Tag Archives: Troy Davis

Who in the Circle is going to speak up?

I received a letter from Tina Brown, a woman on Florida’s death row who read “I Am Troy Davis.” With Tina’s permission, I am posting her letter here:

Hello, my name is Tina Brown 155917. I’m a female Death Row inmate in Ocala Florida. You may have by now received mail from one of my Death Row sisters Emilia Carr. She let me read her “I Am Troy Davis” story. I would like to thank you and a host of others for doing such a remarkable job. You showed the Love, Strength, Courage, hope and fight Troy, his family and friends around the world shared. Also a family that stayed together against all odds. The story so clearly pointed out how racist, unfair, bias and corrupt our legal and judicial can be. Starting with police, detectives, jails, courts and prisons. I thank you for using your talents to deliver such a story of awareness on all levels. Thank you and the others so much.

Our lives are really in the hands of other human beings that we know not their intentions or their hearts. When will these people in these life-changing positions, our legal and judicial system stand for what’s right and not just simply agree? how can you believe some of what someone says and choose not to hear the rest, or How can you know that what someone is telling you wasn’t to direct attention off themselves? How do you know? So how can our legal and judicial system really know how to judge someone’s life? 2 or 3 words can determine a person’s life or death. “I’m sorry.” Sorry for exactly what? “He/she did it.” Did exactly what? A person’s facial expressions can determine their guilt? A smirk or a smile could be of “fear” or “I have to be brave.” Everyone is not the same, so how do you know? So, who gives anyone the right to assume without knowing? Something has to change the legal and judicial system. It’s so obvious that bullies are not just dealt with among children.

Someone needs to speak up in the Circle, someone needs to ask the questions that others are afraid to ask. Who in the Circle is going to stop being a follower of injustice and speak up?  Who in the Circle is going to stop thinking that their opinions, their questions, their reasonable doubts are going to interfere with their job security or their health? Who in the Circle is going to stop being afraid and state the obvious: “Do we really believe we have the right person?” or will you just go along with “It really doesn’t matter because someone has to pay regardless.” When will this type of reasoning stop?

Jury, how do you really know? Sure, some cases are without a doubt to the point but there are other cases that leave behind unanswered questions. Why is intimidation, tampered questioning, recanted testimony, mistaken identity or coerced answers not an issue? Why is that not of major importance? Who’s going to ask the question or state the obvious, “Something’s not right here, there’s more to this.”

Why are there higher levels of court to address when the lower level of court won’t let in all the facts for the high levels of courts to see? God forbid someone says, “We need more proof for why this and why that.” Why is the evidence that is so needed to make a difference always the evidence not forthcoming?

Someone needs to ask those big pink elephant in the room questions. I dare you to stop letting that Circle intimidate or bully you any further. Don’t just simply agree when you know it’s not justice.

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If we can help people to SEE us as human beings, it’ll change the way we’re treated

Recently, I’ve begun corresponding with a prisoner on North Carolina’s death row, named George Wilkerson. About a year ago, I sent him a copy of “I Am Troy Davis” (which I co-authored with innocent death row prisoner Troy Davis, who was murdered in 2011 by the state of Georgia.) He wrote back to me, an extremely powerful response to the book… it took me a year to respond to his letter (yes, I feel terrible about that)–but I finally did on Christmas day…and his response to my response came almost immediately, in which he gave me permission to post here anything he wrote in his letters. One of his goals is to reveal the humanity of those society has encaged and invisible-ized. I  hope that by posting bits of his correspondence here, it helps achieve that.

“Ms Marlowe,
Hello. My name is George Wilkerson and I’m a prisoner on Death Row in North Carolina. Recently-as in the last 18 months-I’ve been learning to write, and I realized that writing is nothing without having something to say, something that’ll make a difference, you know?…You, me, and many others on both sides of the wall are engaged in a war–a war of ideas.  If we can help people to SEE us as human beings, it’ll change the way we’re treated. Change the way a person THINKS, you change the way they behave. One moment, one crime, doesn’t define a person. We have feelings, and moms, and kids. We love. We suffer.”

