it will most probably not have escaped my readers that my articles are often inspired by my Board and our founder and President Emeritus, Jesse Morrison, and so l thought i might just as well go ahead and dedicate this article to them. Survivors, yes that is who they are, all of them!
Having established this fact it should be possible to deﬁne the qualities necessary to be a survivor by taking a look at what they all share. They all have their unique attributes and their unique personality“ in other words, they are individuals, and so I would like to designate being an individual and marching to one’s own drummer as one of the qualities of a survivor. Much flows from this sense of self, a self which will have taken quite a beating along the way to prison and on death row. And yet, as one of the men said to me, death row does not deﬁne who l am, an attitude which is the bottom line for survivors.
Victor Frankl, concentration camp survivor spoke in his book Man's Search for Meaning about the fact that those who had a meaning beyond themselves were much more likely to survive than those who didn't. I am grateful to be able to report that all of the Board members havetmeanings which are larger than themselves. Some of them have family members to whom they are devoted, but even those who don't, all have our organization, which invites them to direct their focus to a larger good.
Responsibility for self and others flows very naturally from this larger focus and is another hallmark of the survivor. Nothing undermines our emotional and physical well being more, and thereby threatens our survival, than navel gazing, which death row all too easily fosters. Kicking back in the cell and staring at television all day long with no seeming purpose in life, what is left to do but to feel sorry for oneself and blame the rest of the world? The sunrivor having acceptedresponsibility for self and others refuses to be a victim, and thus empowered, feels better.
And maybe the next attribute is just a part of all of the above? The survivor has the wisdom to know the difference between the things he can change and the things he cannot and acts accordingly. It is not that there are not a myriad of reasons to complain on death row, of course there are, but what's the point when the only person you make unhappy is yourself? The survivor knows that, and is able to move on and become a creator. Give him lemons and he makes lemonade.
In closing dear friends I have two questions for you: were you always survivors and if so, were you strengthened by being on the board of phadp? I hope you answered in the affirmative to both. Thank you for the inspiration you are to so many and every day to me.
GREETINGS: FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK
As we create this first newsletter of 2013, we have both happy and sad news. We have much hope for the future. The cycle continues, as we persevere. Our determination renewed and reinvigorated by you, the amazing people on the street who refuse to NOT see us as fellow human beings. To be sure, one must find one's own sense of value and worth, but it sure does help when others see it in you.
It is my sad duty to inform you that Clarence Simmons died on the row on 1-6-13 of natural causes.
It brings me joy to announce that Bobby Tarver and Esau Jackson have both gotten off of death row.
I wish I could bring you more definitive news on the status of the challenge to the lethal injection protocol (which is the reason there were no executions last year and none so far in 2013). The only thing we can say for sure is, that there has been no court ruling resolving the issue.
We have great hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Senator Sanders‘ death penalty Bills will be scheduled and held, as promised, by Sen. Cam Ward. Inside this issue of On Wings of Hope,-you will find the excellent letter in support of this written by our Development Officer Brandon Fountain. We ask all Alabamians to follow Brandon's example by contacting your Legislators and urging them to support these Bills.
And finally, if this issue has reached you later than usual, it is a result of our being locked down due to construction taking place within the prison. Our Board and Groups have not been able to meet in almost three weeks but we are resilient and are finding ways to do what needs to be done. Things should be back to normal soon.
I wish you all health and happiness, and ask that you help keep Hope alive.
Dear Senator Smitherman,
l write you today as the Development Ofﬂcer of Project Hope to Abolishthe Death Penalty, State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Alabama of Amnesty international USA, Board Member of Alabama Arise and a concerned citizen residing in your district, at 7840 5th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35206.
l wanted to take a moment to write you today regarding 5 bills (SB 30 - 34) ﬁled by Senator Hank Sanders.
