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Volume 17 | Issue 4 | Christmas Edition 2013

CHRISTMAS AN INVITATION TO EXPAND OUR PERSPECTIVE

On being reminded that Christmas is coming, whether by admonitions to shop, the first frost or because it gets darker earlier and earlier, certain memories and thoughts are triggered. Many of these thoughts are not unique to us which encourages us to think that they are universal. One of these for those of us living in the northern hemisphere is that Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year when we long for light.

True and yet, and yet .... how about the rest of the world and those who live in the southern hemisphere where Christmas falls on the longest day of the year? What does that fact mean for them? Could it perhaps symbolize that nature is in full celebration? Perhaps?

And if you are wondering at this point why I can't just be happy with snow and chestnuts roasting on an open fire and get on with just enjoying Christmas, it is because in order to celebrate this special day I must also be open to search for its many meanings.

For those of you who have been our readers for a while you will know that I have tried to explore some of these over the years. This year with some of my family now living in New Zealand, I was struck by how our location determines how we see and understand things, and how it limits our perspective unless we make ongoing, conscience efforts to broaden it.

We are all born with the perspective of our particular time in history, place, ethnicity, nationality and gender, and this is not a negative in of itself. It only becomes one when we think our perspective is the only valid one. When we think in that way, we reject, condemn and judge everything and everyone who does not fit our criterion. And strangely enough we cling to our limited perspective not because of a good sense of self but because we are afraid and feel threatened by anything we don't understand and that is not us. We are trapped in a box and miss out on so much!

So does it matter whether Christmas falls on the shortest night of the year or on the longest? It matters that it falls on both. Not only does it testify to the universality of the message, but most importantly, it offers us an invitation to broaden our perspective so that it becomes inclusive.

My Christmas wish therefore for all of us is that we accept this invitation to expand our perspective, mindful that the good news of Bethlehem was for all the people! And as for so many years now, I wish all of us the peace, joy and love that is Christmas.

Esther Brown


SEASON'S GREETINGS

Hello to all you in free world land! Tis I Carey here to once again speak to you from the Editor's desk. Ignore the noise coming from the closet. Jeff's...um...doin inventory...or something. Anyway on with the show!! 

It's been an interesting year for PHADP. Two men on the row got off and are no longer facing death. Very good news!

Esther and five others from NAACP had a sit down with the Governor, in Feb., to discuss the death penalty, prison conditions and other topics. The result was predictable but the getting him to the table was a feat in it's self.

Our friend Sen. Hank Sanders once again introduced anti death penalty Bills. None of them made it out of Committee, although that hasn't dulled his resolve. Keep swinging Hank!

On the flip, the AL Senate voted to expand the death penalty to include those murdered under a protective court order.

There is also talk of a Bill that will cut the appeals time in half by running certain appeals concurrent. Think they deserve a lil coal in the stockin, Big Red!

Ursula Malchau, of Germany, got the German Human Rights Commissioner Markus Leaning to write Sen. Cam Ward in support of Sen. Sanders' Bills. She also contacted Tom Koenig, chairperson of German Parliment Commission for Human Rights. Thank you, Ursula, for the proactive support.

Speaking of proactive! We have two new members of our Advisory Board. Congrats on your appointment Shelly Douglass and Sam Sullins!

For those of you who may not know, we had two deaths at Holman this year; Andrew Lackey was executed on July 25th and at the first of the year Clarence Simmons died of natural causes. Two very sad days.

Be sure to check out our Quotable Quotes page in this issue.

Speaking of quotable, our own Esther Brown has been quite busy. She's attended 4 NAACP events, 3 NCADP events, 2 or 12 other things and a Junetenth Community Festival where she was introduced as a modern day Harriet Tubman! Let's give this woman a hand people! We love you Esther.

Our Development Officer Brandon Fountain has been on the grind as well. Speaking at several Birmingham ministries. Congrats!

Our student Reps are doing well and still showing the world how it's done. Your big brothers are proud of you. 

And finally, we the board are working twice as hard as you think and half as hard as you know! To all of those inside and out of the PHADP family, we wish you a Most Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!

CAREY GRAYSON
ASST. EDITOR
Z-598 H-11


A True Gift

As you receive the Project Hope Newsletter, the holiday season will be upon us. I pray that all of you enjoy the time with your family and friends. The great food that will be on the table and the Love of Jesus Christ.

The holiday season lets-all remember the reason for the season The true traditional reason is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Thus we should remember what Jesus represents; love, forgiveness and compassion.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, we shouldn't need a holiday to remind us of this. However, we are human and we do make mistakes. This holiday season show the love, the compassion and even the forgiveness that represents our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to those less fortunate.

