Saturday, July 12, 2008

Day 30 Walk 4 Life at 5 Points

After the whole encounter with the police and all on day 29, Teresa had driven me to a meeting point where I was met by Esther. I never met Esther but was greeted like I was meeting with a long time friend.
I was way off my route but I knew it was for good reason. We bid our see you laters to Teresa and quickly drove to meet another comrade Judy who I had met before. I met Judy and her husband in La Grange, Georgia at the march I had participated in there. I met Esther through Judy. We ate dinner with Judy and her husband which was really good. It was so good I went for seconds but had to take it to go. I was staying at Esther's house and she had to get to her home to catch an important phone call. No she did not do the cell phone thing. Understand when I say I took my dinner to go, I mean it. I had to just grab the plate. I even took Judy's silverware. We were in such a hurry I even took her cloth napkin which made for a good laugh.
We got to Esther's house in time for her to get her phone call which she passed off to me. The important phone call was from Jeff. Jeff sits on Alabama's death row. After speaking to Jeff Esther and I spoke for a while then went to bed. It had been a long day and day 30 seemed like it was going to be a long one as well.
I woke up pretty early considering I didn't sleep many hours. I couldn't get right to sleep thinking about Jeff and the conversation we had. It wasn't a long conversation but we covered a lot, he also drilled me for what I was about to face this morning, a classroom full of teens and pre-teens.
I really wished I had been able to record the conversation I had with Jeff or better yet I wished that every member of society that was pro death penalty would find the courage to speak to at least one human being that has been condemned to die. Men and women on death row are always made out to be monsters. Well I'll say this much, Jeff is no monster. Here this brother sits waiting to die, nothing to lose in truth and all he wanted to talk about was his concerns for kids out in the free world. Jeff's compassion was definitely heart felt. He wanted nothing more from me than to make sure I would do what ever I could to reach as many kids as I could so that they wouldn't wind up in the belly of the beast. I had never spoken to Jeff before in my life but let me tell you, we spoke as though we had known each other for years. I instantly had love for this brother.
I had enough time to for a brief walk in the morning before eating breakfast then we were off. Judy had set it up so that I could speak to a class of 8th graders at Five Points elementary school in Five Points, Alabama. As I walked I prayed like there was no tomorrow and I reflected on everything Jeff had told me the night before. This lecture meant the world to me. I love kids. I love kids so much I would do anything to steer them clear of the path in life I fell upon. It's a big part of my mission, to keep as many kids as possible out of the grips of our system, out of the mouth of the beast.
I was a bit nervous entering the school that was up until we made our way into the office. I spent more time in school offices in my days than I had in actual class rooms so I felt at home. There were kids in there as well and being around kids makes me feel good. I could tell they knew who I was already, the big smiles made me feel real welcome. I was ready.
About 30 8th graders, four teachers, Judy and myself hung out for about an hour and a half. I could have hung out there with them kids for hours no problem. As I said before I love kids.
When I was asked to come to Five Points I was told there had been some racial tension. I was asked if I could possibly speak on this to see if maybe I could calm things down. I am no expert on racial issues but I had a number of situations in my life that definitely had prepared me for such a talk. I had just walked in La Grange, Georgia trying to ease racial tensions there so I shared about that. I also shared my first hand accounts of dealing with racial discrimination. I had dealt with racism as a child and also in prison I had been in a prison riot that was all about race.
The kids were open to every topic I touched upon. I first just gave them a brief about my life. How I ended up on the streets, in prison and how I ended up there in front of them. This brief covered an array of topics such as racism, drugs, violence, gangs, prison life, the culture of hip hop, the importance of education and yea capital punishment.

Some may be thinking what did speaking at an elementary school have to do with walking against capital punishment. Some may also think the kids were to young to be hearing about such a topic which couldn't be furthest from the truth. I really believe speaking to kids in this age range is vital seeing statistically a number of the kids in this classroom I stood in would inevitably wind up caught up in the web of the system. At least two of them would be facing capital punishment unless they could be reached.

The walk was about unification and with high racial tensions unification at Five Points was needed badly. The walk was also about educating people on the truth about the death penalty. Seeing these kids are at the moment directly affected by this inhumane act meaning money that should be going to our educational system is diverted into the criminal justice system. They have a right to know this. They also had the right to know the statistics. That at least one of them would wind up on death row unless they took action now. They listened, they asked questions and in the end we all learned something.
I told every child in that class room that I loved them and I meant it with all my heart. I wondered how many of them had never been told they are loved and cared about. See I was never told I was loved and cared about when I was a shorty coming up. When it comes to kids I am no expert, didn't go to college to study child psychology or anything like that. What I do is try to give kids everything I felt I needed as a kid growing up. I give them attention even if brief cause trust me, a brief moment can go a long way. Besides telling them I loved them and cared about them I hugged every kid in that classroom. Hell I scooped up a few and gave them seconds, a couple got thirds. Physical affection, yea I starved for it as a child. It was a great morning.
I was probably older then a number of these kids parents yet we connected. That is the beautiful thing about the hip hop culture. Hip hop breaks down racial barriers as well as age. I did a couple of accapella's for the kids. Even those that may not have been into hip hop listened closely with eyes wide open. A bond was built that was strong. I thought about Jeff the entire time I was up there. I also thought to my self, politicians, our leaders should be doing this like all the time. Not go into fancy schools but poverty stricken schools like this one. Ones with metal detectors and guards at the entrance. They should walk into these schools on a regular seeing these schools are a direct product of their decisions. If they used half the money and effort they use to lock human beings up towards better education, alternative education we would have have the problem solved. But they rather run around acting like tough guys shattering lives.
It was hard to say goodbye to the kids without question. I just wanted to stay and build with them but we had to go. They were going to lunch I believe. On the way out though I was asked to slip into another class room. I didn't have a lot of time but I got to spend like 20 minutes with a room filled with 7th graders. it was my pleasure. I could still see all them smiling faces.
I know some of the kids I got to meet will go on to high school but some will still be at Five Points next year. I hope to return and I'll tell you what, I would go to the high school to see the kids again. I love them for real. I think of them daily and pray for all of them daily.

It was hard to leave Five Points. The kids just showed so much love for real. We were on a schedule though. After leaving the school we rushed back to Esther's house where I had stayed. Esther set up a meeting with Charlotte Clark Frieson from the People's Voice newspaper. Before Charlotte arrived I had time to grab a bite to eat and talk to Jeff on the phone again which was good medicine for me. I actually got to speak to Jeff for nearly a half hour or at least it seemed so. I liked kicking it with Jeff we just had that connection.
Charlotte arrived shortly after I got off the phone. What a joy it was to meet and build with this woman. She was intelligent and her energy was incredible. The interview lasted nearly an hour I would say. She took some photo's and then we bid our see laters. She was awesome.
After the interview I only had moments left to build with Esther before heading out to my next stop. Words are hard to find to explain what Esther meant to me. She was simply amazing; another angel walking the earth. Esther really touched my heart. She gave me some great food for thought and she made one mean cup of coffee.
After one last cup of coffee Judy was set to bring me on to my next destination. A great example as to the direction the walk was taking took place in these moments. Though we were a bit behind schedule Judy got the idea to stop in on a local paper that hadn't responded to her announcements that I would be in town. We walked into the offices of The Valley Times. Judy quickly briefed everyone in the room where we stood and turned the floor over to me. I said my piece and in an instant we were appointed a young journalist. We went into an office and did the fastest interview I have ever done. I could tell what we were doing touched this young writer. His eyes really lit up as I rapped a verse for him. After answering a barrage of questions we stepped outside where I walked for him as he took some pictures. We bid our see you laters and Judy and I were off and running.
This is the direction the walk took. It wasn't that I lost control, the fact is I never controlled it from the start. I felt guided from the very inspiration of the walk so I didn't fight it at all, I just went with the flow. My willingness to go with the flow, to except everything as a blessing made the walk what it was up until this point and I could be nothing but grateful.
The press at times were not there for the walk as they said they would be but for the most part they were good about it all. We got more press than we had expected. The people themselves were coming out of the wood work. What we lacked in numbers was made up for by the efforts of those that did come out and help.
After this last interview Judy rushed me off to my next stop. I was to meet with a man they called Chief. Chief agreed to put me up for a night and being he was a film journalist he agreed to interview me. The only catch, I had to go to Tuskegee, Alabama.

Judy and I had great conversation on the way to Tuskegee. Before I knew it we had arrived. I quickly took my gear out of her car loading it into Chiefs car. I quickly was made to realize why they called this man Chief, see he was the retired chief of police. Judy bid her see you laters and was on her way.
After retiring from law enforcement Chief started his own TV show called the Reveler. I was actually dropped off at a location where he was filming a political debate. Chief put me to work right away helping him with cues. Funny even holding up cues the politicians wouldn't stop talking go figure that.
As I sat listening to these politicians debate and talk themselves I wondered what on earth I was doing there. My mind started running. I had been off my route for days and though it had been productive and I felt I was following God's lead I began to feel anxious but relief did come.
After the debate the politicians left quickly. Before the attendees could get out of the door Chief announced who I was once again and let me briefly explain why I was there and how I got there. This was enough to get the attention of a few people that seemed to be involved in the struggle I am fighting in. Meetings were set up and everyone went there way.
We got to Chief's house a bit late but I stayed up first talking with him for a while and then I got some work done before passing out for the night.

On this day I walk talked and worked for Larry Rush (On death row for over 20 years.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 29 Walk 4 Life. Welcome to Alabama

I woke up early as most days and hit the computer. As important as I felt keeping up with my blog here and my video blogs on was answering all the personal e-mails was more important. I got a lot of mail from people that were dealing with the system and just didn't know what to do. They at one time were people that thought "not me". With larger portions of society becoming criminalized daily with new laws being put forth thousands of Americans are daily being forced to face off with the system of injustice.
After going through a number of my e-mails Teresa showed up to pick up my gear. We planned that she would pick up my stuff, go to work and meet me later that afternoon. I planned on pounding the pavement in the area all day till the afternoon when we hoped we would be met by a news team.
Teresa went off to work and I hit the streets. I noticed right away that Columbus, GA was not Atlanta. I got a little bit more opposition meaning more dirty looks and people using sign language to tell me I am number one. I didn't walk in circles but I pretty much just cover all the higher populated streets as I held my sign "End the Death Penalty" high. In my other hand I held my cell phone trying to solidify my meeting with the media.
As a number of states and media outlets I was contacted by a news reporter in Columbus. He was actually one of the first to respond to the announcement of the Walk 4 Life. Now here I was getting the run around. To make a long story short I was basically snubbed. It wasn't the first time and was sure it wouldn't be the last. The death penalty is a very sensitive issue and the media tends to play the fence. Some stand firm for the death penalty, others against but most play the fence jumping on what ever side they feel is appropriate at the moment. I guess it's all about timing.
When the press conference was looking like it wasn't going to happen I called Teresa at work and we quickly moved on to plan B. She would meet me near the border where I was going to cross into Alabama. She would walk with me for a bit and I would interview her for my "From the Frontlines" show.
As I walked I lost track of time. Teresa called me and told me she was on her way to our meeting point. I kicked into high gear. At one point I jumped onto this river front bike path. The scenery was breath taking. It was a beautiful which had first started with a down pour. The sun broke through and I didn't mind at all, even when I learned I had walked in the wrong direction for about 3 miles.
Teresa and I went back and forth as I made my way to our meeting point the Dillingham St. bridge which I finally got to. I crossed into Phenix City, Alabama which was about the half way point of the walk. It felt good, real good to cross that state line.
I was joined by Teresa as planned. We walked a bit and the decided to stop at a park near the Dillingham St. bridge I had crossed where she had parked her car it was actually the parking lot of the Phenix City Amphitheatre. We found a place to sit so I could interview her about Tony. S and his case. It took us only about 10 to 15 minutes and then we made our way back to her car. She was going to drive me and my stuff to my next resting place.
When I went to get into the car I noticed the passenger window in Teresa's car was broken. Glass was still falling telling me it had just happened. Keep in mind all my gear was packed in this car, some in the trunk but I had three bags in the back seat. Right on top of the pile in the back seat was a back pack with one of my lap tops but thank God it was all still there, we didn't get it.

Teresa thought it could be the enemy, proponents I had to laugh some. I'm saying proponents do tend to be violent but the truth was no one really knew where I was except for the news people in Columbus. Teresa was well aware of the numerous death threats I had received so I didn't totally laugh away her concerns, I assured her that no one actually knew where I was. I was in truth supposed to cross the Alabama border some 200 miles away from where I actually had.
Teresa called the police as I checked the perimeter seeing I didn't think who ever smashed her window could be that far away. There was nobody in sight though so I just waited with Teresa for the police to get there.
I was really grateful this was nothing more serious because let me tell you it took the police a long time to get there. As we waited we realized why the window got smashed. It wasn't because someone knew I was in town. Teresa had left her purse in the car in between the seats. I was still surprised though because it was quite and nearly no one was in sight. How they rolled up, happen to look into the car and see the purse then actually smash the window and all in such a short amount of time still baffled me. On a good note Teresa's purse only had a few dollars in it. Her license and ATM card were in her pocket. They did get her house keys though and a blank check that had her address on it. It was pre-printed check that is given to you by you bank when you open a new account. When I checked the perimeter for a second time basically looking for the discarded purse which thieves do a lot after they take the contents I found 2 of the 2 checks. This had us concerned because they had her house keys and address.
The police finally arrived. The officer was cool he filled out a report and said they had a problem in the area with kids crossing over the bridge from Georgia just to steel. They would basically steel what ever cross back over the bridge into Columbus where they would cop drugs. His opinion was Teresa had nothing to worry about besides losing the few dollars and the purse itself.

The situation was messed up seeing here we were trying to do good and we have this happen but there was still a lot to be grateful for. They thief or thieves could have took one extra second and reach into the back and taken my backpack which contained a really expensive laptop or my camera bag. Gos was definitely looking out for us. The thieves could have also grabbed Teresa's jacket which had her license, military ID and ATM card.
After spending about 45 minutes with Alabama's finest we cleared all the glass off the passenger seat and headed out to meet with Esther from Project Hope who was to host me for the night.
On this day I walked for Eric Houston, California Death Row. And I walked for Troy Davis on Georgia's Death Row.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 28 Walk 4 Life

