruitless investigations into my husband. Now, however, they have seemingly abandoned that angle in favor of a complete fabrication.

According to the prison, a confidential informant told them that Talib was a high member of the Black Guerrilla Family or BGF. While the law states that officials must perform a lie-detector test on any informant, they have nothing to back up their claims of an informant’s existence, and since Talib is well-liked to the point of having zero enemies aside from staff, it won’t be hard to prove that the administration is full of it.

Not only that, but the prison is claiming that the dragon tattoo on Talib’s back – an Islamic symbol – is actually a BGF tattoo and that the Quran verse above it reads something along the lines of Talib being a member of the BGF. They’re claiming that they sent images of the tattoo to “experts” at the FBI, who translated the scripture, commonly known by Muslims, to mean that my husband had performed a hit for the gang. Is that completely crazy, or what?!

Here are Talib’s own words about what happened on Monday, the 27th of July, one week after the raid in which he was slammed into a wall while sleeping.

Talib’s statement

So, remember the day before yesterday how they started validating people, right? So, they got STG 1 and STG 2, and STG 2 is like regular street gang, Blood, Crip, Hoover, whatever. So, STG 1, however, is a prison gang, the Mexican Mafia, BGF, which is a Bay Area organization, and shit like that. So, today they came through and they validated individuals that were victims of the raid.

Anyway, as this was going on, I’m looking around and I’m like, man, these people are on some bullshit, so I go to my patna and I say, Chris, I guarantee these people are gonna come try and validate me and say I have something to do with education. These are my exact words I’ll say: I guarantee that people are gonna come and tell you that I’m a member of BGF and I got something to do with education.

So, I go to my cell and the officer comes to let me out and he says, “Hey, man, they wanna talk to you.”

So, I go down there and see two IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations) officers, which is the goon squad, and one OCS (Office of Correctional Safety) officer. And the OCS officer I had seen two days prior was outside of my door, because when they raided, they took a book that I wrote and a letter that I wrote to a journalist. And I asked them, “Why did you guys take my letter that I wrote to the journalist and my book – talking about it’s STG material?”

He said, “Aw, we’ll get it back to you.” So fast-forward to today when I see him, he was like, “Hey, I told you I’m a man of my word. Here’s your book back and here’s this letter.”

So he gave me this whole spiel about how they’re just doing their jobs and, you know, they’re just checking to make sure, basically, that what’s happening in society, even with Black Lives Matter, ain’t gonna happen here, whatever. I’m like, I understand you’re just doing your job, but you gotta go above and beyond, snatching people out of their cells at 3 o’clock in the morning slamming them up against the wall?

So he was like, “Well, I admit that maybe the way that it was handled was wrong, but if you heard something was going to happen to your family you would take the same precaution.”

“So you gonna tell me that somebody told you that Marcelle Williams was gonna do something to somebody?” 

He was like, “No. You weren’t mentioned specifically.”

So I’m like, “Well, how did I get rounded up in the whole operation?”

So, I’m thinking, OK, they’re just gonna let me go and that’s it. And when I was getting ready to leave, the other officer sitting there, a Black guy, he was like, he handed me a packet, and was like, “Well, I’m here to serve you a validation packet.”

I’m like, what in the ____! I said, “Seriously? Really? You would hand me a validation packet after you just gave me my book back and told me that the material that I had in my book wasn’t STG material?”

So, they both do this whole song and dance about how it was just procedure, it doesn’t affect you, you’re not going to go to the hole or anything. It’s basically a procedure that you have a right to fight.

So, I’m like, “OK, what are you guys using, because you got to ____ with me because of my father since 2011.”

So, they’re like, “Well, we’re gonna go through everything that we’re using.”

So, they go to the source criteria that they’re using: Instead of using the association path’s ____ direct link, they’re using a confidential informant who said that I’m the minister of education for the BGF.

I said, “Seriously? What the ____, y’all, really?”

Then they said – that’s not even the worst – they said that the tattoo on my back, which is of a dragon, with a big ass crescent moon and star in the middle of it, right? is a BGF – “It’s a tattoo that relates to BGF.”

I say, “You don’t see that big ass crescent and star in the middle of it?” So they’re reading the thing on the top – it’s a verse from the Quran, in Arabic. It translates as: “On the day of judgment, there will be on a” – it’s a verse in the Quran that is referenced specifically to the day of judgment. 

So they said that when they took pictures of it initially a couple months ago that they sent the picture to the FBI and OCS experts and they translated it to mean “assaulter in attack on behalf of the BGF.” They said that an expert translated it; I’m serious. 

It’s a verse from the Quran (Arabic) that literally translates as: “And behold, there will be on a wide expanse,” literally in reference to the day of judgment. And the dragon in and of itself is an Islamic symbol that’s reference to the Prophet’s uncle [unintelligible] with intention to insult the Prophet while he was praying. The dragon came up to protect him. 

So the dragon is a protection symbol. Yet they say that it’s a BGF symbol and the verse on top is in reference to me being an assaulter and attacker on behalf of the BGF.

I’m afraid of everybody. I’ve 602’d (filed an appeal) it twice. I’m flabbergasted. I don’t know what to do.

I said, “That’s what y’all going with?”

And, they’ve got a picture of George Jackson that I used in my book that they’re saying that they’re using it as – what did they say? – images showing that I’m associated with BGF because they use, supposedly, BGF uses George Jackson as a symbol.

Like, “Really? This is what the ____ y’all going with? But my thing is, my question is, “When originally you were ____ with me, you were using my father as an association, which is what they need to link me to BGF. What happened is they realized that shit was weak and bullshit from the first place starting from when I was at CMC and they changed it. 

Now they got a confidential informant, which is also bullshit because one I’m not a ____ member of BGF and, two, everybody knows I’m about education. So clearly anybody around here, if they got something against me and know that I’ve been under investigation and being harassed by the security squad for being a member of BGF … 

These people are out of their minds and they’re acting as if this is normal. It’s like, look. I don’t know how many times and how many different languages you want me to tell you I’m not a member of BGF, but I’m getting to the point where I’m like stressed the ____ out, like I don’t know what else to do. 

I’m afraid of everybody. I’ve 602’d (filed an appeal) it twice. I’m flabbergasted. I don’t know what to do. I just wanted to get that on record because these people will always try to put words in your mouth and make it as if you said something that you didn’t say. 

So I know how devious these people are and the fact that they’ll translate a verse from the Quran to say anything about BGF is ____ laughable. It is racial and religious discrimination.

To listen to Talib’s own words, click this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CBnKlf3Gn3X6zIxB_9yTmA2CmSZ2Mr6d/view?usp=sharing

Call or email now: Black Lives Matter! Stop the targeting of Black prisoners!

Join the rally on Thursday, Aug. 6

“We Are Their Voices” is the name of the rally outside CTF Soledad on Thursday, Aug. 6, in Salinas. We’ll meet at 9 a.m. at the US101 Soledad freeway exit. There is a road that runs parallel with the freeway opposite the prison where we will gather. At 9:30 we’ll take a group picture; don’t miss that!

From 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., family members will speak at the rally. Then we’ll load up and travel to Salinas City Hall at 1-1:30. At 1:30-2:30, we’ll hold a car caravan rally around Salinas City Hall, 200 Lincoln Ave., Salinas CA 93901. Please come out to join the protesters and show the men inside we’re fighting for them! Everyone is welcome!

Sign the petition

Please sign the petition at Change.org, “Help Us Demand Complete Transparency After Violent 3am Raid On Black Soledad Inmates,” which begins:

“Now it’s time for us. You and me. To stand up to Warden Craig Koenig (craig.koenig@cdcr.ca.gov) and demand that he turn over every medical report, as well as 602 complaint filed by inmates after the raid. Koenig must be held accountable for lying about inmate abuse at the hands of his guards.” Read more here.

Send words of encouragement 

Send our brother some love and light: Marcelle Williams, V69247, CTF-SP CW-121, P.O. Box 689, Soledad CA 93960. And learn more about him by visiting his website, https://talibthestudent.com/.

Tasha Williams, an activist dedicated to bringing her husband home, can be reached at tashachildress@gmail.com