For nearly three years, since March of 2013, I have enjoyed contributing to the San Quentin News with my OG’s Perspective column, glad to let my son Larry Jr. pinch-hit occasionally. But with this column my time in the lineup comes to an end. When I paroled from San Quentin a year ago I promised editor in chief Arnulfo Garcia that I would continue for a year. That year has ended. Arnulfo likes to encourage the newspaper staff to “move forward.” That’s what I’m going to do, with a focus on my family that is so dear to me and to completion of my … [Read more...] about Watani Bids Farewell to SQ News
My eldest son turns 50 today (October 25th) and I wrote this in his honor. He celebrated by having a big gathering of family and friends which I would have loved to attend. However, as I am still on parole, I was denied permission to travel to Los Angeles for this once-in-a-lifetime celebration. Some of you may not know that once you get out of prison, you’re not as “free” as you might think. Parole can last from one year to the rest of your life, and it means you continue to be beholden to the state in many ways. For instance, I can’t … [Read more...] about Son, Here’s the Toast I Could Not Give You…
Happy 50th Birthday: But How Far Have We Really Come? On October 25th of this year, I joined Club 50 as my born day arrived and a large group of family members and friends launched into a soulful rendition of the happy birthday song. It would be the 50th time in my life that this song would be sung in my honor. My father would miss 46 of those times not by choice but rather due to circumstances. You see, prison and exile had kept him away from those he loved as he paid a heavy price for confronting a racist, discriminatory and unjust part of … [Read more...] about …Thanks, Dad, But How Far Have We Come?
Though it seems a lot longer, it’s only been nine months since I was released from San Quentin State Prison. Just a few months since I gathered my belongings, said my good-byes and walked eagerly but patiently to be processed from one world into another. I took my final breath of imprisoned air and allowed my ears to surrender the sounds of jangling keys and clanging doors. Twenty-six years of captivity and another 20 spent as an escaped fugitive in exile. I pondered my new reality on the other side of these concrete walls. I am moving … [Read more...] about After the Conversation, What’s Next?
I was somewhat surprised that my children born in South America don’t seem to share my passion for fighting for racial justice in the United States, that they don’t even see its injustice the way I do. Because of this, it throws into question my assumptions about how they thought about me when we were apart. I wonder what my children were thinking about me when they were in foster care…so young and knowing so little of my story and what had happened to me. Why was I in prison? What was their narrative about me? After all, they didn’t grow up … [Read more...] about Raising Our Children in the Struggle
Do you recall the last time you ventured into a house of worship? Remember how that strong feeling of comfort embraced you as you walked through those church doors, briefly leaving the chaos and danger of everyday life behind you? At ease, you exhaled and allowed your spirit to be swept up by the angelic voices of the robe-wearing choir members as you sought out the perfect seat. Upon the pew, you sat and glanced around to take in the sight of smiling men, women and children all dressed up in their Sunday’s best and waiting patiently to hear … [Read more...] about Sunday’s Best and a Special Vest
The face on that man looks very familiar. And so does his uniform: perfectly matching navy-blue shirt and pants accessorized with a black duty belt upon which a nine millimeter handgun is holstered. The shiny oval-shaped badge on his chest identifies him as an officer working for the Los Angeles Police Department. I’ve seen that face before but can’t quite recall when or where. Had he stopped me in traffic? Had he once confronted a group of friends I happened to be with? Did I see him questioning or arresting someone in my neighborhood? I … [Read more...] about A Familiar Face and a Complex Relationship
As the month of June approached, Father’s Day sat at the forefront of my mind as I thought of how different it would be this time around. You see, I had gone twenty years without being able to celebrate this day or any other day with my father, Watani Stiner, the way other daughters did. Because of his incarceration, there had been no dinner outings, movie nights or picnics in the park. There were no home-cooked meals, jazz concerts or any of the traditional gift giving that usually took place. There was, however, an abundance of improvisation, … [Read more...] about A Daughter Looks Back…and Forward
“We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. As I reflect on my past, which was once my present, I find that it is this soul force for justice that proves to be the most effective and sustainable in the fight against racism. I was an active participant in the Black Power movement of the 1960s. Similar to today, it was a period when America was confronted with the issue of police … [Read more...] about Soul Force: The Moral Struggle for Justice!
By the time this article goes to print in April, I will have been out of prison for 90 days. If you’ll notice, I did not say that I have been “free” for 90 days. Freedom is perhaps one of the most difficult subjects one could write about. It is a subtle concept, a concept that requires context to ground it or it becomes entirely ambiguous and elusive. Freedom is not an object or thing. Freedom is essentially a relationship. There are relationships that reflect the demeaning and oppressive environments they arise from (like prisons, human … [Read more...] about Freedom Is a Relationship, Not a Thing