[Ppnews] Death Row Talks Back to Etan Thomas

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Mar 25 13:26:45 EST 2006


Weekend Edition
March 25 / 26, 2006

More Than an Athlete

Death Row Talks Back to Etan Thomas


This Sunday at 4pm, I am proud to be speaking at an event in San 
Francisco called a "Civil Rights Slam for Justice," sponsored by 
among others the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. The slam will be 
at the Malcolm X school at 350 Harbor Street. In addition to myself 
and a crew of young artists, activists and poets, speakers will 
include an NBA basketball player by the name of Etan Thomas.

Regular readers of this column know that I'm not exactly shy about 
singing the praises of the Washington Wizards forward. Etan plays a 
gritty, elbows-up style of basketball, but on a microphone he is pure 
Jordan. In the tradition of Amiri Baraka, his poems are sharp enough 
to cut glass, and generous enough to leave seedlings that can sprout 
in the cracks.

I first heard about Etan's political poetry when a rumor started 
going around Washington DC that this rather gigantic gentleman with 
dreads was going to U street coffee houses reading anti-death 
penalty, anti-racist verse in front of a crowd you could fit in a 
van. Since then Etan has risen to every occasion, speaking out at 
last September's anti-war rally, speaking out against the 
mistreatment of Katrina refugees, speaking out against the execution 
of Stan Tookie Williams, and speaking out through a published book of 
verse fittingly enough called 
Than An Athlete" [Moore Black Press].

Right here, for the first time, Death Row speaks back to Etan Thomas. 
This comes in the form of a letter from Illinois Death Row prisoner 
Stanley Howard. Stanley, always organizing, typed his message to Etan 
on the back of a fact sheet that explains his case. Here his letter 
is republished with permission from both Stanley and Etan.

I pass on Stanley Howard's letter so folks can see that athletes 
don't take political stands for their own amusement or ego, but to be 
part of something larger than themselves. I also pass it on to 
demonstrate how a prisoner on death row has as much a capacity to 
inspire as any jock.

See you in the Bay Area,

Dave Zirin

Dear Brother Etan Thomas:

My name is Stanley Howard, and I'm currently incarcerated at the 
world famous Stateville Correctional Center/Warehouse in Joliet, Illinois.

I'm a 43 year old Black poor man from Chicago who has spent the last 
22 years kidnapped by this unmerciful system -- 16 of those years 
were spent trying to stop the State of Illinois from lynching me on Death Row.

I'm no longer suffering on Death Row (fighting yet another wrongful 
conviction), but my heart is still in the struggle to end the Death 
Penalty because I can still hear the cries for justice and 
understanding loud and clear in my ears.

I've recently heard about your upcoming scheduled appearance at a 
Campaign to End the Death Penalty ("CEDP") event, and I just wanted 
to send these words of thanks to show my sincere appreciation.

I've heard so much about your activism against classism, racism and 
this unjust system and government, and you'll be surprised to know 
that you're a great inspiration to many of the guys behind this 
30-foot wall. Because like the title of your book says, you're "More 
Than an Athlete."

I was on Death Row when it seemed like nobody cared what happened to 
Death Row prisoners, and worthless politicians were climbing on top 
of each other to pass laws and rules designed to make it easier to be 
sent to Death Row; harder to get off; and, faster to execute. They 
caused 100s to be executed during this time period trying to prove 
they were not soft on crime.

They were able to kill all these people (some of which had to be 
innocent, like me), even though we had many well established groups 
and organizations fighting to abolish the Death Penalty.

Everything began to change with the bold and aggressive grassroots 
efforts of the CEDP, because they consist of everyday people whose 
not sitting behind desks pushing paper, but out on the streets 
organizing, educating, protesting and agitating the so called Powers 
That Be. Everyone on Death Row loves the CEDP, because they changed 
the face of how this life saving movement is fought -- helping to put 
the Death Penalty under the national spotlight; obtaining a Death 
Penalty moratorium; highlighting many cases; and, convincing Gov. 
Ryan to empty out Illinois' Death Row and granting my request for a 
pardon and three other pardons.

So on behalf of all the Brothers and Sisters still fighting to stop 
from being lynched on Death Rows around the country, I thank you for 
joining the struggle and helping to bring this madness to an end.


Thank You for being More Than an Athlete!!!

Stanley J. Howard
Reg. # N-71620
Stateville Correctional Center
Route 53, P.O. Box 112 Joliet, IL 60434

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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