Day 28 was a bit calmer than day 27 but was just as special as every single day of the walk. I woke up early and got some work done before heading to the dinning area of Open Door and having breakfast and some great morning conversation as I waited for Mary my assistance for the day. I was grateful for the positive vibes and well wishes it was energizing for sure. All the people I met at Open Door were kind and caring filled with love and compassion. I wonder why I didn't meet people like this on a daily basis when I just worked a straight up job. At any case I was grateful.
After taking a few pictures, getting a few more hugs and a lot more love I got a call from Mary who was right across the street waiting for me right on time, God is good.
The plan was for Mary to move my gear to Columbus, GA. Understand Columbus is no where near where I was supposed to cross the border into Alabama. I was heading down to Columbus which was way out of my way for two reasons, to meet with the media there in Columbus who wanted to cover the walk, and also to meet with the loved ones of a prisoner, Tony S. who is serving life without parole in an Indiana prison.
Tony S. who I will get into more at a later time created a little bit of controversy when his name appeared on the Walk 4 Life dedications list before I even started walking. His loved one's wanted a day of the walk dedicated to him though he wasn't on death row. Well we were confronted by a spokes person for victims family members wanting Tony's name removed from the list. Their argument being the walk was for condemned men on death row and Tony though he was charged with a capital case was not on death row. Looking to not engage in a battle that would take the focus off of the issue at hand the death penalty, we removed Tony's name, but we had Tony's loved one's left to deal with, victim's in their own right.
In dealing with Tony's loved one's on this very sensitive issue I took an interest in Tony's case. I promised that after the walk was over I would do what I could to help. At first glance into Tony's case one would determine there is nothing to help, but one must realize we are dealing with the American justice system here. I don't have any trust in our system at all. I am a survivor of this system and know all to well how it doesn't work.
The ride to Columbus to was great. Mary was a fiery activist who entertained and enlightened me in countless ways. She was without question an angel, one of God's soldiers. When we first arrived to Columbus, Mary first took to the battle grounds she has fought on many times, a famous protest target in front of Fort Bennings, US Army School of Americas.
Mary introduced me to Father Roy Bourgeois who I believe lives right in front of Fort Bennings. Father Roy Bourgeois is a leading activist in the School of Americas Watch (SOAW). The SOAW is dedicated to shutting down the U.S. Army's School of Americas. It came as no surprise Father Roy was against the death penalty. It was an honor to meet Father Roy. Father Roy greeted me with open arms. He gave us a number of contacts and pointed to some cheap places I may be able to set up shop and rest my head after my day of walking.
After our meeting Father Roy, Mary and I set out to find me a place to stay. She showed me around Columbus a bit seeing she knew the area a bit. Mary was just incredible. I wished to spend more time with her. We found a spot that I found a bit high in price but Mary was quick to offer picking up the tab, bless her. After checking in and dropping off my gear, Teresa Tony's ex-wife and their son showed up where I was staying. Mary and I said our see you later's and she was off on her way.
Teresa and her son really touched me. We sat and talked over lunch and talked about the controversy that surrounded Tony, his case and also Teresa'a fight for her child's father's freedom. I applaud Teresa's courage as well as her son's who is only 16 years old, a victim of not just our cruel system but of societies cold and cruel ways of discriminating against everyone it can.
We proceeded on discussing plans of action we will be taking on Tony's behalf including Teresa joining me on my walk in the morning. We planned to walk together and meet with the reporters who were interested in covering the walk.
Let me make this clear. My involvement in the abolition of the death penalty and the rights of prisoners is solely a service to the people. I am not involved in this struggle for monetary gains. I do solicit donations because as in any war being fought money is needed. All the money I raise goes to the struggle. All the media attention I get is to further the struggle there are no underlining motives here. Some may argue that I am using my actions to further a music career. These critics need to listen to my music which is aimed at the exact target of my actions, the death penalty and prisoners rights. All the monies that are raised from my music also go towards fighting the injustices here in America and beyond. So what do I get out of doing what I do? More than I can put into words.
Upon leaving our brief lunch meeting after our plans were solidified we proceeded to say our see you later's. Tony's son then gave me a hug that I will not ever forget. As he hugged me he spoke softly into my ear saying "thank you, thank you for at least trying to help my dad". I squeezed this boy with all the love I could muster up and told him he was not alone. This is my payment. Bringing hope and sharing love makes me feel alive. I don't care if I don't have a car, a home or nice clothes. None of these things brings me near as much joy as doing something good for people.
After my meeting with Teresa and her son, I got dropped off about 30 miles or so away from the hotel I was staying at and began walking.
I don't know exactly how long it took me to get back to the hotel, I do know I arrived after night fall. I needed this walk more than air this day. I walked a slower pace for a while praying for Tony, Teresa and their son. I also thought about all those sitting just waiting to die not just on death rows but also those serving life without parole for that's a death sentence of the worst kind. As I walked seeking strength and answers the billboard above slowly came into my view, "Trust God". Amen to that.

On this day I worked and walked for Frankie Harris - PA death row.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 27 Walk of Fame

Day 27 was a real special day for me in countless ways. I left La Grange, GA early in the morning. Don Mosley and his wife drove me up to yet another community that extended their hospitality to me, I was truly grateful. This community was the Open Door Community located in Atlanta, GA. With the miles I had accumulated walking off my path all the rides I was receiving were warranted. On this day I was officially back on my path and not far behind schedule at all.
I don't know the exact time Don and his wife dropped me off at Open Door but I wasted no time. We bid our see you laters, I carried my bags inside, said a few hello's and asked which way downtown Atlanta was. I was only about 10 miles out so I decided to take the long way.
The first thing I noticed about this city I had longed to visit for so long; there were a lot of homeless people. There were homeless people everywhere I turned, even on the back streets I chose to walk.
After a couple of hours walking I reached the Martin Luther King welcome center. I immediately grew filled with a new found energy. Before long I was standing on the Civil Rights walk of Fame. At the head of the walk was a statue of Gandhi. I asked passer byes if they would mind taking a picture of me with this statue. They agreed as I told them about the walk I was doing. They were shocked. One young lady said she didn't think such actions were taken anymore. Funny the cameras quickly turned onto me. A number of people lined up wanting to take pictures with me. I handed out buttons and literature about ending the death penalty. I then walked around checking out all those the walk of fame honored.

After checking out the walk of fame I entered the Martin Luther King Museum. I even took a little break in my walking and checked out a short film on the civil rights movement. All this was empowering me. Everything was based on the freedom walk and actions taken in the struggle for civil rights. I could relate to every bit of information I was taking in. I seen it all as relevant to the Walk 4 Life and the struggle to end capital punishment as well as the struggle for prison reform. On my way out of the museum I grabbed a map so I could walk around seeing everything there was to see in Atalanta about Martin Luther King.
My next stop was King's birth home. I felt good walking up the same street this great man used to walk up on a daily. I walked all the streets Martin Luther King walked seeing I covered a large part of the city. I also stopped by Martin Luther King's tomb where Coretta Scott King's also rests where I prayed and payed homage. I was breathless this entire portion of the day. I was very grateful God chose me to take this walk. I couldn't stop praying and giving thanks. To make this event I was experiencing all the more incredible my phone rang; it was my moms just calling to see how I was doing. her timing was perfect as always.
I tried to find the words to explain to my moms what I was experiencing at the very moment she decided to call. It wasn't easy but I think the tone of my voice said it all really. My moms is special to me seeing at the lowest point of my life, buried deep within the belly of the beast she never gave up on me as so many had. She showed me what unconditional love is. She told me she was proud of me. Yea after I said my talk to you later to my moms, I was double stepping with some New York swagger to boot.
I made my way to the heart of downtown Atlanta with my End The Death Penalty sign in hand. I combed the entire city not once growing tired. I only began heading back to the Open Door Community because before I left they invited me to attend a dinner and peace protest that evening. At the point I started heading back I already walked a lot of miles, at least 35.
As I made my way back to open door I stopped to talk to a load of people, including some local drug dealers. I rapped for the brothers and talked about my walk which they supported. One brother made a small donation. I hit them all off with stickers and Anti Death Penalty buttons which they all put on their chests like badges. I don't condone these brothers chosen profession but I have to say I understand, how can I not when I was out on the streets at one time doing the same thing. I will say I had them brothers thinking when I told them I retired because I just couldn't be a part of the destruction drugs do to our communities and to our own people. I told them I chose to uplift and build our communities and people instead. Though the pay wasn't all that great, I told them the wealth I did receive was priceless. They laughed when I told them the product I slang now will still get you locked up, but the risk was better worth what I risked my freedom for in the past. Most people would have been afraid of these brothers. They would probably call the police on them before they would ever think to stop and talk to them, but let me tell you; I could see it in their eyes, saw it in their faces, they were good brothers. I would trust these brothers whole hearted before I would trust a politician; call me crazy.

