The correspondence I have been having with prisoners to whom we have sent copies of I Am Troy Davis continues to astound and amaze me. Below, are excerpts from two letters that I received from Chucky Mamou, on death row in Texas, posted here with his permission. His comments about the book and about his own writing moved me more than any response or review I have ever received…
Letter #1, September 11, 2014
Let me begin by ‘apologizing.’ Here’s why: My neighbor passed me a copy of your book, I Am Troy Davis. My intention was not to read it at all. See, Troy and I shared a pen-pal, of sorts. I knew about his case, and I received a message from him. In the Washington DC rally at the USSC in 2011 of Jan, my flyers was next to all his buttons and etc…We all know the death penalty is barbaric in nature, archaic in practice, and Americanly inhumane; such truths has been known, said and fought against since 1770’s. And still NOTHING has changed. Feel me?
For me, it’s not what’s right or wrong, or just or injust. It’s about the entire social conscious of this country. The whole fatuitious hypocrisy that Americans ‘buy’ on a daily basis!…
Michael Brown was unarmed with his HANDS up in the air, and that cop shot that child in his eye, face, chest, and arm–a total of 6 shots. But the cop has raised a million in cash for his use to defend himself in court, ‘if’ it goes to court. Political and professional folks say, “Well we don’t have all the facts.” But you let me or you shoot anyone 6 times, and they gonna send us straight to DEATH ROW, without any damn facts!
So, I wasn’t inclined on reading ‘any’ book about something I am so passionate about myself. I see this nation the way its suppose to be seen. I make no excuses for this nation and the atrocities it manifest. What happened to Gary Graham, Todd Willingham, Troy Davis and countless others don’t make it right. Don’t comfort others in the same situation. At least, I speak for myself.
Let me tell you something. At this very moment of me typing this out to you, the state of Texas is about to murder (they call it execute) Willie Trottie, and you know what? He ain’t innocent, but if there was anybody I would fight for to have another chance at freedom, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HIM! He made a mistake…don’t we all?
As far as your book, the reason why I did ‘read’ it and was glad that I did: I have always been a fan of Martina Davis and the unyielding fight she devoted towards helping her brother. We all would be so lucky to have a family member such as her. And it’s not that our family love us any less, rather they just lack the courage and devotion that she displayed. She is (not was) a rarity.
Plus my neighbor told me that Troy had several photos inside the book where he shared with his family members, and I wanted to experience that defacto joy that he experienced. Sure I can never capture the moment, and any feelings that I felt were faux in nature; but I am American, and like the majority, I like my Reality TV (even though it’s not real ) too.
Now I must commend the author, cause the book was well written. Sista-gurl, you got some skillz. (smile.) I write books too, and I do appreciate a good read. The photos are a delight, and I would be willing to give up my soul, if I had a chance to hold any of my children the way Troy held his niece and nephew. I would give anything if I could be close enough to my mother (or any damn body) where I could smell them, hear them laugh in my ear, or just touch them. I haven’t touched another human being since 1999, and I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of touching another human being now seem shameful for me. It would be awkward…
I have never once lied about my innocence nor the unbelievable chain of events in my case, not once. I feel like Dorothy in the land of Oz, but there is no wizard that can help me, there is no friends that I can walk the golden brick road with, hell, there isn’t even any flying monkeys in this real struggle I find myself in.
Good day to you and God bless you.
Letter #2, November 13, 2014
(in response to my asking him about the books he writes)
I write ‘fiction.’ What one may call urban novels. Be it romance novels, or thuggery in nature, all of my books have a ‘moral message’ that I try to translate. I do not glorify nothing that would cause harm in any way. I simply try to explain how things can actually get so fucked up...I am working on my own autobiography…I don’t write for money. I write for the appreciation of the art. With each book I write I make sure that my level of creation and creativity is raised. i want to show the progression of my writings, if you will. I had never read a book in my life until I came to prison. So in a lot of ways I am raw. Still learning on the fly. Still eager.
(in response to I Am Troy Davis)
I feel that if Catholics are allowed to Saintanize the members of their flock that they deem ‘activist’ then surely we should be able to place the same Saintship on those that are within the struggle with every purpose of ‘fixing’ the injust within this country’s justice system and social ornery circles too which we all live and are divided within. Martina is worthy of such a title. And I think her son will continue what she started. In fact, I would be ‘shocked’ if 20 years from now he isn’t a major activist in a field of justice in America.
But you know what? The story you told is sooo common within the minority of the 99%. The struggle is real, so is racism, classism, elitism, and prejudice. It’s all of these traits that we all judge one another, and seem to relate to the other. Don’t make it right, it just clarify who we are as a nation of people within America.
I Am Troy Davis was made beautiful–so by your writing skills. Never lose sight of the work that you did. When Mrs. Virginia sat in her chair and died peacefully, it was the way you described the event. The climax that lead to it, that tugs at a reader’s heart…but ‘you’ and only you gave Troy’s story and his family a feel of sincere humanity that wasn’t pretentious. And I have no doubt that it was hard for you to relive a story that you found yourself a part of. Pictures of you inside of Mrs. Virginia’s house, hugged up to Saint Martina–tells me that they trusted your person. And there’s no telling the stories you could have told that was personal too, which they shared with you. Your writing made it beautiful. Real talk.
(In response to my asking how he was holding up.)
Thank you for asking me about my well-being, However, nothing has changed with my mental-state, emotionally…not everyone in prison is innocent or unjustly convicted. But for those who are truly innocent (like me) how can I ever wear a daily smile on my face? How can I ever do away with despair, depression and ill feelings? Because faith alone has never been an antidote nor cure to severe brokenheartedness. The favored Mother Teresa wrote in her book, “There was a time when I saw all the rape and murder of babies, and defenseless women that I questioned the existence of a God who would stand by and allow these atrocities to go on against the weak and innocent.”
What gets lost is that this was not just a thought that crossed her mind the way wind blew across her face. She was depressed, and her depression didn’t stop until she was removed from that crazy war zone. Same with me. I can never fully begin to comprehend what a recovery really is, until I am given my freedom again.
Chucky wrote a lot more…about the poverty in which he grew up, how he was one of four children sharing a bed, tussling at night over an extra share of blanket, about sexual abuse he experienced at the home of a neighbor, about having been in shootouts, being kidnapped, left for dead with his head split wide open. He wrote, “I’ve been that kid stealing from grocery stores just so that I can experience what a cake taste like.”
And he wrote:
Through all my ‘struggles,’ from the depths of the low of the lows, is why I am able to sit in this moldy, germ-infested cell; and still cling onto my sanity after 16 years of all this bullshit. I’m always mindful just how vulnerable I am emotionally, so I do not tease or test the boundaries of my sanity’s limitations. I do not pretend to be better than I really am. I do not play chess with my honesty.
To purchase a copy of I Am Troy Davis as a gift to a prisoner: