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Editor’s note: It’s been a challenging year for the Bay View. With ad revenue falling and the cost of printing and mailing rising, we need a benefactor with the means not only to pay the production costs but to hire a new editor because your old editor, at 79, needs to share the load. And the new editor will need a staff. Lighting and inspiring our search for that help are the wonderful letters that prisoners write. Here are three that touched our souls.
It is with deep regret that I announce I am stepping down as editor of the SF Bay View newspaper. I stepped into the position with a great vision, no financial support and a host of challenges. Primarily speaking, without financial support there is very little that could really be done. I exhausted my personal savings as well as allowed my own production company and sole means of financial support to nearly crumble. The toll on me has been more than financial. It has been emotional.
As I complete this column, the situation in our continental African nation of Zimbabwe is growing evermore intense. Our Elder, Baba, Freedom Fighter and President Robert Mugabe has been forced to “resign” – and removed from his democratically-elected office by that nation’s military and the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) leaders – in an apparent coup.
My life began in the Jim Crow South, in Houston, Texas. I remember the segregated world I was born into … the separate water fountains, the back of the bus, the going around to the back door of Mr. Fontnoe’s grocery store to buy milk for my mother and grandmother. I recall the segregated section of the movie theaters – and the long, seemingly endless net partitioning the giant sandy beaches, separating the “Colored” folks from the “Whites.” Can you imagine that it once was a reality, a segregated beach!
I have had many conversations and email exchanges with people wanting to know what my vision is for the newspaper. I see the Bay View as the New York Times of the prison abolitionist movement. The Washington Post of liberation. The Wall Street Journal of prison reform. I’ve equated my position as editor with a captain of a ship, the newspaper as the ship, and my vision as the ship’s rudder. I have already begun navigating some rough waters and have found unwavering support in many places. I may sit at the helm, but no captain pilots a ship alone. My vision is no good without the vision of the people to support it.
In an amazing and quite shocking turn of events, federal Judge Keith P. Ellison from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, has ORDERED the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to install air conditioning at the Wallace Pack Unit, located in Navasota, Texas. The prison agency has 180 days to comply. Most of this ongoing struggle for human rights has been published right here in the San Francisco Bay View, but please allow me to refresh your memory.
Greetings of imani (faith), esteemed G-o-ds, May our Divine Creator of and in all – and beloved ancestors from yesteryear and yesterday – find you and (y)our extended family in healing spirit. Asé. Amen. We joyously welcome and fully support Baba Troy Williams as the new editor of our San Francisco Bay View (SFBV) newspaper. Baba Troy brings a wealth of valuable experience in uplifting community members and skills in developing innovative media, from inside and outside the prison walls.
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. 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.
Sharon Fennell, also well known by her disc jockey name Sista Soul, has been a Humboldt resident for over 30 years. Fennell, through her volunteer work at KHSU, has grown to become an advocate for prisoners and shown faithfulness in bringing awareness to the conditions and contradictions of America’s penal system. After 36 years, Fenell – or Sista as she is called by friends and close acquaintances – has decided to move on. She has one more radio show this Sunday, Dec. 18.
My journey began in the mid-1980s, when folks in my community began to hear about a “supermax” prison that would be built in nearby Crescent City, California. At that time, my colleague Tom Cairns and Mike Da Bronx, my husband, and me were busy at KHSU producing a weekly radio show called Alternative Review. In 1990, I would get one of the first letters from that place, Pelican Bay State Prison. It came from a young man named Troy Williams. He liked my radio show.
San Francisco is touted by conservative detractors and liberal boosters alike as the nation’s most progressive city. This is still true in many ways, even amidst towering symbols of gentrification. But, in particular, when it comes to holding police accountable for use of excessive force against communities of color, the City by the Bay is no different from the New Yorks, Chicagos, Baltimores or Fergusons of this country, where cops literally get away with murder. Think this is an exaggeration? Read on.
This is a story about music, radio and the connection to the human spirit. The date is Jan. 10, 1992, and Troy Williams and his cellmate at Pelican Bay Prison are using wire to make an antenna for a radio. Williams was looking for something on the radio he was familiar with, but as usual he was greeted by a flurry of country music. This particular night however, Williams and his cellmate were fortunate.