The rest of my walk back to Open Door was great. I just processed everything I had experienced. It was an intense day to say the least, filled with blessings, I had even received a phone call from an angel named Mary who volunteered to help me moving my gear in the morning. It was a perfect day all around and it wasn't over yet.
I got back to the Open Door Community in time to get ready for a meeting they held outside. There were about 20 people or so sitting in a big circle. We went around the circle introducing ourselves there was people from all parts of the country. When my turn came I of course spoke on the walk. They actually asked me to spit a rhyme so I hit them off with an accapella which went over well it was great.
The topic of the discussion lead by an amazing brotha "ED The Agitator" was about a trip the group had taken earlier in the day. Of all places the group had went to the Martin Luther King museum. I had no idea, it just so happened that I had been there myself so yea I was all up in the mix. God is amazing that's all I can say on this. The discussion went on for about an hour. It was deep and it was really emotional at times. It was one of the most powerful meetings I had ever been to truthfully. It ended like ans NA or AA meeting. We stood up holding hands and said a prayer.
After the meeting everyone rushed around preparing for a peace protest that they have been doing for years. The Open Door Community sits on Ponce de Leon Ave a busy 4 lane street with a good amount of traffic. This is where the weekly protest takes place; against the war. Everyone grabbed signs, they had a huge banner two volunteers held and they also had big rainbow colored peace flags that were being waved. The instant we took to the sidewalk vars started blowing their horns in support. I ran around video taping and also took moments to hold up signs myself. It was great to be a part of this protest. As I held up my sign I thought and prayed for my brother "Sarge" a veteran who sits on Texas death row. The energy was strong out there on Ponce de Leon Ave, nothing but peace and love!

After the peace protest they had an outside dinner planned. They set up tables and chairs right out front where the meeting was held which is like I said right on Ponce de Leon Ave. This was a great way to top off an already amazing day. As we put the signs away brother ED pictured above asked if I would bless the meal before eat, I was honored. We made a big circle once again and prayed giving thanks. At the end of the prayer I jumped in the middle of the circle and said a blessings for our meal also giving thanks for all the blessings before me. Every king and queen that stood in that circle as I called my brothers and sisters to me was a blessing. I praised God and I praised Jesus with all my heart asking to bless us all and everyone. The energy level hit the clouds as we all hugged and made our way to the eats. The meal was fit for kings and queens.
My stay at Open Door was amazing. Everyone I met was filled with love and compassion. I felt welcomed from the moment I arrived when they gave me a key to the front door, to very moment I left the next day. I will never forget my stay there and I do plan on returning without a doubt.

Today I walked and talked for Paul Reid - Tennessee death row.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day 26 Welcome to Georgia

I woke up really early on day 26. I actually passed out pretty early. After a long day of meetings and interviews the day before I was brought to Jubilee Partners Christian Community in Comer, GA by Connie who I have spoke of in my earlier blogs. On the way to the Jubilee Community I got the chance to really get to know Connie who I met through The Journey of Hope. Connie does a lot of work for the Journey and also helped me so much on the Walk 4 Life, she is a God send. She is truly an amazing person. I have to say I really needed this time building with Connie and I also needed the time I got to spend at the Jubilee Community. I was gaining a wealth of knowledge on the walk and I was growing spiritually by the day but I needed a break to reflect and process some of this newly found treasure. My time with Connie and the night spent at Jubilee was exactly what I needed.
As I said I woke up early like 3am and I worked on my blogs and answered the never ending e-mails till about 7:45 am. I was then invited to a morning church service. My hearing was really bad but it didn't matter the spiritually in the room was strong and very heart felt. It ended with everyone in the room hugging each other it was just amazing. I was then invited to breakfast at the home of Don and Carolyn Mosley who live at the Jubilee Community.
Don Mosley was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia and a regional director in South Korea. With a background in history, math, engineering and anthropology, he helped launch Habitat for Humanity during the 1970s. He has been on its international board of directors a total of 10 years, a record length of service that reflects his enthusiasm for building homes for poor people around the world. He and his wife, Carolyn, are leaders of the Jubilee Partners community in Georgia, which has hosted about 3,000 refugees from more than 30 countries around the world. The main goal of the Jubilee community is to express Christian beliefs through compassionate service to others.
Don had to be one of the most interesting people I have ever met in my life. At breakfast he talked about his friendship with former President Jimmy Carter. He had just returned from a trip to the Middle East with Jimmy Carter. A trip that was making headlines at the moment. I was speechless. This man had some incredible stories. I could have talked to him for days but he had a meeting to attend and I had some walking to do.
I didn't do any filming at the Jubilee Community at all because I chose to just take in the scenery as I meditated and prayed. I basically walked around the property which was deep in the woods of Georgia, it was beautiful with a lake and gardens all over the place. I used this time to regroup. I processed a lot of what I had experienced thus far on the walk.
At lunch time I was asked to speak about my past experiences in prison and to share about the walk which I was honored to do. I gave a brief history of what lead me to a life on the streets and behind bars and got deeper when I spoke about the Walk 4 Life. As I spoke about the brothers and sisters waiting to die in cages I couldn't hold back my tears. I appreciated everyone that was there lending me their support. It felt good to be amongst compassionate, loving and caring people that understood how I felt. They respected me for who I have become, who I am. Understand I am not used to this at all. I am more often times than not still looked at as the way used to be, still looked at as a criminal.
I was empowered and charged up after my time spent at Jubilee. I vowed to return which I will most definitely do in the near future. I think what they do there is incredible and I would love to volunteer to help for a time.
As arrangements were being made to drive me to where I was supposed to be, (back onto my route) I was informed about a different walk that was taking place in La Grange, GA. Don Mosley and his wife were attending this walk and seeing they volunteered to drive me back to my route I decided to put my route off a bit more and attend this walk in La Grange that was about trying to bring harmony and peace back into a racially divided community. I felt it had everything to do with what I was trying to do with the Walk 4 Life, trying to unify people. I was pumped up about attending this walk and I was also charged up about getting to spend more time with Don Mosley.
Don Mosley in action!

On the drive to La Grange which was again way out of my way Don and I talked non-stop, he was truly an amazing person. He had dedicated his entire life to helping others, his wife standing strong by his side and doing the same. He has even went to prison for what he believes in. This man is someone I will look up to for the rest of my life. Don not only blessed me with his company and his kindness helping me out on my walk, he gave me a gift I will cherish. He gave me a signed copy of his book I am so looking forward to reading when I finish this walk. God bless Don and his wife Carolyn.

When we got to La Grange I got to meet another amazing couple that ran another Christian community there in La Grange. Anton Flores and his wife greeted us with open arms upon arriving to La Grange let me to tell you I felt very welcomed. They were truly amazing people. I was speechless at the work they do for immigrants in this country. Anton like me is originally from Brooklyn, New York. He is also Puerto Rican like myself. If you know anything about Brooklyn, New York you know we Brooklynites stick together no matter what. It's a bond that is talked about world wide.
We broke bread together as we spoke about the racial problems in La Grange. There had been a wave of home invasions targeting the Latino community seeing a large number of Latinos are illegal and tend not to report crimes to the police out of fear of being deported. Some African Americans homes had been targeted as well and it was suspected that young Black youths were responsible for the invasions. The community was on edge and the racial tension was mounting and Anton decided to take action. He called for unification. He was asking everyone to meet on the streets to try and find solutions to the problems. He had printed up cards to hand out and briefed all the volunteers as to what we were to do. We were to greet people on the streets and speak about the issues. We were to knock on doors inviting people to come out and meet each other and talk about the problems at hand.
Anton Flores in Action!

We weren't many, but we were ready to hit the front lines. Armed only with flashlights, reflective vests and cookies we hit the streets. Understand that though we were walking in peace our lives were on the line. Those that were taking part in the home invasions were armed. A young brother had just been recently shot during a home invasion right where we started this walk. We visited him and he showed up his bullet wound with a smile on his face, I was amazed by this brothers spirit.
I personally took action first approaching a small group of Spanish brothers hanging out in a parking lot drinking some beers after a hard days work. At first I thought they could care less, but I was wrong. I talked to these brothers for like an hour, rapping for them in Spanish and talking about unifying the people of all poor communities. At one point I stepped away from our little cipher to approach two African American brothers I spotted walking to their car. I started telling them who I was and what I was doing there speaking fast on George L. Jackson and the Black Panthers. I spoke on the struggle that lead Huey Newton to build the Panther Party to battle oppression and racism. I spoke on how this struggle was still very much alive and how we needed to come together instead of killing one another. I spoke on how the Brown and Black struggle is one and the same and how this struggle was now also a struggle that included Whites and all races really. It's a struggle of class. These brothers listened and also agreed with much I had to say. I kept their attention for some time with my fast New York speech. I rapped a bit for them and they knew without a doubt I was real with mines. I gave them End the Death Penalty buttons and a hand full of material and asked them to spread the word, that we needed unity to overcome. We exchanged pounds and embraces and they headed out smiling. God is good let me tell you. He was working through me.
I approached a number of people as did all the other volunteers. There were a number of happenings that night walking in La Grange such as the police being called to check out a possible home invasion ready to take place. We were truly on the front lines risking our lives for we all felt was right. I definitely believe this walk had everything to do with what I was trying to do with the Walk 4 Life. Seeing there were casualties already in the crimes taking place, someone could very much so end up sitting on death row. My hopes was avoiding this from happening. I hoped what we were doing would reach one of the young brothers partaking in these home invasions and have him think twice before it was too late. Even more so I hoped maybe some of the young brothers would be inspired to protect their community along with Anton instead of being an addition to the problem.
See I know what it's like to become desperate on the streets. Desperate enough to arm yourself and desperate enough to pull out that weapon and use it. I have been there. People that have never been put into a life situation where it makes you so desperate find it difficult to understand how someone can turn to such extreme measures, I find it very easy to understand seeing I lived it. I was a kid that was left to slip through the cracks. I took to the streets because that was the choice I was left with. Once on the streets options are very few to the eye. There is help out there but honestly it took me over 20 years to find it. Even when I did find the help I desperately needed it wasn't an easy path to walk. With the lack of compassion and forgiveness in this country it makes matters all the worse let me tell you. People are to hung up on punishment, payment and individual responsibility instead of correcting and rehabilitation. Well when I see a grown man with a 5th grade reading level sitting in prison waiting to die by execution I wonder where the responsibility taking is. Did this individual fail or did we as a society fail; to busy to care for our children leaving them to make choices seeing we have free will when the fact is they haven't been taught properly as to how to make sound choices. I know I didn't have the proper tools to process the situations life handed me as young man growing up. I was treated less than human as far back as I can remember then was told I needed to except responsibility for my choices and actions when every choice I could see would have had the same end results. I have over time excepted responsibility but I can't over look the fact that I was failed, I was a victim of a cold society that is geared more towards profit over anything else including human life.
Anton and his wife were kind enough to put us up after a night of walking. I had a hard time sleeping thinking about the people in La Grange. Talking to the young Latinos that shared their incredible stories with me had a huge impact on me. How they work their asses off to send money to their families back in their impoverished countries as they try to survive here in America a country they look up to yet treats them like they were less than human, treats them like criminals. I learned a lot from these compassionate men who even in their dire situations reached into their pockets and insisted I accept donations to help me continue my fight. God bless them. We could all learn something from these brothers that seldom think of themselves. Yea I thank them and give thanks to all the beautiful people I met on this day. God bless us all.

We constantly fail our children here in America. Who will except responsibility for this fact?

On this day I walked, talked and worked 4 James Robinson Jr and Leon C. Cooper (CA death row)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Day 25 Leaving South Carolina

I woke up early as always preparing for another full day. I had built with Margaret pictured above who I found to be simply incredible. For a woman dealing with a most difficult situation (a son on death row) she was loving, caring and very generous. Margaret was also full of fight. Though we had talked about it some the night before she explained her situation in more detail. Though I can feel her pain and the torment I could begin to imagine what it's like to have your child sitting in a cage waiting to die at the hands of the very people who claim to serve and protect. It's a contradiction I just have not been able to unravel myself up until this point. I have fought to get friends and family out of jail before trying to get bail money up and all so I can relate in a micro way. I have lost a number of people very close to me by violent acts, homicide so I know what it feels like to lose someone on that side of the fence, but again in Margaret's situation it's just very difficult to really fully understand what it's like. She expressed herself very well making me literally feel her pain. I will never understand how people can't comprehend the damage the death penalty causes. I understand the wanting to stand up for the victims and their families but not in such a way that you inflict the same pain to others. This I will never understand. My heart goes out to the families of murder victims without question. But my heat and soul goes out to the future victims of a clearly avoidable act of violence, a state sanctioned murder.
After a great breakfast cooked by Margaret herself we talked a bit more. I actually interviewed her for my on-line show "From The Frontlines". Margaret had a wealth of knowledge on the history on the death penalty in South Carolina, I learned a lot from her. As we spoke she stayed on the phone to confirm an early morning interview with South Carolina TV/Radio personality P.A. Bennet. Margaret in my eyes was a true soldier fighting on front lines in the war for true justice.
We thought MS. Bennet was going to interview me for her ETV Show, but instead ended up being interviewed for her show on WGCV Radio. The PA Bennett Show on WGCV, M-F, 11:00am introduces news makers and topics that are of importance to the community. From fashion to politics, health to finances, family and relationships; Ms. Bennett's 30 plus years in broadcasting makes her show not to be missed so yea, it was honor to meet her and be a part of her show. I felt it was important as to continue bringing light to the struggle in fighting against the death penalty.
Meeting MS. Bennet was an inspiration. From trying to set up the interview the day before, to getting to her this day it was obvious this lady stayed busy. I actually got to see some of her interviews that Margaret had taped interviewing the head of the department of corrections in South Carolina. Not only was MS. Bennet on her grind, it was obvious she truly cared about the community. She welcomed me with open arms. The first thing I noticed was the great energy about her. She was without question in tune, a child of God doing all she could to try and make a difference in the world.
The interview lasted about a half an hour which consisted of questions about my background and then of course about the walk. She made me feel comfortable and ease like I was amongst family. She did ask me to rap in which I warned that my lyrics were not really radio friendly. Keep in mind this was a Christian radio show. I could have edited out the vulgarity but I just felt it was better left as just the interview on the serious matter at hand. After the interview I explain to her a bit about my music and gave her links where she could find it on the internet. She understood when I told her that the occasional curse words in my lyrics for me were necessary in my attempt to truly express myself, what I had experienced and what my brothers and sisters behind the walls are experience. Bottom line is we are dealing with very harsh subjects and it's difficult to not get harsh when I express myself on these topics. Though my lyrics contain some vulgar language one can't deny the truth that I put forth. I explained to her that my lyrics are studied in a number of schools in Europe. She understood where I was coming from.
We made our way out of the study as we talked non-stop. MS. Bennet asked where I was heading, what route was I going to walk. I told her I was actually on my way to meet with the family of a prisoner that had been executed. It wasn't that I wasn't going to be walking at all, it's just I felt meeting with this family took precedence over walking seeing that this was what the walk was all about, the victims that are affected by this barbaric act and when I say victims unlike proponents of the death penalty I mean all the victims. She clearly knew where I was coming from. I had just finished telling her about my good friend Bill Pelke who is a murder victim's family member. Bill had joined me on my walk earlier on in Washington, DC through parts of Virginia. MS. Bennet have me a couple heart felt hugs and words of encouragement and then I was on my way God bless MS. Bennet for everything she does not just for the people of South Carolina put for all of humanity.
Margaret, Connie and I then drove off heading back to Margaret's place where we would bid our see you later's. This was hard without question because I just have this overwhelming feeling to take part in every single victim's battle. I know I can't take on every battle and I can't take away all the pain and suffering, but I do what I can. I so felt for Margaret I can't even put it into words for real. She was one incredible woman. We took some pictures and then Connie and I headed out.
My next meeting was one I will never in my life forget. This was the first time I was to meet with family members who have had a loved one executed. As I have mentioned I can relate to losing a loved one to homicide but it is a totally different situation to me having a loved one killed by the very people that claim to be serving us; this for me is very difficult to comprehend. I prayed non-stop within myself as we drove to meet with Richard Longworth's mother and sister. I prayed for strength and I prayed for God to be with me and to work through me.
Upon arriving I first met with Richard's sister. Richard's sister was incredible. The love she has for her brother is so intense. I can actually still feel her arms around me from when she hugged me. The love she radiates is that intense.
Richard's mom showed up shortly after I arrived. My heart went out to her automatically. She was bright and so warm yet I can see the pain deep within her eyes. They had a table with a spread off food layed out and as we talked we picked at our lunches but none of us finished our meals because we just had this connection that is unexplainable. The emotions that filled the room shifted from sadness, to joy, and from joy to anger. It was like sitting and watching the ocean. Waves coming and going, large ones, small ones with calm waters in between. I was engulfed in everything they had to say not just about how they felt about their loved one but about everything. They had an in site that is not common at all. These were some special women I was sitting with. I felt blessed that they trusted me. I felt blessed in every way I could imagine as I sat with them. I felt loved and cared for in a way I have never experienced i say this from the bottom of my heart.
I was captivated by Richard's family let me tell you. It was so intense i never even thought about asking them to be a part of the film journal I keep. In the end I said their story does need to be heard, but it would not have been given justice to film their story right there no way, so I promised to return. I didn't promise to return because I want film footage though I do believe the world needs to hear this story. It is not often if at all that the world gets to hear from the victims of state murder. I want to return to see them because the connection was that deep, the bond that was built in the couple of hours I spent with them could never be broken there is just no way. I plan to return to South Carolina in July and hope to meet with everyone again.
As they shared their memories of Richard it was as if he was right there with us. The conversation was stayed filled with intense emotions. Here you had a mother missing her child. Her bitterness was over shadowed by grief and by pain. She was soft spoken, very gentle and very caring. Richard's sister let her anger show through a bit more. But it wasn't a vengeful anger, it was a just anger. It was a sister missing her brother. She was well spoken and not afraid to let you know just how she felt. She was an inspiration to me without question. One thing is certain, their love for Richard is alive and well.
Before I parted they gave me a number of gifts that left me speechless. First they gave me a new pair of New Balance sneakers. They are actually on my feet right this second as I write this. Richard's sister then gave me a beautiful stone that is blue with white patch's and hints of silver. It is shaped like a triangle somewhat. This stone has been in my pocket ever since. Yes, it's in my pocket right now. I hold it in my hand often especially when I pray. This stone has some incredible energy. Last but definitely not least she gave me something that she expressed was difficult for her to prepare for me. She gave me a card that had a toast written on it. Attached to this toast with a safety pin was a small piece of green cloth. This was no ordinary piece of cloth, this was a piece of Richard's prison uniform.
I in truth can't even find the words to express how I felt and how I feel receiving such a personal gift. To cut a piece of Richard's uniform to give it to me had to be really difficult for his sister to do as she had expressed. I can say this much I will cherish this gift like no other gift I have ever received. I plan on wearing this gift as a badge of honor when ever I walk onto a stage or step to a podium to speak on behalf of the silenced.
I have for some time come to believe we are all family. I have a tattoo on my left arm that spells out WAR which for me stands for "We're All Related". This feeling was solidified upon meeting Richard's mom and sister. I felt as if I was meeting with family members of my own. I left this meeting filled with love.
Keeping in mind that a number of people thought South Carolina was going to be difficult for me to get help in crossing, the opposite actually came to be. It was the state that came together the quickest and the strongest. It had the biggest impact on me without a doubt. It was hard leaving South Carolina. The only thing that kept me strong was knowing God was with everyone I had met and that the bridge had been built. Unification was solidified and I will return to help in the fight the people are engaged in their in opposition to the death penalty. I raise my fist to all in the struggle in South Carolina. I love you all. I will see you all soon.
Richard Longworth's mom, South Carolina.

On this day I worked hard for Gary Johnson (TX death row)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day 24 I Stand Alone No More

Day 24 was like the continuation of day 23 without question. I woke up about 4am or so. Carol was leaving for work around 5am which was perfect for me. I made arrangements for my gear to be picked up so I could just get to pounding the ground as my brother from another mother Cleve "Sarge" Foster puts it. Carol took me to her job which was right up the road on the very highway I was to walk on. Yea when you tap into the heavenly Father's creativeness things just seem to fall into place perfectly. Carol works at Waffle House a place I knew well seeing I used to nearly live at Waffle House when I lived in Alabama back in the day. Carol introduced me to the crew as you see in the photo, they were great. They not only filled my belly with some good eats, they filled my heart with love and my spirit with joy.
I have this tattoo on my left leg I got when I was in prison. The letters I.S.A. which stands for I Stand Alone. It meant a lot back in my prison days for it was exactly how I felt. The tattoo is worn and faded and just doesn't look all that good. I believe it is because the meaning behind this piece is no more. I plan to have it re-worked. Under the I.S.A. I want it to read "NO MORE". God has went out of His way to prove to me that not only do I not stand alone anymore; He has shown me the proof that I in truth was never alone especially during my darkest loneliest moments. Yes God is alive and well, working non-stop on His day of rest.
After a great breakfast we took pictures and the crew gave me a send off that nearly had me in tears. Let me tell you on average I walk 3.5 miles an hour. Well leaving Waffle House I was walking so fast with a pep in my step I was surprised I didn't get pulled over and given a speeding ticket.
The plan was I was going to walk as far as I could till Shelly and Ginny caught up with me later in the day after picking up my gear. I was then going to be driven around to meet with others that wanted to meet with me. First on the list was Connie. Connie had been working tirelessly helping out the walk from afar since nearly the start of the walk. She works with The Journey of Hope and many other organizations. After speaking to her via e-mails and phone calls I was looking forward to finally meeting her in person. She had a full agenda for me so I was also excited about this.
Knowing my day of walking was going to be shorter than usual I kept up a good pace, I covered some good miles walking through I believe most of the busiest areas. At one point I did hit a highway where there was some traffic but it was moving past me at high speeds. I came to this bridge that had no shoulder. If I had road side assistance I would have asked to be driven passed this bridge but I didn't so I carefully proceeded to cross. Most cars whizzed by as if I wasn't even there except for one mini van. This mini van slowed down to a near dead stop passing by me slowly keeping other traffic at bay. Well I made it over the bridge and about a mile passed it a van pulled over about a hundred yards ahead of me. I proceeded towards it with caution. You just never know. When I reached the van an older gentleman asked if I needed a ride. Understand he was going in the opposite direction. I explained to him what I was doing. His eyes bugged out wide open. "That is amazing" he said. "I agree with your sign 100%" he also stated which read "End The Death Penalty NOW". This gentleman was the one that slowed down for me on the bridge blocking traffic. He exited and back tracked to offer me this ride. This had to take him nearly a half an hour to do just to offer me a ride. He said he was willing to take me where ever I needed to go he was so nice. We talked a bit and than he drove off, and I walked on after he wished me well.
Shelly and Ginny began calling me sometime after my encounter with another one of God's earthly angels watching over me. They were wondering where I was. I explained and they said they would reach me soon. They ended up calling a couple of more times not being able to find me. When they finally did reach me they were surprised how far I had walked, it was the Waffle House coffee in my tank.
It was nice to be in good company again understand these two women just had love and compassion all about them. In the cold world I have grown to know it's just rare, nice but yea very rare. As we rode Ginny was busy making up a poster to carry, getting ready to walk with me but as it happens often on the walk the plan changed. A local radio personality was looking to do an interview so that became our mission. Getting the word out, the truth is at the top of the list. Trying to reach all victims and future victims is the focus. Trying to unify all is the over all purpose regardless of what some may think this is what it's all about.
After countless phone calls trying to arrange everything Shelly and Ginny ended up dropping me off where Connie would pick me up. Ginny needed to pick up her kids and yea it's always about the kids. We planned to meet up at a later time if it was possible.
Connie picked me up after a bit, it was nice to finally meet her in person. She is a dear; a gentle angel filled with God's spirit I felt this right away. We proceeded to drive to meet up with Margaret who's son sits on death row in South Carolina.
After we met with Margaret we set out to the TV station where I was to be interviewed but it was re-scheduled for the next morning due to miscommunication. It was all for the better though seeing now time was made available to build with Margaret who was one incredible woman.

Connie from Journey of Hope and I.

On this day I walked, talked and worked for Chelsea Richardson (Female on Texas death row)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Day 23 Walk 4 Life "God often works through others!"

Up until day 23 I had without question met and received help from some of the most incredible people I have ever met in my life. Children of God without a doubt. But as my family my sister and mom who live down south helped doing road side something changed, something very incredible happened and let me add that the walk has not been the same since.
I had accumulated many miles walking off my path in North Carolina to meet with whomever called for me such as the group that invited me to the vigil the day before I crossed the border into South Carolina. Let me put it to you like this; I have not really been following the set route I planned. I have been walking where ever God directed me to walk. Some may understand this, some may think I am a quart shy of a full gallon but this is pretty much what has been going on up until this point and entering South Carolina for me was evidence that was stronger than any prosecutor's evidence that's for sure. So the morning after I attended the vigil in North Carolina, my sister drove me all the miles I had already walked which was nearly 200. This was actually enough to bring me into South Carolina, but I did have my sister stop so I could symbolically walk across the South Carolina border.
By a number of abolitionist I was told I may have trouble getting help walking through South Carolina. They believed there were people against the death penalty and all, but no one really had a connection that was solid. Well let me tell you this, South Carolina came together. A band of angels that walk this earth came to my aide like no other state has. Each and every angel as I find no other word to better describe them went far above and beyond to help me along.
My sister was a trooper for sure. She not only drove me to the border and did road side while I crossed into SC, she then drove my gear to my destination. Carol, a single mom of three offered to host me. I up until this point have not got over the fact that so many have looked beyond who I was in the past. I have people near to me in my life that can't get over the fact I am an ex-prisoner and here was a woman, a single mother of three ready to meet and great me. God is amazing I tell you. He was teaching me something very important. Anyway Carol was there waiting to received my gear. I then told her around what time I would arrive and then I was dropped off on the side of the road by my sis once again.
As I headed towards Carol's home I was called by Abe from the NCADP in Washington, DC. Abe asked where I was because there was someone out looking for me wanting to meet with me. A short time after speaking to Abe I sure enough was met by Ginny and Shelly in the photo above. Let me say when I am met by people I am probably just as nervous as they are. They are coming to meet an ex-prisoner as some folks have shared with me, so surly they are not really knowing what to expect. But understand that me being an ex-prisoner I also have no idea what to expect. Though my heart has been touched by God my mind has some deep scars. I still struggle with prisonization. One of the many symptoms of prisonization is trust issues. I have a problem trusting people. Social anxiety is another. I have problems with meeting new people, talking to new people. I relate to dogs really well. Their instincts, you know dogs will sense your fear and will let you know when they pick up on your fear. This is what you have to work with behind the walls and also when you are a lost lamb wondering the streets. Think about it. A lot of young men who's lives have been very difficult being abandoned or abused. They are in this cold world at times alone, scarred to death deep down inside. I have come to believe this is one of the reasons many strike at times killing another human being. It's out of fear. So believe me I at times am probably more nervous than those that are coming to meet me or having me stay at there homes. What has gotten me passed this, is faith.
When Shelly and Ginny pulled up to me I quickly realized I was not in any danger. They jumped out of the car and greeted me like a family member they hadn't seen in years. They instantly touched my heart offering me a drink, food or whatever I needed. Like a neon sign my thoughts were telling me to listen to them closely. Instead of walking and talking we decided to go somewhere to talk so I could hear them better. My hearing makes it difficult to clearly hear with traffic and all. So they took me to one of their homes.
We sat and talked for I don't know how long, but they introduced me to Wesley Aaron Shafer Jr. their loved one who had been sentenced to die by the state. His sentence after 8 years was changed to life without parole, slow death by the state. They showed me pictures of Wesley, some of his artwork and shared openly about his case and his life. They kept saying they didn't want to hold me back from walking but I assured them sitting with them was much more important at the moment. I kept hearing it in my heart, "listen" which I did. I believed God wanted me to hear their testimony so to carry it with me on the journey in life I have been chosen to make.
After some time, Ginny had to pick up her children. The angels in the photo. I agreed to ride with them because I wanted to film a small interview of each of them. I had no idea but they actually brought me back across the state line in North Carolina it was funny as I realized this when the camera was rolling. Shelly proceeded to cook me a fantastic meal which was such a blessing. I then spent some time with Ginny's children and their friends rapping for them it was fun; I just love kids. Eventually we got to the filming and I also got to meet Wesley's dad. I haven't found the words to express the impact Wesley's dad had on me. He was a gentle giant. He towered over me but yet spoke with a soft soothing voice. I could feel the deep rooted pain. Though your loved one may still be alive, being locked in away in a tomb doesn't make it any easier to deal with than a death as Ginny explained. Your loved one is like, buried alive. I deal with a lot of prisoners, a lot of prisoner's mother's, wife's and girlfriend's but this was one of the first times I met with a father that was still in the picture. It hit hard, really hard and very close to home for me for personal reasons. I could not help feeling for this man and his beautiful family.
We talked a bit more and then I was driven to Carol's home seeing it got late and all. On the way to Carol's home my mind was racing processing everything I had just experienced. Yea the walk took a big turn on this day and really never been the same since.
Upon arriving to Carol's I was met by her and all three of her children. They where great I really wished I could have spent more time with them. They were angel's I tell you. Her one daughter was drawing an amazing picture. She showed me other pictures she had drawn she had amazing talent. Her other daughter was on the phone talking to a friend who was dealing with a family member that was in jail. Seems like almost everyone in America is dealing with someone that's in jail or prison nowadays. Carol's son was a soft spoken young man that touched me in his own little way. I am drawn to individuals that treat me with respect and no judgement at all. He had a great energy about him, they all did.
Carol fixed me up a plate to eat, some good eats let me tell you. I felt very welcomed and safe. We talked a bit and then all went off to sleep. It was an incredible day filled with blessings.