During the 2012 session, Senator Ward expressed that he would schedule a hearing during the 2013 session to address Senator Sanders’ death penalty reform, moratorium and abolition bills. To this end, Alabama Arise has submitted an ofﬁcial letter of request for the hearings to take place before the Judiciary Committee. l am not aware ofa date having been set at this point, but land many others wait expectantly for the date to be announced, and we will do all within our power to make the arrangements necessary to be present for the hearing, and testify if needed.
Personally, my opposition to the death penalty begins as a matter of my faith. As a follower of Christ, I echo the voices of many of His earliest followers, and ﬁnd capital punishment to be in direct opposition to the life and message of Christ. Furthermore, I believe the capital punishment system within Alabama is rife with injustice, and I believe it to be beyond repair. However, l greatly appreciate the efforts of Senator Sanders to bring to light many of the system's egregious failings. SB 31, 32, 33 and 34 would go a long way towards reforming the system and bring Alabama into compliance with many issues of precedent set by the US Supreme Court. SB 30 would go a step further and bring Alabama into line with the majority of our international allies, as well as, the prevailing movement away from capital punishment in the US, as state after state continues to move toward death penalty abolition.
I thank you for your time and attention to my opinions on this matter, and in closing l ask you to consider two requests.
1. if you are willing, please express your support for these bills ﬁled by Senator Sanders.
2. If you are able, please encourage Senator Ward to honor his promise to hold hearings on these bills and help those of us who support them by announcing the date of the hearing, as soon as possible.
Thank you again for your time. if you have any comments, questions or time for further discussion related to this issue, please do not hesitate to write or call (205-400-4070).
Grace and Peace,
Don't be fooled by people. Don't be fooled by the faces they wear, for they wear a "mask", a thousand "masks", "masks" that they are afraid to take off & keep on purposely. They give the impression that they are secure & that all is sunny from within. That confidence is their name & coolness is their game. That the waters are calm & that they are in command, & that they need no one. But don't believe them. The surface may seem smooth but their surface is a "mask", forever changing & being concealed. Beneath lies confusion, fear, & loneliness. But they hide this. They don't want anybody to know it. They panic at the thought of their weaknesses being exposed. That's why they frantically create "masks" to hide behind, a nonchalant, sophisticated facade to help them pretend, to shield them from the glance that knows. But such a glance is precisely their salvation & their only hope, & they know it. That is, if it's followed by love & acceptance.
It's the only thing that can liberate them from themselves, from their own self built prison walls. It's the important thing that will assure them of what they can't assure themselves, that they're really worth something. But they don't tell you this. They don't dare to. They're afraid that your glance won't be followed by love & acceptance. They're afraid that you'll think less of them. They're afraid that deep down they're nothing & that you will see this and reject them. So they play the game, a desperate pretending game, with a facade of assurance without
& like a trembling child within. And with that begins the empty parade of "masks" & their life becomes a front. They often ramble on in the suave tones of surface talk. They tell you everything that's really nothing, & nothing of what's everything, of what's crying from within them. So when they're going through the routine, do not be fooled by what they're saying. But listen carefully & try to hear what they're not saying, what they'd like to be able to say, what for survival needs to be said, but what they feel can't be said.
It's known that some people don't like hiding or playing superficial phony games. They want to be genuine & spontaneous but they need help in doing that. They need the voices of experience & encouragement even when it's the last thing they seem to want. Regardless of the down side of the "masks" being worn, there is always a positive side for those who wear them, as well as for those who face life's tests with character, patience & perseverance. And the positive to always be remembered is that trials keep you strong, sorrows keep you human, failures keep you humble & success keeps you glowing. But above all, faith keeps you going!
1st Qtr. 2013
* There is a new banking system for Alabama's incarcerated. Forms and information can be obtained through our website or your friends/family on the inside.
* We thank the Switzerland pen-pal org. LIFESPARK for their generous donation in support of PHADP and the work of abolition.
