THE POWER OF ONE
As we know, the title is not an original but it came to mind in thinking about the last few months and the progress brought about by so many in educating Alabamians about the death penalty. At meetings/conferences I like to hand out a flyer, which has our Talking Points on one side and on the other ten suggestions on how to BE THE OTHER VOICE. The power of one: you!
It is easy for any of us to ask ourselves what difference we can possibly make, especially with an issue like the death penalty in Alabama. Please hear me on this: you are making a huge difference! You have a voice and it is being heard.
At the time of an execution you flood the Governor’s office with letters, emails and phone calls. I know that because I hear from many of you when you contact the Governor. You even manage to tie up the Governor’s phone line! You respond to our emails and you are there with us on face book. You are the other voice whether you are in Alabama, out of state or even out of country. The power of one!
Many of you have recently availed yourself of a very valuable tool. You wrote a letter to the editor. We are fortunate that we have press that welcomes letters about the death penalty and your letters are eloquent! You found your unique voice and somehow said what only you could articulate. And just think of all the people who read it! The power of one! Your power!
Sometimes of course the power of one becomes the power of a group; still, it is individuals who shape it. JAM (Justice and Mercy) and Micah’s House are examples of individuals who join to translate passion into action. The Good Friday demonstration was a case in point. The power of many but impossible without the power of the individual, Brandon Fountain! Brandon has joined us with the task of Development. Welcome, Brandon, to the phadp family!
If there is one message that I want to give you today it is that you matter and that you are important in this fight for justice. We cannot win it without you, your unique talents, strength and dedication. Some of us may be more visible than you, but please, don’t think for one moment that your contribution is less valuable. You exercise the power of one when you write a letter, contact the Governor’s office on behalf of someone about to be executed, let your legislator know how you feel about the death penalty, talk to your neighbor and your friends. As I so often write: together we can do it and together we will. The power of one, we all have it. You have it. Let’s use it!
GREETINGS FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK
Hi there, this is Carey coming to you from the editor's desk again. It occurs to me that I may have been a bit hasty in my takeover. As it turns out there is work involved in this editor thing. Who knew?
First off, we at Hope would like to offer a few well deserved accolades; to our brand new Development Officer Brandon Fountain on his new position and new daughter. To our Student Rep. Hannah Jackson for her graduation and Leadership award from Notre Dame. We are all very proud of you! To our angel Esther Brown for being an Honoree at the Metro Birmingham branch NAACP's Women's History Celebration, and for her Spotlight recognition award for outstanding performance in the arena of Human Rights from the P.I.C. No one is more dear and deserving. Congrats to all of you.
On the dearker note, Glenn Boyd and Jason Williams were both executed this quarter and Eddie Powell has an execution date set for the 16th of June. We also lost our brother Willie Jaackson to medical causes in April. Keep them all in your prayers.
We would like to thank our friends at JAM and Michah's House for the great work they are doing to fight the death penalty. The JAM conference was a great success and the Good Friday anti-death penalty demonstration was an inspiration to us all. We coudln't ask for better allies.
Until next time, please help us to keep Hope alive.
Z 598 H-11
Assistant Editor and Coordinator
EDUCATION OR DEATH PENALTY
As i watch the news and read newspapers, I see and learn things that just don't make any sense to me. I mean, logic is logic but stupidity is foolishness. See, a person isn't born with a stupid or foolishness trait. They choose to be one or the other.
If I seem a little angry or hostile, well, that's because I am. Children are said to be our future but no one seems to want them to be prepared for what they will be facing. It seems as though murdering someone for murdering someone themselves, and even the innocent, is more important than keeping schools open, and paying teachers.
You may be asking yourselves, what right does a death row inmate have to talk to us about how society is getting it wrong? I'll tell you; Society has deemed itself better than death row inmates but Society is not acting better than death row inmates. It has been said that murder is the ultimate act of selfishness. How then, does Society justitfy getting dowon on the murderer's level by committing this irresponsible and selfish Judicial Homicided over and over again?
Cities and countries are going bankrupt, schools are closing and layoffs are outrageous. Then, there is the small historical Afr-American city called Hobson City that is follding in on itself because its budget is way more than they can bring in, and they can't get any help from the State because it needs all its monoey for the death penalty. Foolishness!
Hello, to all my brothers and sisters on the row. A special hello tp all those who are in on the fight against this barbaric system known as the death penalty.