To those of us less fortunate, I know words aren't enough at times. Especially when you feel there's no hope to·continue. I wish I could make your troubles go away. However in life we all face some kind of turmoil. It brings me great joy in being able to tell you you're not alone, as crazy as that may sound.

No matter who you are or where you are; what you've done or not done; Jesus loves you. Jesus is with you. Jesus and God understand the challenges in life make it difficult to believe someone you can't see or touch loves you and is there for you.

In ending this, God has placed us in someone's life to show that Jesus is real and that Jesus loves us all. We may never understand what a compliment or kind gesture, even a simple gift can mean to a complete stranger, because we may never know what they or even our loved ones are battling inside.

Merry Christmas and God bless to all.

David Riley
Z-738/F-22


Progress-N-Prosperity

God, where you at? I need you; I don't suppose to be here. If I'm not going to make it out of this situation, just take me in my sleep...

Yo, Sneed...I'm having chest pains. I need to go to the hospital...Doctor: Okay, Mr. Lewis, what is the problem? Me: Having chest pains when I try to raise up after lying down, I feel a pain in my chest, a straining pain. Doctor: Well, Randy, your EKG is negative for heart problems. You may want to consider being placed on Chronic Care. Me: Okay.

Randy. Randy. Randy.  Hey! Who is there? Who is that calling me?

This is Jesus-speaking to you on behalf of God. "Be courageous and strong. Do not be struck with terror or fear, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

I thank God for blessing me to progress beyond my futile state and prospering in my faith, with a sound mind, with a will and desire to live. Thank God for reminding me of what and who to live for.

Randy Lewis
Z-741/F-6


The Meaning Of Life

As a man I've come to understand the meaning of life. Life not being simply breathing or existing but loving, learning...cherishing and being cherished. Tomorrow is promised to no one so today is all you truly have. The very moment in which you read this; think of who and what you give purpose to. What is most important in your life? As you do, ask yourself...What and who am I living for? The reason I encourage all to do this is because the things we base our mental focus on translates through our physical actions. Therefore, if your mind is spent entertaining negative, deceitful unpleasant thoughts...that is how you're most likely to behave. As well, that is how you'll be perceived. Which brings me to my closing point. The way you're perceived is how you'll be remembered and every day of every moment, we as human beings are memories in motion. The motion in which we move is a direct by-product to how we think those things in which we spend our days and nights focused upon influence, dictate how we behave. So just ask yourself; what are you living for? What do you give purpose to? Once you figure out the answers to this...you'll find The Meaning Of Life. The meaning of your life.

Devin Thompson
Z-717/G-7


Sad Santa

When I was a small child I believed in Santa Claus, and as my parents watched me unwrap each gift from underneath our Christmas tree on Christmas morning, my eyes would be opened wide with excitement and joy at the surprise of each new toy!

Back then I had no idea that many years later my parents would have to come clean with me. I can still remember how devastated I was to find out that Santa Claus didn't really exist! My dad was Santa! Once I became a grown man with children of my own,  the same old tradition repeated itself and once my children reached the age old endugh to be given the sad truth that Santa Claus didn't really exist, can you imagine the looks on their faces when they realized that their only real Santa Claus, their dad was being sent to prison, sentenced to death by lethal injection?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tug-Boat


Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings to all! It seems that the older I get the quicker time is passing, but thankfully not passing me by. As we celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have plenty of reasons to be both thankful and joyful. I've spent many holidays here, too many to try and remember, but with each I've remained in the holiday spirit.

This holiday season of course, I. have more reason to know how blessed I am. I became a grandfather twice in the past four months! Yes, two newborn grandbabies! Along with their arrivals, I've also been blessed with more grey hair! I don't feel old though and I definitely don't look it!:) Just spreading a bit of humor.

I wish everyone a blessed holiday season. Be cheerful and joyful no matter what. May your New Year bring prosperity. Happy Holidays!

In Love and Peace,

Nicholas Acklin
Z-648/N-7


GOOD NEWS FROM RESIST

I am delighted to inform you that RESIST's Board of Directors approved Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty's request for renewal of your multi-year funding at our October 8th meeting and awarded the final Four Thousand Dollar ($4,000} installment of your Multi-Year General Support Grant. We understand that securing funding is a time-intensive process and appreciated the opportunity to learn about your mission, projects, and area of need over the last year. Board members affirmed their belief that your organization is a valuable resource for the progressive community and that our grant will significantly enhance your ability to achieve your goals.

We are grateful to RESIST for its continued belief in our mission to be The Other Voice on death row as well as on the outside.

