In light of the lack of an indictment in the killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson MO, the correspondence I’ve been having with prisoners around the country about I Am Troy Davis has taken on a new level of meaning for me. The “Black Lives Matter” signs that I’ve seen at protests in Seattle and New York resonate powerfully with the letters I have been receiving from the mostly young, black men whom society and the state has rejected and warehoused.
Mike Brown was a victim of state violence and a failed justice system that is based, in part, on institutionalized racism. Troy Davis was also a victim of racist state violence and a failed justice system. And so many of the prisoners I have been hearing from are victims of the same.
But, for those who are willing to look deeper into the images of burning shops and overturned cars in Ferguson, what they will see is people refusing to quietly tolerate oppression and refusing to submit to the victimization of state violence any more. And for those who have been reading the breath-taking responses to I Am Troy Davis that I have been receiving from prisoners, I believe they will hear the same.
Here is a letter I received from Tim McKinney, formerly on death row in TN, now in Shelby County Jail in Memphis:
I received both your letter, also the I Am Troy Davis book. I was already very familiar with Troy Davis’s story, the struggle and the unbreakable bond of his sister Martina along with the love and relentless fight of his family, friends and thousands of supporters. In November 2013, I had the great pleasure of meeting and speaking with Troy’s nephew De’Jaun at a Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) march and protest in Texas. It was such a privilege and an honor to be on the same platform as De’Jaun, the Reed family, and all the other wonderful speakers and supporters against the death penalty.
Thank you and Ms. Marlene Martin (from CEDP) for even thinking of me and allowing myself as well as many others the opportunity to participate in the Community Book Club as well as the World Day Against the Death Penalty.
First, I must deeply apologize for not responding to your letter earlier. Since I’ve re-entered the county jail on Feb 1, 2014 I’ve been extremely depressed and haven’t had the drive, energy or motivation to do much of anything. I thank God for giving me the strength to wake up and get this letter off to you.
I am Troy Davis, literally. Our case and events in our lives was very similar. Starting with the background history of our upbringing and the circumstances concerning our case. The likeness of our charges both being off-duty police officers. Both of us falsely charged and convicted of crimes we did not commit. All the issues with the police, the witnesses changing their statements and testimonies, along with prosecutorial misconduct and the many stages of appeals that were denied, with every nerve-wracking newly scheduled execution date being set and the thought of going to death watch befriending fellow brothers that has gone before you/us.
Troy Davis is surely a must-read, it makes you hopeful, devastated, and then inspired all at the same time.
It inspired me to find the strength within to write you. The fight against the death penalty must continue. I’m no longer on death row physically, but spiritually and mentally I am and I have to continue to share our stories, letting our voices be heard fighting this broken system to put an end to the state murders! I am a living witness and the fight continues because I Am Troy Davis. I’ve walked in a pair of those shoes and I pray that I can be of hope, motivation and inspiration to others as well as being empowered and impactful with putting an end to the death penalty and other injustices within and outside the justice system.
Reading I Am Troy Davis was such a dark reminder of my own hellish experience, that at times tears ran down my face, my head starts hurting all the while thinking about my own family and the hurt and pain all the family, friends and supporters feel doing many years of waving emotions.
At the same time, maintaining an unshakeable faith in God, our Higher power…
Again, thank you and Ms Marlene Martin for even thinking about me and giving me another opportunity to be heard and hope to be an inspiration to someone else while being part of the vehicle that will put a stop to the death penalty. I know that my response may be a little late for you to add to your blog concerning the Community Book Club or the World Day Against the Death Penalty. I’m just grateful that you was able to hear of part of my experience that I shared with Troy and many others that faced death and the prospect of being killed by an unjust system. I would love to hear more from you and any help, advice, support that you’re able to offer is greatly appreciated–all reading material you can offer as well.
Again, thank you!
Peace, love and friendship,