The Hour of Sunlight: Book Review by Reggie Clemons, on Missouri’s death row

Dear friends,

A few months ago, I sent a copy of my book “The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker” to my friend Reggie Clemons. Reggie is on death row in Missouri, awaiting the outcome of arguments that took place in front of the Missouri Supreme Court–a decision that will determine whether he gets a new trial, has his sentence commuted, or if Missouri gets the green light to proceed with Reggie’s execution. (Reggie was convicted in connection to the 1991 murder of two sisters, Julie and Robin Kerry.) Through my friendship with Reggie, I have come to admire his intelligence and thoughtfulness. I was interested in how Reggie, having spent 20+ years on Missouri’s death row, would relate to ‘The Hour of Sunlight’ which details my dear friend Sami Al Jundi’s 10 years in Israeli prison for having been involved in militant anti-occupation activities as a youth.

This is the book report that Reggie wrote:

“The Hour of [shining’ Sunlight” reads like most all well written tails and true stories, that can only be gleaned and reaped from real life. Where the multi layers of truth and parallels, line up to track the course of reality, in ways all fiction writers envy.

The foundation of Sami Al Jundi’s life and lessons were laid long before he was born, with the curse upon his mother’s eyes, striking her with blindness. This intentional or unintentional curse from a neighboring woman living next door, saying “Look at this precious little girl with such gorgeous green eyes!” laid waste to any illusion that life is or ever will be easy in the struggle for sanctity or survival. By Sami having parents that were both to be obeyed and looked after, it laid the foundation for Sami to be a born and well-groomed leader by circumstances of birth right. In this family tragedy of living and seeking a place to call home on a never-ending battle-field, it is this blindness that reflects our own refusal to see the way through to peace and compromise, where the abundance of land and food, the world over, is enough.

Unfortunately, in the course of life’s grooming of Sami, his apprehension over choices continued to haunt his life’s journey. Starting with his quest to train to be a soldier for the struggle by violence in Lebanon. His determination for self sacrifice and when to lead or be lead, was critically wounded with substantial indecisivie doubt, in his own confidence to make the right decisions. This apprehension and doubt would later damage and hamstring Sami in the face of adversity, planting a damaging seed in his heart of aversion to seeing the way through the crucible of conflict and confusion.

Sami had gained and known the hero’s courage and determination it took to put his life on the line to care for others when he, along with his neighbor and brother, returned to the house to save his neighbor’s daughter. Pushing back fear thorugh the perils of bombs, bullets and bloodshed, Sami was able to save the little girl from under the bed and help feed the frightened and worried people in the shelter. This heroic moment added to Sami Al Jundi’s desire and thirst to be there for the sake of helping others on the edge of losing hope in the face of danger.

The internal conflict between a person’s heroic desire to make the world a better place and the human instinct of self preservation would play out during Sami’s time in prison. Prison is historically designed to weaken a person’s sense of dignity and self-respect, for the purpose of making one submit to unnatural ideals and logic of what is a civilized human being. For however strong Sami’s desire to heal humanity, he was not immune to this scraping and hollowing out of the soul, which leads to making a person more selfish and submissive to the status quo rather than th risk of giving one’s self to sacrifice and extreme criticism.

In the corners, corridors, and hollow halls of the geo-political ‘think tanks,’ there is an unseen, unwavering constant effort of determination, to mark, label, identify and filter out natural leaders seeking to establish equality amongs humanity, such as Sami. This effort uses social control tools for the purpose of disruption and defanging of natrual leaders, from becoming strong, well-honed leaders. By discouragment from the possibility of success and deprivation of adequate resources, leaders for the greater cause of developing the human spirit are either broken through frustration or isolation in chambers of fear until they reach the point of discouragement and abandon the true purpose or meaning of the human cause. Meanwhile, those trained leaders that the geo-political ‘think tanks’ have selected for the preservation of the status quo are strengthened and well-provided for from the labor class coffers maintained by the higher echelon, so that the people of the world will never know what it’s like to be ruled by egalitarian humane leadership of equality and truth, even by any example of such leadership anywhere.

Sami studied hard while in prison to strengthen his mind and gird himself against ignorance; to understand the world and get a better, stronger grasp of what he was up against. You cannot change or shift circumstances, conditions or the factors at play, without understanding the essential elements that maintain their existance.

Grasping the depth of understanding is what Sami missed out on when he did not confront the aggressive, violent prisoners, when the other more aggressive power-hungry prisoners were sent in by ‘think tanks’ to create chaos. If he had confronted the ignorant aggression with full confidence and courage in his intellectual dominance and assuredness of greater purpose, Sami Al Jundi would have learned how to apply his knowledge and understanding to engage the conditions, circumstances, and individuals involved. As well as converting the illogical conclusions of aggressors into allies for humanity, or leave their senseless efforts in a state of frustration, Sami would have learned from this experience to look beyond the ponds in play and the wall in front of you, and to see the plan and people who laid the first stones of corruption, greed and egomania. He would have been able to build a window in that wall for everyone to see each other more clearly. Where the truth, for clearer understanding, still remains hidden behind walls of division that must crumble, these global fortifications of fear require that everyone on both sides are first divided and afraid of the truth.

Sami never gave himself the chance to see that the strength of what he lived by and believed in his heart and soul is self-sufficiently sustaining. That anyone, thing, condition or circumstance based on falsehood would fade and desolve in the face of the truth, along with the status quo ‘think thanks.’

If Sami had stayed around and took the chance on being wounded again and faced the fear of pain and the imperfect decision, he would have seen that people who use fear, confusion, and lies to manipulate others and circustances are only reflecting to the world their own doubts and loss of faith in humanity. Their aggression is more of a fear of facing themselves and some aspect of their false philosophy than their goal of forcing people to see things their way. The hard part is learning how to navigate through the analysis of wayward character logic, with the patience to see their awakening conversion through. Their aggression is nothing more than a glass shield that can be shattered with the right tone of courage and determination.

The learning circle of knowledge and understanding is ancient, human, universal, tribal, and has always historically brought both unity and cooperation. The system of social interaction that Sami learned about in prison is what always remained with him, until his return from the protective prison. That circle of knowledge and understanding for unity was something that would lay the ground work and base foundation for his life after release from prison.

When Sami Al Jundi got out of prison, his work witht he peace initiative was based on this circle of learning and understanding. With the Palestinian and Israeli children coming together for the central purpose of learning about one another and understanding the role they all  played in the future, these children were truly the seeds of peace and had the potential to become so much more than seeds. Some seeds don’t have enough soil to grow, some sprout but wither away under the heat of the sun, while others in fertile soil grow to bear the fruit of generations. The learning circle is most definitely and assuredly fertile ground for the souls of humanity.

Unfortunately, outside forces of the ‘status quo think tanks’ showed up in secret silence and sent in instruments of aggression and disruptive conditions.  To make sure the seeds of peace would fail, they came offering to increase the capabilities and reach of the movement, in exchange for control of the necessary resources.  With the ‘think tank’ controling the coffers from afar, like any hostile financial take-over, the think tank decided what the greater and lesser resources would contribute to or be utilized for. The death blow had been dealt long before the confusing arguments over internal power struggles and separation of the children into separate groups. The death of one of the children was inevitable and they were blindsided by not being prepared to face death. The circle of unity was broken when the conversations and discussions became choreographed by the desires of adults to control freedom. One the ancient circle of learning and understanding was broken, the roots for the Seeds of Peace lost their fertile field.

Life had offered a warning and lesson ahead of this intellectual strike from the higher echelons, when the peace activists encountered the old man whose family orchard was uprooted and destroyed. Gone were generations of family names and work, and love of nurturing plants to bear the fruit of olive branches, for the next generation the branches of peace were cut to shreds.

When the Seeds of Peace were at the conference in Israel/Al Quds, and the lady told them that this won’t last, you just don’t know it yet–that was a warning shot across the bow to the Seeds of Peace that an aggressive campaign had already been mounted and launched against the peace initiative. In the game of chess, most players will announce their intentions three moves ahead of check-mate. It all can seem overwhelming when considering all the factors and elements involved, but the mistake is always focusing too much on the opposition.

The core of the Seeds of Peace has not died, nor been weakened. Only lost to the cause and purpose of its name-sake and its essential means of creating fertile land for the human spirit. There was never any need for outside resources and all the outside resources offered could have been returned at any moment of pause. Whenever you feel frantic, lost or confused and indecisivie, just take pause and pray for spiritual insight.

The only thing the Seeds of Peace will ever need to maintain is the unifying circle of learning and understanding. There never was any real need for a building, when the real seeds are being planted in the souls of children. So the seeds of peace will always live on for the gathering of souls. As long as the Earth circles the Sun in learning and understanding the universal way of life and the balance of harmony.


Reginald Clemons

Seeking Harmony & Balance



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Filed under Death Penalty, Palestine/Israel

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