I received a letter from a friend who is dealing with the pain of a man she loves who is in the last stages of appeal. This is a friend with great knowledge of the death penalty, who is an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and understands how serious all of this is. She speaks with an open mind and heart. To see her suffering because of what the State of Ohio is planning for her love, makes me wonder how some people I've spoken to, seem not to grasp the seriousness of what they face. She speaks on the life of her Love being in the hands of judges who can't see the person he really is. She feels helpless and this tears at her heart because she is not able to plead to these judges to save a man she knows is a wonderful and loving person.
She motivates me to fight for myself, because, unlike her I can plead for myself. I can study the law, I can work with my layers. I have the ability to not give up this fight until God says otherwise. I ask my brothers and sisters to never give up and to do all you can to fight for yourselves. I feel we need to reasure our loved ones that we're not only fighting for ourselves but for them as well. My friend's Love has not given up on himself and this gives my friend some peace. Please do the same for your loved ones!
Blessings to you all,
Jason Sharp (J-Bo)
z 729 I-9
DON'T THINK ABOUT A ZEBRA!
I have a good friend who used to work as a psychiatric social worker. She is always head-shrinking and analyzing me. :) We talk about everything from dreams, fears and addiction, to relationships, emotions and the "path not taken". It's not always a fun thing to do but it is always revealing.
One day she asked me, out of the blue, "What do you look forward to when you wake up in the morning?" I went into an instant tail-spin because I knew that I had no answer other than trivialities. My brain was screaming, "this is not a safe topic, this way lies despair." Most death row inmate's futures are not to be looked-forward to, and I was wondering why my friend ( who is well aware of this death row reality) would be picking at this particular scab. I gave her the only honest answer that I could think of; that NOT thinking along those lines iw what keeps me from losing it in here.
Turns out, that's not what she was driving at, but by comoing at me in that way she made me better appreciate the "good times" AS they happen. Recognize them while the are occurring and "squeeze" them for all they are worth. Don't wait for them to become fond memories, see them for what they are, in the present and cherish them.
You know that old mind-trick where you say "You can think of anything at all, but DON"T think about a zebra; and of course they can't help but think about a zebra? Well, sinnce our conversation, I find myself doing a cross-word puzzle with my friend Boo (which is a lot funnier than it sounds) or something else that has me laughing, and the zebra will pop into my head. I get a third person, observer's view of the moment and I'll say to myself, "Yep, this right here, right now, is a good moment." It really does work for me, I definitely get more out of these moments when I'm able to recognize them in real-time.
She wanted to, and has, given me something to look forward to when I wake up each day. Now, I look forward to my zebra momoents and that little extra something that comes from being aware of them as they happen. Thank you, friend!
Z 540 H-8
YOU ARE FORGIVEN
Ku Klux Klansmen killed...Politicians supported them...The people were divided...Ku Klux Klansmen killed for no legitimate reason, and celebrated their criminal acts with joy. Just because of the complexion of a person's skin, they were killed. Just because of the complexion of a person's skin, they weren't allowed to drink from certain water fountains. Just because of the complexion of a person's skin, they weren't allowed to eat at certain restaurants. Just because of the complexion of a person's skin, they weren't allowed to be educated at certain schools.
The Ku Klux Klansmen treated all of these people unjustly, because of the complexion of their skin. Some of these same Ku Klux Klansmen were later elected to political offices because of their actions as members of the Ku Klux Klan. The "recognized" public residents of the infested Ku Klux Klan area supported the election of the KKK members. Some of these same members continue to hold office today. Those of you who were directly and indirectly involved with the lynching, bombing of churches, homes and schools, the degrading, segregating and other racial acts...Know that you are forgiven! Not only by those who were victims of your racially driven criminal acts, but by their families, friends and others who were not vicitims. And also by those who were the same complexion as you and who were against your racially driven criminal acts and behavior. The Ku Klux Klan's actions were the LAW of the land of the United States. The President, Congress and the Public of the U.S. came to realize and publicly admit that:"This type of behavior was wrong and outlawed this type of behavior, recognizing that all men, women and children are equal." "Just because it is legal, doesn't make it RIGHT."
STOP LYNCHING US
Z 741 I-18
STOP THE MADNESS
A just punishment can occur without resorting to the death penalty. The death penalty is wrong in all cases. Life imprisonment has shown itself to be an effective alternative and respects the moral view that all life has value.
There is much more to a person than the worst thing that a person has ever done. One moment of poor judgement can not truly define who a person really is, and the person they can become if given the chance to change.
The death penalty is biased on many levels. If a person is poor and uneducated and charged with a capital crime, they are more likely to receive the death penalty. 70% of the people on death row in Alabama had attorneys who were paid $1,000 or less to represent them at trial. While the judge and District Attorney have an unlimited amount of funding to use against the person who's given the death penalty.
80% of the people on Alabama's death row are there for the murder of a white victim, but more people are being killed each year than white people. What kind of message does that send to people? That the color of people's skin determines if their life has more value than others?
82% of all executions have been carried out in the South. There have been over one thousand executions in the South, an area nototiously known for its racist views.
We need to end the modern day lynching that is truly a crime against humanity.
Z 536 H-12
Well, to me it deosn't matter how you say it or put it. Is not a Christmas tree still called a Christmas tree no matter how you decorate it?
Murder is murder, people, and that's just one true fact. The taking of one's life is absolutely wrong and is not justifiable in any form or fashion; and if I am being put to death for murder, who will be executed for the crime that's being carried out against me?
My father once told me that two wrongs don't make a right. Every day that I awake on death row I know that I am one more step closer to being murdered, and so I ask the reader, who will be hurt the most by my so-called executions? I say to you right now and right here, NOT ME! Because I have my house in order with God, but it's the people that I love the most that will suffer the most. My father, my mother, my brother, my sister and most of all, my son. They will have to life with that pain for the rest of their lives, and where can they go to get justice for the murder of their loved one? These people that have not committed a crime against anyone will have to suffer. Now tell me, where is the justice in that?
Z 762 N 12
We once again had the privilege and delight of attending a performance of the Political Incorrect Cabaret. What talent, what professionalism, what class! You can go to Berlin, London or New York and you will not find better.
For us of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty there are also other reasons for knowing that PIC is the best. With all the pressing issues that there are, it chooses again and again to lift up our organization and, by doing that, educating the public about the injustice of the death penalty in Alabama. If you were there, you heard the new version of Razzle Dazzle interpreted by our Governor, who prays before executing, a judge who overrode 12 jurors and the A.G. It moved me to tears, as did the reading of poetry from my friends/family at Holman. And finally, the Spotlight Recognition Award.... on behalf of phadp, thank you, Diane and all of P.I.C.
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Dear Family and Friends,
When the Editor of On Wings of Hope and I began receive the submitted articles for this edition of the newsletter, an animal or zoological theme began ot emerge with talk and titiles of elephants, bees and zebras. Metaphrically speaking of course. This reminded me of how much I missed the great outdoors and the freedom to explore this majestic planet and God's natural wonders. I live and have been living vicariously through my family and friends who travel and PBS nature and travel shows. For those of you who read my editorials regularly, I have purposely left out food and cooking shows as once on that mind path it is hard for me to think about anything else. I trust that you understsand.
Here on the row we spend a lot of time thinking about unpleasant things, executions, regrets of the psat, remember abuses we sustained or caused. So we also spend time thinking or trying to think of things that have no relation to the current circumstances that we now find ourselves in. Sometimes it is nice to have someone to share these things with and sometimes it takes others to get us to think of things we have never thought of before. These people are in a very real way helping us to change and improve ourselves. Giving us perspectives we many never have experienced or given thought to otherwise. Keeping us mindful of "good things" as the Scripture say.
Thank you for hearing our voices, sharing your voice with us and giving us a chance to grow. without you we would easily stagnate and suffocate in our physical, mental and emotional shells.
Keeping Hope Alive and Growing
Ronald B. Smith Jr.
Editor/ A Christian Perspective
Z 586 H1-6
A MANSION OF GOOD AND EVIL
I often wondered which Alabama governor had signed the most death warrants sending their deaths during their tenure in office. I finally learned the answer in a newspaper article featuring former Governor Bob Riley on the subject. The article stated that during Governor Bib Grave’s reign in the 1920s and the 1930s, he sent 49 inmates to their deaths before the State took over executions, moving the barbaric practice behind the State prison walls in 1939. At which time, Governor Frank Dixon’s term began. It lasted until 1943 and he was responsible for sending 33 inmates to their deaths. Next comes Governor Bob Riley, who between 2003 and 2010 signed 25 death warrants. The last warrant he signed just before leaving office on January 17th was our brother Leroy White, but his execution will be listed under Governor Robert Bentley’s term. However, in the 21st Century, former Governor Riley leads with the most signed death warrants. What I find extremely hard to believe, is that out of 25 human beings that came to him for clemency, he could not find one worthy of mercy. 25 human beings! A political slaughter house is what it was.
