With American Gangster: The Complete First Season making it's way to DVD ON October 23, we had a chance to take part in a conference call with Travon Williams, Son of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. "Tookie" Williams was best known as the co-founder of the Crips, a notorious Los Angeles gang that has terrorized the streets of South Central for more than 30 years. The Crips' crimes were well documented, including the alleged quadruple murder that sent Williams to jail for the rest of his life. American Gangster explores the historical, socio-economic and political context surrounding the rise and fall of ten notorious African-American criminal minds.
What are your thoughts on the American Gangster lifestyle? How has it impacted you personally?
Travon Williams: Basically, as far as the American Gangster lifestyle, I think the American Gangster lifestyle is just a reflection of society. Who came up with the killing? Where did we get this whole idea of gang-banging and killing? Where did it come from? I think it effects me the same way it effects everybody else.
What are your thoughts on how your father was portrayed in the story on the DVD? Does it match up with the reality of what you know about your father?
Travon Williams: Well, you know there's always two sides to the coin. They told a part of his story, of his life, of his deplorable past. That's why I came in to tell the other side to sort of... give balance to it. Yes, it did tell a part of his past, hopefully it did bring some kind of an awareness. Hopefully we as members of society can see what he went through, we can see that and look at ourselves in a mirror and ask, "Why did he become like that? How come there are so many other people running around doing the same thing that he did?" In the Bible they say, "Confess your faults, one to another." Hopefully that's what BET is trying to do and what we're trying to do is to show some form of awareness.
Maybe it will become a deterrent for us? It's just a form of acknowledgment. Even in the Catholic Church they say, "You must confess." Rehabilitation programs they tell you, "The first step to recovery is acknowledgment."
What do you think of the portrayals of your father in movies? Do you feel like people are getting the truth? Is there too much focus on his past and not enough on how he redeemed himself and the fact that he was nominated for a Nobel Prize?
Travon Williams: Yes and no. I do, but we know what sells. It's almost like the same thing with Rap music, that's what society wants to see. If we start requesting that we want to see it then maybe we can show that other side? I do give BET the credit for allowing me to come on and kind of give it the balance. I haven't chosen to get involved in the circus... of depicting my father's life, not BET but just the media and everything else. I've stayed away from it because they weren't showing the redemptive side. So BET allowed me to share that redemptive side, so that's the main reason, the only reason why I am doing this. They are depicting his deplorable past but like I say, sometimes we do have to look at that to move forward.
What do you do?
Travon Williams: I work, I have a family. Right now what I'm doing is I'm trying to spread this message and continue my father's legacy. So I really need your guys help. I'm starting a non-traditional basketball program. We're going to travel the world and we're going to show these people something.
Do you have plans to reach out to people with this as the American Gangster documentary played nationwide?
Travon Williams: Yes, this is definitely worldwide. I got something going on where some... cities want to implement this kind of, non-traditional program that me and my father kind of came up with. I guarantee you guys will be pleased to see what we're doing. Especially in the Los Angeles area, I have guys coming up to me saying they really want me to continue my father's legacy. They want to help any way they can so I'm targeting these youth right now, 13 to 15, and we're going to take it from there.
BET's highly acclaimed docu-drama series American Gangster: The Complete First Season arrives on DVD October 23, 2007 from BET Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment.