Category Archives: Criminal Justice

Supporting humanity, dignity and equal rights


Dear friends and supporters,

I am so grateful for your support. You make possible all that we do at donkeysaddle projects.

2014 has brought into stark relief how much critically important work must be done, and how interconnected are so many struggles for freedom, equality, and dignity, whether in Ferguson, Palestine, or Bahrain.

The racism inherent in our country’s state violence (be it the death penalty or police killings), the utter disregard for human life that enabled the recent devastation in Gaza, the continued targeting of human rights defenders from Bahrain to Brazil…these all serve as powerful and painful reminders of how vital it is to highlight everyone’s equal humanity, and to insist on the protection of everyone’s rights and freedom.

In 2014, your generosity helped donkeysaddle projects in the struggle for human dignity and human rights by supporting our ability to:

I will be in Israel/Palestine when you receive this letter, perhaps in Gaza, assessing the impact of war and siege on Gaza’s health and education systems; with Israeli friends in Tel Aviv or Haifa as they struggle to dismantle their country’s structures of power and privilege and replace them with structures of true equality and justice; at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, filming artists who bravely continue in their path of cultural resistance to oppression; or in Jerusalem, documenting the boiling-over tensions of the city, and examining the conditions that led there.

In 2015, your support can enable donkeysaddle projects to continue this ongoing work in Palestine/Israel, in Bahrain, and in the U.S.

Here’s what we have planned in the year ahead:

Your contribution allows donkeysaddle projects to have impact for years to come and supports a vision of the world in which every person’s humanity, dignity and rights are equally respected and equally protected.

Please support donkeysaddle projects with a contribution that feels meaningful to you this year!  For online donations, including monthly donations, please click here. For info on donations via check, please click here.

With warm wishes for a New Year that brings us closer to peace with justice, dignity, freedom and equality for all,

Jen Marlowe
donkeysaddle projects

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Filed under Asel Asleh, Bahrain, Brazil, Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Human Rights, Palestine/Israel, Troy Davis

Honoring a warrior for justice

Dear friends,

Today marks 3 years since the world lost one of our fiercest and most loving warriors for justice: Martina Davis-Correia, sister of innocent death row prisoner Troy Davis.

In Martina’s honor,I hope you will consider sending a prisoner the book we wrote together (“I Am Troy Davis”) as a holiday gift.

All you need to do is click this link, and fill in the billing information. And use the coupon code HOLIDAY40 to receive a 40% discount!

Joining with Martina, Troy, their mother Virginia and the entire Davis family in their struggle for justice has changed my life–and the lives of so many other people–forever.

You can read more about Martina here.

And you can, in her honor, give the gift of “I Am Troy Davis” to a prisoner here.

With much love, always, for Martina and the Davis family,

Jen Marlowe

http://www.donkeysaddle.org

Martina, your imprint never fades

Martina, your imprint never fades

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Troy Davis

The conversations that matter

Dear friends,

When I first put out the call asking for people nation-wide to join me in the I Am Troy Davis Community Book Club, I could not have anticipated the results. I never imagined that 20 inspiring organizations would sign on to partner with the Davis family and me, helping to organize 45 book discussions throughout 20 states.  (See responses to the Community Book Club here!)

But what really blew me away was the enthusiastic participation from the most invisible, marginalized members of our society: those behind bars.  donkeysaddle projectsHaymarket Books and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty partnered to send 50 copies of I Am Troy Davis to prisoners–many on death row, others serving life sentences without the possibility of parole, and responses to the book and to the invitation to participate in the Community Book Club came flooding in.

As Kenneth Foster Jr (formerly on TX death row, now serving a life sentence without parole) wrote, “The dream for every prisoner is to be a part of the conversations that matter.”

And as Emilia Carr, on death row in Florida, added: “Thank you for inviting me…to be able to be a part of things such as this…reminds you that people care that you are a human with a voice.”

In light of the lack of an indictment in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, these correspondences have taken on a new level of meaning. The “Black Lives Matter” signs that I’ve seen at protests resonate powerfully with the letters I have been receiving from the mostly young, black men whom society and the state has rejected and warehoused.

I hope you will take time to read and reflect on these prisoners’ writings, including a radio spot by Mumia Abu-Jamal.

You can help the conversation continue!
Give
 I Am Troy Davis as a gift to a prisoner this holiday season!

Haymarket Books has set up a special webpage for the purpose of gifting I Am Troy Davis to a prisoner. All you have to do is fill out the billing information, and Haymarket Books will send the book to a prisoner who is waiting to receive one–along with a note, letting him/her know that the book is a holiday gift from an anonymous donor. (Haymarket Books is offering a 40% discount! Just enter the coupon code Holiday40 at checkout!)

(If you would like to gift The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker to a prisoner, let me know! I’m planning to get that book inside many prisons as well!)

You will be hearing more from me in the weeks to come about what donkeysaddle projects accomplished this year and what lies ahead. Please know that none of our work can  happen without your support.  I hope you will consider making a monthly contribution to donkeysaddle projects, or, a one-time donation!

I look forward to being in touch as 2014 draws to a close, and, together, to continuing to foster the conversations that matter most.

In solidarity and in struggle,

Jen Marlowe
donkeysaddle projects
Twitter: @donkeysaddleorg
Blog: View from the donkey’s saddle

Senior seminar on the death penalty at UNC-Wilmington read and discuss “I Am Troy Davis” as part of the Community Book Club.

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Troy Davis

Unity

 

(From Rob Will, on death row in TX, in response to I Am Troy Davis)

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” Henry David Thoreau

This book is haunting, beautiful but haunting… It is just past 2am and I am up listening to some nice jazz. “Lighthouse Blues” by the Jazz Crusaders is on and the sax is lovely and the vibraphone is quite nice. Good meditation music. Earlier I had to put down, “I Am Troy Davis” by Jen Marlowe, breathe deeply and just meditate, simply because this book has been evoking deep emotion from within me. This is the second time I have had to do this.

The first was yesterday when listening to Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Art Exhibition”. Mussorgsky wrote this piece of music in honor of his friend, the artist Victor Hartmann, who died too young. This piece is alright. I particularly like the triumphant ending but what really got to me was the reason Mussorgsky wrote the music. Like Troy Davis, Victor Hartmann died an untimely death… Mussorgsky honored his friend through the Art of creating music and Jen Marlowe has honored the life of Troy Davis, his family, his friends and their struggle through the Art of her writing. One of the most powerful aspects of this book is how Jen humanizes everyone involved and links individual lives and experiences with larger psychosociopolitical issues.

Thinking of these things and vibing with the music led my Mind into the realm of Artistic creation… I picked up my pencil, pen, paints, an illustration board and books and began creating… The idea of unity kept dancing through my mind and while going back and forth from jazz to classical music I, in turn, let my paint brush dance across the canvas. I glanced over at the book and quickly read the quotes on the cover and first few pages from well-known people in the social justice struggle… Sister Helen Prejean, Maya Angelou, Cornel West, Amy Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Eve Ensler, Gloria Steinem…Unity, unity, unity…

I let the motion of the color field background rock with the rhythm of the music and the Energy of the Color Theory I was utilizing. Once the background was done I put the piece to the side so it could dry overnight and be ready for the geometrical forms symbolizing Unity that I had envisioned… Some Fela Kuti – who is one of my favorite musicians – just came on and this sounds like an excellent signal to finish the painting. Fela was definitely about struggle, the vibrancy if community involvement and international solidarity. At the core of all this is Unity and all of those ideas are illustrated well in “I Am Troy Davis”, which I will continue reading once I am finished with this painting.

(please consider making a holiday gift of I Am Troy Davis to a prisoner! 40% discount just by entering coupon code Holiday40! Your gift will be sent to a prisoner along with a note explaining that the book is an anonymous holiday gift.)

Back of painting entitled "Unity" by Rob Will

Back of painting entitled “Unity” by Rob Will

Front of painting entitled "Unity" by Rob Will

Front of painting entitled “Unity” by Rob Will

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Troy Davis

An opportunity to be heard

New Yorkers protesting the lack of accountability in the police killing of Mike Brown

New Yorkers protesting the lack of accountability in the police killing of Mike Brown

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!

In solidarity,

Peace, love and friendship,

Tim McKinney

once again

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Troy Davis, Uncategorized

If society would only see how foul the judicial system is…

Ray_Domineque_ALDomineque Hakim Marcelle Ray had not originally been on the list of prisoners to whom we sent a copy of I Am Troy Davis. However, another prisoner with him on Alabama’s death row had been sent the book, and spoke to Domineque about the Community Book Club, passing the book onto him so he could participate.

Here is what Domineque wrote about I Am Troy Davis:

The book titled I Am Troy Davis was very good reading. It relates to the article “Prison is the New Slave Ship.” His sister Martina was a real ride or die activist. Also a woman of true family value.

Death penalty cases like Troy’s are so many throughout this nation. But it always is disregarded and it prevents the accused for a fair trial.

Publications are very good reading but documentaries show more attention-wise. If society would only see how foul the judicial system is concerning the death penalty cases, then perhaps the fight to end it would prevail.

Like Troy, I’m also innocent. The trial attorneys sold me out and even stayed on my appeal process until I wrote a letter to several different law firms requesting representation. Some of the Black Civil Rights Activists in Selma had helped put me in here. The false imprisonment was pure politics. So I can see just how Troy felt.

I’d like for my story to reach the outside. You don’t hear too many like it from Alabama, especially someone with my background.

Once again, you ha a world of supporters to help put the word out and I appreciate that. But don’t stop.

[…]

Well, until then, knowledge and God

Love your love,

Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Troy Davis

“I had never read a book in my life until I came to prison”

Chucky MamouThe 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.

Chucky

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.

BUT!

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:

http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/I-am-Troy-Davis-Gift-to-a-Prisoner

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty