[Ppnews] Black/Afrikan People Must Fight Against the Death Penalty!

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 10 18:49:45 EST 2012

Black/Afrikan People Must Fight Against the Death Penalty!

by Sis. Marpessa Kupendua - 1/2012
nattyreb at gmail.com
“Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty 
would have likely been abolished in America. 
Slavery became a haven for the death penalty. In 
Virginia, before the end of slavery, there was 
only one crime for which a white person could be 
executed. But there were 66 crimes for which a 
slave could be executed.” – Sis. Angela Davis, 2003
Most of us in the Black/Afrikan community very 
understandably worry more about our children 
being killed on the streets than by lethal 
injection. Some of our neighborhoods are 
devastated by drugs, poverty and violence and so 
discussions around the uneven application of the 
death penalty are a glaring non-issue when so 
many of us live on the frontlines of these war 
zones.  Each day we hear and read of horror 
stories that fill us with disbelief, anguish and 
rage and many want an eye for an eye! We so 
readily identify with being victimized that we 
even support the executions of juveniles and the 
mentally disabled in particularly gruesome 
incidences. It also seems a preposterous topic to 
raise because most people can’t possibly foresee 
that any member of their immediate families could ever face a death sentence.

But when this system offers to murder on our 
alleged behalf, it carries a double-edged sword. 
Many may believe in the execution of the 
perpetrator of today's heinous leading news 
story, but be outraged at the blatantly unjust 
execution of another. Unfortunately, we are not 
given the luxury to pick and choose once we 
support state-sanctioned murder -- we are either 
for it, regardless of how corrupt many of these 
sham trials are, or against it!   In 2008 the 
Death Penalty Information Center stated that 127 
death row inmates had been exonerated, and that's 
just those who were fortunate enough to get 
evidence admitted that cleared them.  The 
courageous work of anti-lynching heroine Ida B. 
Wells was not meant to culminate in high-tech 
state lynchings where even the cause of death is certified as 'homicide'.

Statistical data is abundant that the criminal 
justice system, from profiling, arrest, and 
sentencing, impacts Black/Afrikan and Latino 
defendants the harshest, and the death penalty 
is, of course, no exception.(1) Although some 
political activists will concede the racist, 
classist and political aspects of the death 
penalty in specific cases, they continue to 
remain uninvolved in the larger struggle to abolish it completely.

Black activists must dialogue and challenge that 
mindset within our ranks, or we continue to risk 
that far too many of our brothers and sisters – 
such as Bro. Gregory (Ajamu) Resnover, Bro. Ziyon 
Yisrayah, Bro. Shaka Sankofa, Bro. Troy Davis and 
many more – will be wiped off of the planet. If 
we stand against racist oppression, we must fully 
understand that we are all under potential threat 
of life – slow-speed death sentences -- or straight up legalized lynching.

Since Georgia succeeded in murdering Troy Davis, 
an innocent man with worldwide support during 
which Black people held the highest positions in 
this country and did not intervene, what is to 
stop the executions of  dozens more wrongfully 
convicted and oversentenced captives with limited 
or no support, particular those the state paints 
as 'terrorists' during the age of NDAA?  We must 
include the abolition of the death penalty as a 
major plank of all of our platforms. No more 
treating capital punishment as a back burner 
issue and dismissing it as a largely white movement!

Existing mostly-white anti-DP organizations 
should be confronted as to their lack of 
employment of Blacks and other people of color, 
especially those who have intimate knowledge of 
the death penalty through personal 
experience.  Bro. Lawrence Hayes wrote an open 
letter to anti-DP organizations in December, 
2011, that explains his personal frustration as 
someone who was entombed for 2 1/2 yrs in the 
death house and 20 yrs in prison before being exonerated:
"After my release, I help found the Campaign to 
End the Death Penalty and have worked in 
Education, as a Paralegal, for an anti death 
penalty United Nation's NGO and in Human Service. 
I am well educated, can write and publicly 
articulate my positions, I am conscious and bring 
first hand experience to an organization that no 
other employee has.  However, for the past five 
years I've made several attempts to work in a 
capacity directly involving anti death penalty 
work, mainly with groups like the Washington, DC 
based National Death Penalty Center, ACLU, NAACP 
Legal Defense Fund, Amnesty International, etc. 
and haven't been able to land a job. This 
disturbs me to no end and I would like the anti 
death penalty activist community, these 
organizations volunteer members, staff and donors 
to ask this question of why, with the release so 
many former death house prisoners, they don't 
have a single one working for them."