Then, in response to my belated response….some other words from George:

(in response to my remarking on his talent as a writer:)

“I appreciate what you said about my writing, but really, if I have any talent at all, I have to say it’s a God-given gift, although I think maybe it’s my context that fools people into thinking I have any: I’m a prisoner on death row; the expectations are pretty low. :-)”

(in response to having read “I Am Troy Davis,” and the fact that Troy has never been officially exonorated)

“People like us are fighting battles in a larger war, eh? Sometimes, there are decisive battles upon which turn the war, but often there is no clear demarkation. We have to have faith that what we do, in terms of fighting where we are, with the tools/weapons we possess, all plays a role in the larger scheme of things. Let’s say you reached a few preachers and teachers–I’m simplifying to create a formula from which we can extrapolate. Preachers and teachers directly influence the thinking, and therefore behavior, of thousands of people. Right?…To me, activism surrounding the death penalty and the justice system need books like yours. They are our weapons. You gathered the facts, you humanized a problem, you showed how an abstract idea like “injustice” looks and feels and cries. You provided an entry point for those who can’t comprehend abstractions, for those who don’t operate on principle, but need instead concrete connections to their world before they’ll act.

And, you do a great job of contextualizing Troy Davis’s situation, showing how it is symptomatic of a greater problem. That’s the interconnectedness you spoke of. These situations aren’t isolated evenets! But we need people like you to show how they are connected.”

George: I have much to learn from you. We all have much to learn from you.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more of your words, and often. But for now, may those who read these words see you–and all those locked up with you–as a full human being.

 

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Troy Davis’s nephew De’Jaun is at the halfway point!

Dear friends,

Troy Davis (an innocent man on Georgia’s death row executed in Sept 2011) wanted more than anything for his nephew De’Jaun to achieve his educational dream.

In the fall of 2013, De’Jaun took his first steps towards that dream by beginning Morehouse College, pursuing a dual degree in engineering and physics (and making Dean’s List several semesters while he’s at it!) In his 2nd year, De’Jaun co-founded and is running Morehouse’s Makerspace Lab.

De’Jaun’s ability to attend Morehouse is enabled by the generosity and solidarity of scores of supporters who believe in this young man and want to ensure he’s able to build the future he deserves.

Now it’s time to raise tuition for De’Jaun’s Junior year at Morehouse!

Whether you watched De’Jaun grow up as you worked side by side with his beloved mother Martina and grandmother Virginia, were inspired by his speaking about his Uncle Troy’s case at an NAACP or Amnesty International youth conference, or learned about his growing into a powerful activist from the book I Am Troy Davis–it is clear to all who have encountered De’Jaun that this phenomenal young man deserves our support.

We’re trying to raise $20,000 for De’Jaun’s 3rd year of college tuition—and we need your help to meet that goal!

The Impact is not just on De’Jaun alone! De’Jaun intends to use his engineering degree in ways that will have far-reaching impacts (for example–he spoke to me about his involvement in an organization called Green For All Engineering, through which he educates young students about “going green” and the importance of environmental safety through engineering.) He also intends to continue to serve as a mentor and role model for other youth with dreams who may not see a clear path on how to achieve them.

If you can’t make a donation at this time, here are some things you can do:

–Make some noise about this campaign–use the CrowdRise share tools to spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

–Email Jen Marlowe to ask her to let you know in the future when De’Jaun’s tuition is due once again.

–Purchase an I Am Troy Davis T-shirt–proceeds go directly to De’Jaun’s college fund! (Email Kimberly Davis for more info)

–Purchase a copy of the book I Am Troy Davis and learn more about De’Jaun, his incredible family, and their ongoing fight to end the death penalty!

Thank you for helping make De’Jaun–and his Uncle Troy’s–dreams come true!

In solidarity,
Jen Marlowe
Author, I Am Troy Davis

De'Jaun Troy1 De'Jaun Troy 2

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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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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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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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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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