RESIST, 259 ELM STREET,# 201, SOMERVILLE, MA 02144. 617 623 5110 www.resistinc.org


Season's Greetings

Well, November is upon us. Time to reflect and remember all the things we are thankful for. I'm blessed to be alive in this world and eternally in the next. Each day and each breath is a miracle. Another miracle is my wife, who gave me two great kids and does more for me than I could ever fit on a page. Or a million pages. I'm thankful for the rest of my family, thick and thin...and a pretty cool new addition too. I'm glad I've still got all my senses. I can see, as well as I ever could. I can taste my food and sometimes freedom. I hear ya, might not listen, but I can hear. Smell, gotta be careful with that one. Of course it is good to be able to feel how hot or cold it is, if nothing else to know which way to complain. Seriously though, I'm happy to be whole and you never know when a sound or smell will conjure up an old memory from a happy time. A time I'm in a really big hurry to get back to. Laughter, even sad clowns like to laugh, and even though I don't laugh as much now, I know its still there, and I can still feel joy and happiness so to everyone I've shared a laugh with, thanks. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Bart Johnson
Z-778/F-18


**** ALABAMA NEWS ****

* Money for public defenders was cut this year, and now there will be a new law proposed to cut appeals.

* We welcomed Shelly Douglass and Sam Sullins to our Advisory Board.

* We also welcomed Bart Johnson to the SubBoard.

* Esther attended the Annual Alabama N.A.A.C.P. convention in Talladega. Senator Hank Sanders (Selma) was honored as Legislator of the Year. Bryan Stevenson gave a great speach. Also in attendance was the brother of one of the 4 young girls killed in the Birmingham church bombings.

* P.H.A.D.P.s Facebook profile has jumped by over 100 likes this quarter and we are now in the 900s.

* Esther attended the Annual Alabama Arise Conference where the death penalty reform issue was voted in again for next year.

* PHADP won the RESIST grant again and are ever grateful to RESIST for their support and encouragement.

*Maryland abolished their death penalty 10-1-13, bringing the number to 6 in 6 years.

* Esther participated in a conference call with the N.C.A.D.P. about the current lethal injection issues.

* Members of Witness to Innocence spoke at several schools in the Birmingham area on October 28th.

* Mobile Amnesty chapter had ex death row inmate Gary Drinkard as featured speaker on Nov. 6th.

* Our brother Gary Drinkard, who now works for Witness to Innocence, recently spoke at Harvard. Way to go, Gary!

* Esther attended the Alabama New South Coalition chapter meeting

* Reverend R.C. Boon died, civil rights worker who worked with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a long time supporter of PHADP who brought his family to our vigils. Be will be missed.

* Esther did an interview with Gabe Tynes for the Lagniappe web site.

* PHADP Advisory Board memeber Sam Sullins gave a t.v. interview to reporter Margo Gray WAFF ch.44 on the state of the death penalty in Alabama. Great. Job Sam! Way to represent!

* LOOK TO OUR "QUOTABLE QUOTES" PAGE IN THIS ISSUE.

*Petra Jackson, our Student Rep., is on a winning volleyball team and attending school in Canada. Excellence seems to be a theme with our Petra:) We're all proud of you, Petra!

* Esther met with Ursula Malchau, European supporter & LIFESPARK member.


"A Look Inside"

After hearing about some curiosity and inquiry about our groups on the inside, I wanted to give you all a bird's eye view into our groups. I'm sure the majority of our supporters have access to the net and have seen pictures of our Board members and read our weekly reports that are faithfully put up each week. But, that is not everyone involved or the end of the story. The Board only makes up the head of PHADP. There are other sub-groups inside here that help this well oiled machine run correctly and effectively. We have had up to 6 groups with a minimum, of 8 people in each group. These groups operate like a mini Board group. They have officers in leadership roles just like the Board. The only major difference between the Board and the other groups is that they don't make any executive decisions pertaining to the business of Hope. They do carry out the business of Hope inside. These sub-groups are very important to the operation and advancement of PHADP. The other group members are future Board members in training. In each one of these groups there are Board members sprinkled throughout. Not to run the group but to guide, inform and to observe the potential of possible future Board and sub-Board members. The sub-Board is made up of up to 4 sub-Board members selected by the Board. A sub-Board member is a step between being a group member and a future Board member. Once you are on the sub-Board, you meet every other week with the big Board. And mainly you are there to see how things work. So, when your name is called to step up to the Board, you are ready. The Board meets weekly, every Wednesday from 8 AM to 1:30 PM. Once the Board adjourns at 1:30, then the next group or law class meets from 1:30 to 5:30 PM and this group is brought up to date on all of Hope's business that has taken place since the last time they met. And what these guys will do with their information is go back to the different tiers and share the info with guys that may not be an "active" member of PHADP and their own family and penpals. But we consider everyone here a part of Hope. So, in closing let me say that the main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing...Keeping Hope Alive!!! From all of us guys here on the inside, we wish you all the best in the corning year.

Season Greetings,

Anthony Tyson
Z-641/N-17
Holman 3700


"Woo-Hoo! We made it!" or How I Keep Hope Alive

We've come to the end of another year.(Woo-Hoo! We made it!) Soon I will be another year older. And thankful for it. Take nothing for granted when confronted with my particular situational conditions, is my advice. Though God forbid you or a loved one is ever faced with similar circumstances.

One of the things I have come to enjoy at the end of the year is deciphering, editing, formatting and yes, even the typing of the Christmas newsletter articles. (Jeff won't believe the latter but, will probably grudgingly agree with the former.) It gives me a good view into the minds and moods of my Project Hope brethren and allows all those involved a way to end the year with a sense of accomplishment. Also, it me a chance to catch up with them in a more personal non-case, non-cause and companionable way. Just guys comparing notes on the past year we survived, our families and children. (Congratulations to Nick and Barbara on their grandbabies). We share the good, bad and ugly of our individual trials, tribulations, successes and joys. And yes, though generally hard fought and/or exhaustingly gained, we do have successes and joys to share. And we have our own Mrs. Claus like confidant in the guise of our Out-mate Esther Brown who we all give thanks for more often than even she knows. A blessing for sure.

Even after the deciphering, editing, formatting, typing and retyping, there are discussions and arguements with Jeff (Overall, "Buck stops here!" Editor-and chief) and our short, furry, sure fingered creatively compulsive neighbor who handles all the cutting, pasting and symmetrical alignments, (think elf from Harry Potter but, substitute shots of coffee for gifts of old. socks) we are left with a sense of accomplishment and refreshed memory of times and persons gone by. Not to mention gratitude that we are not alone in the struggle, that the cause will continue and that we will not be forgotten should our date come up. All of which helps this humble Vice-Chairman, "Keep Hope Alive!" Merry Christmas and God bless! May the New Year bring us closer to the abolition of the death penalty worldwide and more in tune with our divine purposes.

Ronald B. Smith Jr.
Editor, "A Christian Perspective"/Vice-Chairman, PHADP
Z-586/H-6


QUOTES BY JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR CRITICAL OF ALABAMA'S DEATH PENALTY JURY OVERRIDES

Quotes from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's 16 page Dissent of the Court's refusal to hear an Alabama override case. Justice Stephen Breyer signed on in part:

In the last decade, Alabama has been the only State in which judges have imposed the death penalty in the face of contrary jury verdicts. Since Alabama adopted its current statute, its judges have imposed death sentences on 95 defendants contrary to a jury's verdict. Forty three of these defendants remain on death row today. Because I harbor deep concerns about whether this practice offends the Sixth and Eighth Amendments, I would grant Woodward's petition for certiorari so that the Court could give this issue the close attention that it deserves.

What could explain Alabama judges' distinctive proclivity for imposing death sentences in cases where a jury has already rejected that penalty? There is no evidence that criminal activity is more heinous in Alabama than in other States, or that Alabama juries are particularly lenient in weighing aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The only answer that is supported by empirical evidence is one that, in my view, casts a cloud of illegitimacy over the criminal justice system: Alabama judges, who are elected in partisan proceedings, appear to have succumbed to electoral pressures.

By permitting a single trial judge's view to displace that of a jury representing a cross-section of the community, Alabama's sentencing scheme has led to curious and potentially arbitrary outcomes. Eighteen years have passed since we last considered Alabama's capital sentencing scheme, and much has changed since then. Today, Alabama stands alone: No other State condemns prisoners to death despite the considered judgment rendered by a cross-section of its citizens that the defendant ought to live. And Apprendi and its progeny have made clear the sanctity of the jury's role in our system of criminal justice. Given these developments, we owe the validity of Alabama's system a fresh look. I therefore respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari.

And finally, Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic writes in his article, The Supreme Court Loves Juries, Except When It Doesn't:

I do not see how Justice Scalia squares his eloquence in  Ring with his silence in  Woodward. And I do not know how to explain or justify the meek acceptance of this dubious result by the other members of the Court. Judicial elections in Alabama create all sorts of perversions of justice-I spoke about some of them just last week with Sue Bell Cobb, the retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama-but nowhere are those perversions more pronounced than when a state judge begging for votes condemns a man to death whom a jury had voted to spare.


Clocking In

In the clutch of time,
looking for a crutch from time,
to help me walk this path,
which is being eaten by lines,
cracks and potholes,
and mouths full of sewage grime.

Lusting,
having problems trusting,
both God and man,
double-dutching the line,
seeing a part of me,
I can't define.

Time,
the one thing we can't erase,
but if that miracle ever comes,
while I run this endless race

I'll remind myself,
you're the brother of a fearless champion,
now slow down the pace,
so other's cah catch up,
and together embrace,
the fullness of God's grace,
through time I push on ...

Omen
AKA
Tony Barksdale
Z-611/F-24


His Christmas

The sight and sound of Christmas. The weight we put on from alot of good food, family and friendship. Why does this holiday only come once a year?

Well, maybe it is best. So people can prepare themselves. For all that food. But the real "Reason" for Christmas is remembering Jesus' birthday and what He did for all of us.

His blood washed our sin away. I give thanks to Him more than once a day. So let's not forget the real reason for the holiday.

Ron K.
F-9


Prison Nights

Laying down at night has become a ritual for me these past few years...I don't sleep most nights. I like to do all my "work" at night, or "burn the midnight oil" as they say. Although alot of nights I don't seem to get any work done. I just drink my coffee and smoke my cigarettes, until my lungs and heart can't take anymore. About that time I've shut off my TV, because there isn't room for any more noise in my head. Which is good, because some days my mind is empty, quiet...I could use some noise, but when the thoughts start to echo and compound on top of one another, I have to let them go, let go of the pain of the past and the anxiety of the future. They'll be back. I'll have plenty of time to comb them over, look at things from a new angle, another perspective as I have over and over for so many nights. That is my life now. I can't control the future. I can't control the past, but if there is such a thing as enlightenment...then maybe before my body gives out and I go to sleep...I'll find it...one of these nights.

Derek Horton
N-5


Headspace

A thought came to mind
one of many during this time
causing confusion among all other thoughts
warring about which one will be sought
the habits of a mind that idle
never declaring a winner of that title.
For most that is the case
Crowded arena that Headspace.

Stressful reminders of where you are
worry when the end will come and thus far,
the thought or question comes to the front

what is cruel and unusual punishment.
The answer is waiting to die by the hands of the state
forced to endure endless days and nights of vengeful hate
turning thoughts away with a smiling face
but anger inside this very crowded Headspace

No longer here in the now
come inside the thoughts to figure out how
Escape with the mind is the only freedom
chain locked to the bars is not a happy medium.
Closed eyes, open heart.
The end is not the place to start.
Conclusion; mind and thoughts are a maze
that is so clear in this Headspace...

Marcus Williams


My Sunshine

The holiday issue, huh? Well for a very long time now holidays have just been days to me. The beauty, the wonder, the togetherness and the love...All Gone! How do you celebrate things you can't truly be a part of, had become my way of thinking about the holidays. Then something happened! Something unexpected, wonderful, special, exciting, loving and life changing. A gift! A blessing! My Sunshine arrived in my life. A beautiful, intelligent, caring, strong, supportive and loving Sunshine. Things have only continued to get better, as my holidays carne early...Yes, I'm feeling quite festive again.(Smile) I guess a certain four letter word can make you feel that way.(Wink)

In September, my Sunshine traveled from an ocean away to celebrate my birthday with me. Neither of us could've known that she was bringing with her, my Thanksgiving, my Christmas and my New Year. As we sat out on the visiting yard talking, laughing and eating together, I got my Thanksgiving back. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the blessings we've received in our loves and I am certainly thankful for the blessing that is my Sunshine. With her corning across an ocean to spend those few hours with me, that was my birthday and Christmas presents all wrapped up in the same beautiful package. Then, there were the...Well, let's just say, "Happy New Year, to me!"(Wink)

So as the holidays approach, and you all rush about gathering the material things we usually deem will make them even more special...food and presents. I ask that we all take time to be thankful for the caring people we have in our lives. Put a smile on someone's face, that'll light up like a Christmas tree and celebrate the New Year as just what it is, a chance for new beginnings. A chance to help bring about some positive changes in a world that has lost it's way. Just as I had lost my holidays. My Sunshine brought them back to me and I'll forever be thankful to her for that. So, miracles can and do happen.

To all of you- from my family, My Sunshine, my brothers in the struggle and myself...Happy Holidays, be blessed and be safe.

To my Sunshine, ich liebe du. Mein Herz iz ewig Deiner.

Always,
Anthony Boyd
Z-578/N-9