“I must admit that at times I wonder and question 
the intentions and knowledge of the death penalty 
activists (abolishers) who are horrified and 
oppose the killing of human beings, but who are 
not horrified at the very system in its totality, 
which renders such biased and unjust sentences 
upon its citizens and which contributes to the 
dehumanizing of its citizens. I say in turn that 
it’s not just the death penalty which must be 
overturned, but the whole institution of criminal 
justice as we know it must be overturned.” – From 
“What Is a Death Sentence?” by Bro. Adullah 
Hameen, who was legally lynched by the State of Delaware on May 25, 2001

The oppression of the Black community via the 
criminal justice system and its agents 
intensifies by the day. Vicious police attacks 
are openly viewed in all their sick glory via the 
internet, putting their hate speech, beatings, 
shootings and murders on full blast before the 
world.  We are also all too familiar with the 
massive oversentencing of Blacks vs. their white 
counterparts, manufactured evidence, tortured 
confessions, deliberate confusion, lies and even 
more. Our children are seen as sub-human, easily 
manipulated, animalistic and unemployable, sent 
down a conveyor belt straight to these dungeons 
and thus insuring the financing of their own encagement.

Even though many folks will concede that some 
captives may be innocent, at least of lesser 
counts than those with which they’ve been 
charged, and that some belong in drug or 
psychiatric treatment and not prison, and that of 
course some are becoming more hardened and 
callous than when they went in, and that yes some 
will be raped, beaten, tortured, enslaved for 
corporate profit while in prison and even killed 
– the bottom line for many remains that our 
community cannot be seen as making excuses for 
crime, a la Bill Cosby. As a result, many of our 
brothers and sisters will advocate even harsher 
punishments than the system already has in place 
and mimic those who would call for the jailing of 
our children for “crimes” such as wearing sagging 
pants or violation of noise ordinances!

We still yet believe that this system’s laws are 
designed to protect us, when nothing could be 
further from the truth! When presented with 
evidence that the death penalty is race- and 
class-based and not evenly applied, many will 
respond that yes, it needs to made fair, but it 
doesn’t need to be gotten rid of, not in all 
cases. These laws are abitrary, political, and 
remade at the whim of whoever is holding our 
lives in their hands. This system’s very 
foundation of racism and corruption can never be 
reformed or “made fair,” so it definitely cannot 
be trusted to determine who lives and who dies.

Capital punishment is itself premeditated murder! 
It’s about keeping alive this country’s 
bloodthirsty passion for lynching, a passion 
which they will fight to feed even in the face of 
overwhelming innocence, recantations of perjured 
testimony, even to the point where an unhealthy 
inmate will be cured just so that they can be 
healthy enough to be murdered on death day!

But how many police officers and/or other 
officials were given the death penalty for the 
terrorist murders of 11 members of the MOVE 
family – men, women and children – when police 
dropped a BOMB on their home in Philadelphia in 
May, 1985?! How many police officers were given 
the death penalty in the bloody murder of 7 year 
old Ayanna Jones in Detroit as she slept on the 
sofa in her family's apartment in May, 2010? How 
many police and/or other officials are given the 
death penalty for the murders of people in our 
communities, period? Their badges, guns, tasers 
and titles do not give them the right to judge 
who gets to live or die  – on the streets or in their prison death chambers!
“As I sit here on my bed, exhausted yet full of 
joy and uncertainty, feeling the affects of seven 
and a half years of constant chemotherapy, I am 
reflecting on the day of Sept. 23, 2008, as we 
entered the grounds of the Georgia Diagnostic and 
Classification Prison, where I wanted to cry but 
I could not; I wanted to yell but I could not; I 
wanted to leave but I could not. Then I watched 
the expression on my son’s face, that for the 
first time in his 14 years of visiting death row, 
he witnessed more than 100 SWAT, Tactical Squad 
officers, corrections officers with dozens of 
dogs, shotguns in hand, all because the state of 
Georgia wants to kill his  Uncle Troy. I have 
only seen such force on television from the civil 
rights era.” – from “Silencing our Joy” by Sis. 
Martina Correia, sister of innocent death row 
prisoner, Troy Davis, Sept. 25, 2008(3)
When addressing the needs of families of victims 
of crime, we must include the families of death 
row inmates. They are among the most underserved 
and unspoken of as they, too, cope with the 
tremendous depression suffered by all 
grief-stricken victims. These families, adults 
and children, are barely able to function while 
on the dizzying legal rollercoaster leading up to 
their family member’s date with death.  Some are 
treated as pariahs within their own community 
while struggling to carry on with work and school 
– simultaneously acting as their loved one’s 
source of emotional and financial support, 
traveling sometimes incredibly long distances to 
visit through glass or even by video, gouged by 
outrageously over-priced phone calls and 
advocating for these inmates with inadequate 
legal representatives(2), politricians and 
god-complexed prison officials. These families 
are not offered comfort or treated with even the most basic human dignity.

The good news is that more and more community 
activists, and most significantly our creative 
and genius-filled young brothers and sisters, are 
not only adopting a community-wide view that 
eclipses the media and societal pressure to be 
consumed with self and self alone, but even 
understanding the broader significance of our 
people’s global struggle for liberation and 
self-determination!  There exists an incredible 
potential to seize the time and build a strong 
anti-death penalty contingent within our 
organizations and/or to make certain that a 
representative of our groups becomes involved 
with existing anti-DP organizing in our area, 
lest we continue to scramble and scurry when 
emergencies arise. There is an immediate need for 
education and discussion around the issue of 
capital punishment and there is an abundance of 
anti-DP information on and off-line to be 
disseminated within any gathering of our people.

Furthermore, these politricians have to be made 
to feel that their continued allegiance to 
capital punishment will negatively impact their 
careers, and so will anyone else who purports to 
act as a religious or other type  of 
representative spokesperson for our 
communities.  Anyone who speaks about being 
'pro-life' should be confronted if they are not 
just as passionate regarding abolition of the death penalty!

Addressing police and prison issues is critical 
to building grassroots activism in any real and 
meaningful way, it is a fact of life for the 
Black/brown segment of the 99%,  and the issue of 
state sponsored murder is a crucial part of that. 
This is the system that far too many of our 
families are touched by and, as Bro. Hameen 
wrote, not just the death penalty but “the whole 
institution of criminal justice as we know it 
must be overturned.” We must make it “un-hip” to 
be down with the death  penalty, particularly amongst our own ranks!
"I think we need to increase our tactical 
strategies to include boycotts and 
national/international protest. I think we need 
to push for psychological and emotional 
therapeutic counseling (stress, anxiety, anger 
management and bereavement) for the families of 
men and women facing capital punishment, 
especially after an execution. I, also, believe 
that because of the economic situations in most 
African-American and Taino communities, we need 
to develop creative ways to organize the 
African-American and Taino anti death penalty 
voice." Bro. Lawrence Hayes, exonerated death row inmate.


(1) From <http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/>www.deathpenaltyinfo.org:

      • Even though blacks and whites are murder 
victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, 80 
percent of people executed since the death 
penalty was reinstated have been executed for murders involving white victims.

     • More than 20 percent of Black defendants 
who have been executed were convicted by all-white juries.

(2) More at 
Please also check 
<http://www.onamove.com/>www.onamove.com and 

(3) Sis. Martina Correira died of cancer on 
December 1, 2011, 2 1/2 months after the state's 
premeditated murder of her innocent brother, Troy Davis.

(Portions were taken from 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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