While reading the article two things lingered with me. Governor Riley stated that before he signed a death warrant he always listened to the pleas of both sides, especially the pleas of the victim’s family. When I read that I could not help ask myself, then what happened in our brother Leroy White’s case? Because if my memory serves me correctly, not only had the jury voted for Life but was then overridden by the judge, but also Mr. White’s daughter who was the victim’s family forgave her father and even visited her father. (The victim was Mr. White’s estranged wife.) So the daughter, along with other family members pleaded with the Governor to spare the life of the only living parent she had left. The Governor turned a deaf ear, signed the warrant and the daughter became a victim for the second time. This time as a result of Governor Riley who could have brought her and her family justice. Which would have meant mercy and closure. Which would have meant sparing the life of her father, which is all they were asking for. I’m still trying to figure out the sick logic of Governor Riley’s decision. I guess that falls under the second thing, which is that when he stated at the end of his term that he turned down requests for clemency it was because he believed the inmates’ cases had been thoroughly reviewed by the State and Federal appeals process, which justified his decision. And here I thought he listened to the victims!
Now we have Mr. Robert Bentley, the Baptist deacon and physician who wears our Lord and Savior on his sleeve like a badge of honor. Yet, even though our brother Glenn Boyd had a judicial override in his case, which gave Governor Bentley a real opportunity, he chose not to show the people what Christ truly stands for, compassion and mercy. Instead, Governor Bentley signed our brother’s death warrant and afterward stated the same thing former Governor Riley always said. Hmm! Have you noticed the sentence that they had a full review seems to be a statement passed down from Governor to Governor to use and hide behind.
I would like to believe and have expressed to my peers that I think we would stand a better chance in returning to trial court and seeking clemency from a jury of our peers than from a Christ proclaiming, yet double minded, double talking political and merciless Governor! Nevertheless, as we continue to pray for Governor Bentley to stop this evil, also let us continue to pray for Governor Bentley and for the men and women who uphold this killing system, and that they will one day leave final justice in the hands of a just God.
First a moment of silence. Amen. The reading began. We were in that place to mourn, and as we listened and responded, still, I was waiting, waiting to hear the bells.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Amen.
The bells. I could hear them. The distant rhythmic chime, carried past buildings, over the din of the interstate, down the sacred path of past struggles for freedom; it reached us in that place, and the waiting was no more.
The reading was even more pertinent now.
Miles away from the statue we huddled beneath, well beyond the reach of the sounds filling our ears, sounds of a different sort began to come to an end.
The sound of a voice silenced.
The sound of laughter stilled.
The sound of a heart stopped.
The reading was finished. For a moment we remained in that place, standing in uncomfortable silence. “Go in peace,” and we did.
I hope the same for you Jason, “Go in peace.”
It seems ironic, two very different men; one profound commonality. Death before its time.
Forgiveness. From you, Jason, for you did not have to die. And from you, Dr. King, that the best we could do today, in the shadow of your legacy, was mourn another needless death. May we one day truly realize the freedom, life, love and peace you so fervently proclaimed, and may we one day join in your shadow to celebrate hope and the beauty of ancient bells. On that glorious day when state killing is the only thing laid to rest.
In respectful memory of Jason Oric Williams – May 19, 2011. Rest in Peace.
In the Qu'ran Allah says, "And your Lord inspired the bee, saying build your homes in the mountains and in the trees, and the hives which men shall make. Then feed on every kind of fruit, and follow the paths of your Lord made smooth for you. There comes forth out of their bellies a fluid of many hues, wherein is healing for mankind. Indeed in this there is a sign for a people who give thought."
The fluid of many colors is honey. Honey is used as a medication and to heal in different ways. the bee is also a pollinator. So I say to myself, how many of us are collecting pollens of truth about the death row system and take it to others to fecundate them to blossom with the truth, to heal the sickness that is being carried out in the names of law and justice? This truth can be gathered from all types of sources and placed in the mountains, trees and the hives of people's hearts and minds. I'm a pollinator and I encourage the reader to become one as well. Use the honey of truth to heal. Honey is pure, wholesome and sweet. So is the truth!
Z 727 H-1
A lot of times when these articles are due, I often don’t know what I’m going to write about. So after all the pondering, I just said instead of ranting and raving I’m going to give thanks! First and foremost I want to thank God, my Lord and Savior for being head of my life; for being patient with me during all my short comings. I’d like to thank my pastor Gino Jennings for bringing the uncompromised word of God to me. I want to thank my family and friends that support me during these trying times. And last but not least all the Esthers out there that continue to fight against this injustice called the death penalty.
Z 753 O-26
It is a pleasure to come to you once again in this quarter’s A Christian Perspective. The seasons are in transition, the sun is shining bright and the atmosphere seems to be full of hope and promise.
My chosen topic this time around is obvious by now, HOPE. It is word that is chuck full of endless possibilities. Unfortunately, once again, as I write this article we are faced with the demise of one of our brothers. Yet even in light of that we still press on in Hope, not in despondency. We hope that the last efforts of our brother yield him some positive results.
I have as an example one of my favorite Old Testament patriarchs, Abraham. This guy was full of faith and hope, the twin towers, if you will. Faith is our arrow and hope is our target! Yes, I like that. Hope gives us something to aim at. The scripture says that Abraham in hope, hoped against hope! Isn’t that awesome? He had a promise from God. God told the patriarch that he was going to have a child. Now, Abraham was already 100 years old, and it is said that his wife Sarah was at least 90 years old. On top of Sarah’s age she was also barren. So it would not have mattered if she was a young 25. Imagine that!
Yet, despite all of those obvious negatives the scriptures say that “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” isn’t that something? Those are the kind of negative odds that all of us are facing right now. And when I speak of “us”, I am speaking of those of us who are incarcerated and you, our loyal readers and supporters. We are in this together. And we continue to soldier on. No matter how many may fall or grow faint of heart, there is always one of you, out there, who against all hope…in hope believes and steps up, picks up the banner of hope and mercy and presses on and upwards.
Thank you for these beautiful moments to speak with you.
Z 582/ I-4
THE BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
I couldn’t believe the article I read a few weeks ago in the Montgomery Advertiser. It talked about something that is long overdue, Sentencing Reforms. But it was a hidden topic to talk about within something more of concern to the citizens of the capital city, and that is the cost of health care for prisoners. Did you know that you, the taxpayers spend tens of millions of dollars each year on health care for prisoners? A recent story in the Birmingham News also hinted at this issue when it reported on a dialysis clinic that was built for prisoners in 2009, at the tax payer’s expense for 1.4. Million dollars. And that is just to treat51 prisoners. But here is the clincher! They can’t ignore that bill. The Federal courts won’t allow it. So why not look around for other ways to cut the overwhelming costs that are going into health care, remodeling prisons and hiring more guards etc?
And there is another senseless bill the taxpayers also pay, and that is the legal ramifications of fighting against a Death sentence, which can also range in the millions of dollars for a single person on death row. We are currently housing over 200. Do you see the elephant yet? Death row prisoners with those millions in legal costs for the State, also kick out a nice health bill for the State and the tax payer. Now an old “thinker” in the political world in Alabama would say in response to these overwhelming facts, “We need the Death Penalty.” And I would ask one question. Why?
Z 641/ N-17
I have never been considered a deeply religious person. I believe in God; however I have been considered a sinner for quite some time. I chose to do things like selling drugs to make a living. Little did I know that the lifestyle I lived would eventually lead to things and people that would place me in the situation I find myself in. Being on death row now, it seems as though my struggles are small compared to all of the pain I have caused to my family and friends. I truly want to become a better person. I don’t know how long I have to make it happen.
When I saw all of the damage caused by the recent tornadoes to my home state of Alabama, I prayed for all of the survivors and mourned those who had lost their lives. My heart hasn’t been made cold toward my fellow citizens, even though a chosen few and a judge have condemned me to die. Only time will tell if my fate is to be injected with some poison that can change at any time. If that occurs my death certificate will say “judicial homicide.” However, any person who sees it will come to the conclusion that I was murdered also.
I have asked for forgiveness for my sins. I only wonder will someone partly responsible for my demise feel the same about my death?