DRSP News, Issue 5,

September 2011

Dear friends of DRSP,

Last week’s execution of Troy Davis in Georgia was a low point in our work to end the use of the death penalty in the United States. Below are reflections written by Sarah Farahat of Portland, Oregon. When Sarah was in Brethren Volunteer Service in 2003-4, she worked for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. During that time, she started writing to Troy Davis; she had a day-long visit with him in 2004. Below are her reflections written after Troy’s execution.

America’s Problem Is Us
Words seem to have such sharp edges today. Each letter too violent to use when all I want is softness. They are also too cold to warm me–backing away as I reach out my arms for comfort.
We lost a friend and a good man last night. On September 21, 2011, at 11:08 p.m. Troy Anthony Davis was killed by the state of Georgia. But that statement seems too impersonal.There was a jury who authorized his death. There was the Georgia Supreme Court who refused to commute his sentence. There was the parole board, the district attorney, and the governor Nathan Deal who failed to issue a pardon. There was the US Supreme Court and President Obama. There were prison guards who walked him down to the execution chamber. There was a “doctor” who administered the lethal drugs which have been known to cause outward paralysis yet inwardly the victim experiences extreme pain. There were journalists watching, there were other victims there hoping for some sort of relief from the pain of losing a loved one long ago, and there was Troy’s family–whose strength and courage is immeasurable.In this time of course maybe we are all wondering if there was something else we could have done: one more letter, getting one more celebrity to support him, calling him more, maybe another visit, some more effective direct action, a time machine or teleportation device perhaps. But in the face of such finality–a breath extinguished–our work will never feel like enough and peace can never be achieved through such violence.I don’t think Troy would have been executed if he were a white man. Our country which speaks of freedom, of innovation, of “First Worldliness” and respect for human rights–we still suffer from the diseases of crime, of poverty, of malnutrition. We have one in six people without any health care, we are dismantling unions, and we have a growing house-less population. Our jails are over-crowded and filled disproportionately with African Americans and Latino people.”America has a very serious problem…America’s problem is us,” said the late Malcolm X. We refuse to be bought and sold. We refuse to contribute to the ongoing expansion of the US Military Empire across the world. We refuse to continue to solve our problems through continued military intervention, through a broken and racist court system, corporate privatization, through higher border walls and gated communities. Until these problems are justly dealt with, America’s problem will continue to be us.One bright flame was extinguished last night in Georgia, but in each of us Troy Davis sparked a fire that refuses to die. His struggle is now our struggle. Our memories of Troy will live on in the work that we do. He will live on as we work for justice, peace, and equality for all of our brothers and sisters across the world.I always ended my letters to Troy, “Stay Strong,” and for you, who continue the work that needs to be done, I offer the same ending.In solidarity,
Sarah Farahat
Sept. 22, 2011

On a brighter note, DRSP has received good attention recently in a couple places. Because of her correspondence with Ronald Clark in Florida, DRSP volunteer Dina Milito was featured in a “Miami Herald” article ( www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/awaiting-execution-hes-the-death-row-poet/1189851# ), and then on ABCNews.com ( http://abcnews.go.com/US/blogging-death-row-inmates-victims/story?id=14473507 ).

Also, DRSP flyers were circulated at an event at the Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, where the speaker was the father of another of Dina’s pen pals (see www.fcob.net/news/newsletter/newsletter_content.htm?id=2431 ).

We are receiving daily requests from persons interested in writing to someone on death row; a year ago, we were averaging one per week. We are grateful for your interest! May this work help lead us to the end of the death penalty.

In peace,

Rachel Gross
Coordinator, Death Row Support Project