* We thank the RESIST organization for the 2013 grant and their belief in our mission. RESIST 259 ELM st. SOMERVILLE, MA 02144 www.resistinc.org
* Browder Ministries, in Montgomery, will be holding a death penalty conference on October 1st & 2nd. Bryan Stevenson will be the keynote speaker and our Executive Director Esther Brown will also be speaking. We look forward to this event and thank Browder Ministries for everything they do.
* Esther and five others from Alabama NAACP met with our Governor on February 22nd to discuss the death penalty, prison conditions and other topics of concern.
* Esther spoke at an Russell County branch NAACP event held at Phenix City's Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church.
* WITNESS TO INNOCENCE asked Esther to write about the work that PHADP and WTI have done together.
* Esther participated in a conference call with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP).
* Two men, Bobby Tarver and Esau Jackson, have recently gotten off death row in Alabama.
* Clarence Simmons died on the row (natural causes) on 1—6—13.
* Esther attended an Chambers Co. Chapter Alabama New South coalition event honoring Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson, 101 year old civil rights pioneer and long time PHADP supporter.
* Esther and Brandon Fountain (PHADP Development Officer) will attend the Alabama Arise LOBBY DAY March 7th.
* Brandon will be speaking at several events organized by JAM (Justice And Mercy) these will include events at: Miles College, Auburn University, Indian Springs High school, University of Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Montevallo.
* PHADP Student Rep. Petra Jackson won a math award (and will be jumping ahead a year in math) and her basketball team came in third at a tournament in Australia:) Good going, Petra!
* CONGRATULATIONS to our former Student Rep. Hannah Jackson, on her recent engagement. We love you, little sister!
WHEN WE READ
I know this woman, who is very big on knowledge and understanding the human condition. This wonderful little lady has the habit of making her friends and family read books that she finds inspiring and thought provoking. I usually find required reading annoying to say the least, as I have a rather selective palate in this area. However, I must admit that this woman knows me very well and has managed to find materials that I not only find interesting but entertaining and enlightening to boot.
So far, I have been required to read three such books. The first, I read in a time of personal crisis and the message therein did indeed offer comfort. The second was a book based on a personal philosophy, and although I did not agree with the man's conclusions, his journey toward reaching them was entertaining all the same.
The third was a journey into one's self, for me, as I could see many of my own thoughts feelings and reactions woven into the author's tale. As with the first, I would recommend any facing true adversity to read these books and discover all they have to offer.
As I said earlier, I am not one for the required reading portion of class, however, in this case, with these books, from this woman, I am most thankful for the push to knowledge I was given.
Thank you, Mom!
Patience is the key to so many Problemz but bein impatient is what keepz so many problemz locc and hard to unlocc Tha reason I say drive slow is bcuz whether your behind gates or in tha free world, drivin fast in life can only lead to you missin yo turn or crash'n out. We be so in a rush to get to that place in life that we never make it. Instead, we end up at that place in life that'z tha total opposite of where we
really want'd to be. But bein patient and drivin slow gets us there on time like we never thought it would. My mind is kids clouded right now so itz kinda hard to explain. So I guess tha moral of this here madness is; life's about who make it, not about who make it that fastest. Drive slow.
Like a spider coming out it's den.
The D.A.'s weaving his web for the naive jurors had began. Just like the chef mixes his ingredients and the spoon continues to spin, all the while saying one's death can bring forth some amends. My first thought was that he lied in every word.
The truth of the matter is the death penalty is absurd. One dressed in a robe delivers the final blow. Death by a needle, now off to the row.
Before I leave, I must be frank. No such prestige can pad your dank. Tis the last judgment end the death penalty.
A WORTH IN REDEMPTION
What value is this life
Deceived by youth
Cast away so simply
No hope in the condemned
A broken life unforgiven
The spirit speaking freedom
In hope there is unrest
Redemption hiding its face
The flesh aches in sleeplessness
Visions of a desired tomorrow
Fear of deception once more
Eluded by a second chance
Worth remains unseen
The powers that be, unflinching
Hope, fighting the good fight
Strength continues anew
Birth awaits the sleeping
To gain value and have faith in me
A Christian Perspective
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings and Salutations! well it has been an interesting beginning to the New Year for me. I got turned down by the 11th Circuit Court of
Appeals and had an article published in the New York Times by Adam Liptak, the U.S. Supreme Court Reporter for the Times, on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel featuring my case. Please keep me in your prayers.
The circumstances on death row rarely change but we are anxiously awaiting a new Warden. It turns out that he is familiar to some of the ol' timers and we are of course hoping for the best. Please keep the administration of Holman in your prayers as well as the inmates. Trust me when I say that "stuff" rolls downhill.
With the recent lack of executions recently it would be easy for some to become complacent and apathetic. Thankfully our friends at JAM and a few of our other affiliated organizations along with our own "Outmate" continue to keep lit the torch of awareness on capital punishment. Brandon your actions behind the scene are not going without notice by those of us you seek to help. Thank you. Not only are you guys "Staying in the game" but you are "keeping us in the game" as well.
Congratulations to our former Student Representative are in order regarding her recently announced engagement. Oh they do grow up so fast and I remember when...;) (Someone was bound to say it Hannah. Jeff was just too chicken!)
How about that? I got through an entire Editorial without mentioning food. Oops! Well, I was doing well while I lasted. Just keeping it positively real. Someone has got to do it. Keeping Hope Alive!
Ronald B. Smith Jr.
This struggle of mine
This struggle of mine
Searching for a moment to exhale
Seemingly trapped in the sands
Of this hourglass called life
When every grasp for traction crumbles
As I fall back into the abyss
Time eluding me and the rebirth
My life as I want it, desire it
Hope and faith sometimes faltering
With chattering bones
Throughout this struggle of mine.
His Light is always shining on me. I may not always be focused on it, but deep down I know it is always there. The peace that it brings me is greater than anything in this material world. There is an entire advertising industry based on exploiting this longing that we all have to be happy, to feel good. We can be convinced that we want something that we really don't care about. We make ourselves think that each of these things will bring us some measure of happiness, but it is fleeting. What we really desire, and the only way to truly be satisfied is to bask in His peace. It can sustain us in the darkest of times as we move from one hurdle to the next. It is with us always.
"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will giye you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
A second to die,
an eternity to live,
afraid to forgive.
hungering to be awake,
giving to take,
nothing to remake.
the heart's defrost.
blood thirst quenched,
But God heals if we let Him...
The moments we have add up. The mistakes we make in moments should not be the dictating factor that determines how we spend our lifetime. The hurt and pain may be different kinds, but in one way or another we have all lost. So I wonder, has "An eye for an eye" already left us all blind to the fact that love bridges the many forms of gaps that we (humanity in general) created? Is it truly going to take no one being left for enough to be enough? Love promotes healing...
Hello to all who read this. I hope your New Year is off to a great start.
Being on death row I struggle with the mental aspect at times There are times I get to feeling like who cares, the State is going to kill me, why should I act like someone with sense. It took me becoming a hospice care taker on death row to realize I was being selfish and feeling sorry for myself.
A few months ago I went through my hospice training and have been helping a few men who need assistant living care. It was this job that has helped me refrain from that kind of thinking.
The title of this article is being grateful, and one could ask, "You are on deth row, what do you have to be grateful for?" My answer, alot!
There are men here who have trouble feeding themselves, using the bathroom, showering and even walking. I don't need any help doing any of these things. Instead, I've been blessed to be able to assist these men with these tasks, even if it isn't pretty. I've been blessed with brothers who every day send me Scripture to lift my spirits and pray for me to continue in my positive direction. I've been blessed to be a part of the sub-Board for Project Hope. This allows me to make a positive difference some where else.
I want to end this wishing you a great day and to encourage you that no matter where you are or what your situation is to never lose hope. Please find the positive and stay strong.
Peace and Blessings,
A letter to Dr. King
Dear Dr. King,
Hello! You don't know me, nor do I you, but I know of your work. A man of great wisdom, knowledge beyond your time, an everlasting dream and strength enough to carry an entire race on your back. You took an entire nation on a journey for equality and made this country better for it. I know you didnt do it for any other reason than, it was the right thing to do. So, I thank you for doing what you were born to do...be a leader of men.
Sir, I'm sure you're busy up there, with your sermons, but as Black History Month is upon us down here, I felt the need to reach out to you. I need to talk to someone and I think you can best understand. The world is a chaotic mess and we don't have any overall leadership. The men who walked your journey with you, and who were thought to be torch bearerers, seem to only show up now when the cameras are on and the lights are at their brightest. The organizations which backed you are now more business driven than morality driven. I bring all of this up because as we prepare to celebrate so much of the past I see our future becoming bleak.
We have been taken from ships to the fields, from the back doors of establishments and backseats of buses to the overflowing war camps cloaked as prisons. I say war camps because for anyone that thinks this is not a war, they are sadly mistaken. The rights and equality you fought for and eventually gave your life for are being eradicated by the strategic plan of herding people into these camps which strips them of those rights.
Well, I'm sure you are thinking, why am I laying all of this at your door. I guess because I know you're looking down on us, you still care.... and I wanted to ask you to pray for us all...we're going to need it.
Take care of yourself.
With love and thanks,
The ego is another word for self. I have learned from introspection of myself that self is a battle that one has to fight against everyday. the self is focus on what makes it happy to the exclusion of others thoughts and feelings. The ego, when fed will make us become arrogant and prideful which blinds us to the true reality of our being. To me the acronym for ego is easing God out. To give ourselves the glory and praise for something we have convinced ourselves that we made happen.
God is the Greatest.
Bro. Craig Newton
Stay in the Game
Sitting on death row with only days left to live and no hope of a reprieve, the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy and says, "Bring my books". He wants to keep taking in! "And bring my writing paper." He wants to keep giving out! What an attitude! He doesn't ask for an attorney because real purpose needs no defense.Time will tell the world what you did. And he doesn't ask for better accomodations for he has learned to be content. First he sends for a book, because he knows that as long as you're alive you must continue to grow, otherwise you're just taking up space. Reading allows you to transcend any situation and explore new worlds. Knowledge keeps your mind sharp and your soul free. Peter says, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord." Next, he sends for writing paper, because he wants to keep making a difference. He ignores his circumstances, grabs his pen and continues to be productive. No tears. No gut wrenching displays of self pity. The art of living is to keep giving to the end! Even on the cross, with nails piercing his hands and his feet, Jesus continues to minsiter, and he is our example! So, the lesson he taught as did Paul...never get out of the game. For even in the last seconds a basket is still possible.
In the game,
I'm Thanksful for my health and for my voice.
I'm Thanksful for my shelter, and my freedom of choice.
I'm Thanksful for my siblings and loving parents too.
I'm Thanksful for my breath and the food I get to eat.
I'm Thanksful for my water and everything that is living.
I'm Thanksful for my peace and praying for release.
I'm Thanksful for my talent and my intelligence.
I'm Thanksful for everything yet, because positive attitude is the key to happiness I love, I don't regret because it's made me which I cannot forget. God Bless!
The best years of my life have been taken from me. I've been in this one cell for twenty one years. I have never lived in one place for twenty one years until now. And twenty three hours a day are being spent in a cell that is five feet wide and eight feet long.
I turn to God for hope. I have come to realize that no matter how bad I have it, there are people in this world that have it worse than me. And in their time of darkness they too found glimmers of hope. Some days I feel that my future seems as dark as my past.
My richness lies in the struggles against darkness and all evil powers. I too shall overcome one day. I think of the words of the Gauttama Siddhana, the first Buddha. There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. And each I lie in bed and thank God for all the things in my life I have. And I start my day off with happiness. And not to be defined by where I am, but rather who I am.
Editor's note: I have often noticed that my faith grows in times of adversity. Hebrew 10:28 says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.