Me and the gang. I love these kids. They brought me a mountain of joy and love.

Carol and I. This is one special lady.
On this day I walked for Rickey Roberts (Florida death row)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Day 22 Walk 4 Life Wake County Vigil

Day 22 made up for day 21 ten fold. The networking I thought was happening all came together. Instead of walking out of Wake county, I walked locally till the later evening when I was to attend a vigil in front of the death house (Central Prison) in Raleigh, NC. I had learned this vigil had been going on every Monday in front of the prison for the past three years. Incredible, that's all I kept saying because it was. This type of dedication to the struggle is exactly what's needed to defeat the killing machine that preys on America's poor.
It wasn't a massive crowd but you wouldn't have known with the amount of energy and passion. Moments after I arrived at the vigil I was joined by attorney Akin "Ice" Adepoju. Akin was one of many lawyers who helped exonerate the 7th wrongfully convicted death row prisoner in North Carolina only day before my arrival. Akin came to the vigil with only moments notice.
As soon as I stepped up to the vigil horns were blowing from people driving by showing their support, showing their approval. I give Akin much credit for coming out and storming the weather. It down poured on us for a good 15 minutes, but he stood with us even picking up a sign himself. He also marched onto the governor's mansion with us after the vigil.
This vigil was powerful for me seeing not long ago I felt like a lone activist. Now here I was with a group of people ranging from ages 8 to 70 all in sharing the same belief's, life should respected, preserved and cherished no matter what. I was honored to be a part of this vigil/march.
After screaming our feelings at the prison holding up our signs we set out to the governor's mansion. We first passed the Wake County jail. We then stopped at a local news paper where we were joined by a journalist for the rest of our walk in solidarity, this was incredible to me.
Before we reached the governors mansion, we stopped at capitol building where they showed me the window to the "Office of Death" as they called it. The governor's office where some 20 death warrants have been signed over the years. We then moved on continuing our talks, war stories you may say. I was shocked at the many stories being to me about how these average law abiding, concerned citizens have been repeatedly imprisoned for protesting what they felt were injustices. I was impressed to say the least at their willingness to put their lives on the line in the battle for true justice. I was without question in the company of true soldiers fighting on the front lines of the struggle.
We reached the governor's mansion and I was shocked to first see how big this mansion was. I was more shocked when I learned every brick was made and laid by prisoners. Even the side walk that surrounded the property was all laid brick. One brother told me the land was once a public park for the people, but was then bulldozed to build this mansion that houses a hired murderer.
Moments after we arrived security spoke to us through a talk box, warning us to leave or they would have us arrested. I thought I was a bit on the radical side, but seriously before I could say a word the citizens of North Carolina I had joined let the talk box have it. "This is our property" one brother said, "we have the right to be here", "our tax dollars paid for this place, and pays for your job". This is only a few lines of what was said. We did move on though, slowly but we moved at securities request. We just made our way to the front of the house where we held our signs of protest high as the journalist snapped many photos.
We then walked away only to be met by capitol police. Two cars, two officers. They were pretty cool with us. They just answered a call and told us we needed to keep moving so not to create any problems. What was interesting was the one officer made statement that lead us to believe he did not agree with the death penalty. He said there wouldn't be an execution in North Carolina any time soon, and hopefully there wouldn't ever be another. It was good to know that not all law enforcement officer believe in killing citizens regardless of the circumstances.
After the officers left we were then approached by a gentlemen I believe was a janitor for one of the state buildings we were passing by. He had a lot to say about capital punishment which he agreed with. Right there in street we debated with this brother touching on an array of issues concerning the issue. He had some good arguments, but what stood out was his anger, which rang out with a call for vengeance. I caught this on film. This is the type of footage I have wanted because I want people to view those that are pro-death penalty. Here is a citizen calling for the death of a fellow human being only looking at the crime committed, blind to any reason leading up to the crime. This is one of my arguments. Why doesn't anyone want to know what would lead someone to killing. Are we as a people afraid to learn that the way we treat people is the root of this evil? Are the leaders of this country afraid to find out that they in some way are responsible for pushing people over the edge? I will say this much, I was one of those many that fell through the cracks, let down by my peers in may ways. "The anatomy of a school shooting". (ILL Bill, of NoN-Phixion)
Every death penalty state I have walked through had large sections of impoverished neighborhoods. Now walking through the downtown areas was one thing, most are picture perfect, spotless with beautiful flowers and greenery. But only blocks away there are abandoned buildings, homeless citizens and filth. I could feel my anger boiling just passing through such conditions. Why in such a wealthy country do we have so much poverty. Poverty I believe is one of our biggest problems. One of the biggest reasons there is so much killing.
Anyway after debating with this brother for nearly a half hour we learned that we did agree on one thing. We agreed that our president was the biggest terrorist in the world. We agreed the war was wrong. After all was said and done, we agreed to disagree on the death penalty issue but; with open minds. And we stood to agree on the war issues. What was powerful for me though was that the brother then agreed to photographed by the journalist standing with all of us holding up our End the Death Penalty signs. Yes, a ray of hope.
I will never forget this day, or any of the great people I got to walk with. Rest assured I will be attending this weekly vigil again in the very near future. To those storming the weather week after week, I salute you. May God bless you all. Peace, Love and Progress. "X"
On this day, I walked and talked for Anthony Wiseman Texas captive.

Day 21 Walk 4 Life

After riding on a bus all night I was exhausted, but yet I was ready to walk. I got dropped off in Durham, NC which is about where I left off before I went to Raleigh to my moms, now I was officially walking to Wake county to meet up with some troops.

Back in the early 95 or 96 the first prisoner I ever stood up for was sentenced in Durham. Taurean White was only 14 years old when he was sentenced to 20 years in an adult prison for a crime he didn't commit. You can read more about this on my myspace page.

Walking from Raleigh to Durham was a great walk. Just about the entire walk was on a busy highway packed with people going to and coming home from church.

News 14 had contacted me and said they wanted to cover the walk so I tried to set it where they could meet me when I reached Wake county court house in Raleigh where they had just released what the media referred to as the 128 exonerated prisoner from death row. Seeing I gave News 14 a target time, I walked full speed ahead only stopping twice briefly.

I don't know what happen to News 14 or to all those I tried to get to meet me at Wake County Court house but when I got there no one was there. It was a good walk though, thousands of people seen me walking with my sign held high.

Today I walked, talked and prayed 4 Rudy Medrano (Texas death row) - convicted under the Law of Parties and Michael Astorga (New Mexico).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 20 Walk 4 Life. South Bronx

Day 20 was a special day for me. It had been a while since I had been around my old stomping grounds. Though I met hip hop in Puerto Rico in 1978 it was here on Forest Ave. that I started to live it. I did my first head spin here when I started break dancing in the early 80's amongst a lot of other things. I have a lot of good memories as well as not so good ones but it's all good now. I had actually spent the night in Jersey. My boy JB of Arcane had picked me up from Port Authority in Manhattan and drove me to where my car has been parked since I left for the walk. I slept in my car for a few hours then hopped on the first bus to New York about 6am. I walked to the bus stop. That's right, I stayed true. I got to NYC about 6:50 and jumped on the 2 train. I was excited to be home. I was so excited I got off the train at 149th Street and Third Ave. I did a lot of shopping on Third Ave back in the day. Anyway yea from Third Ave. I walked nearly across the entire South Bronx passing Forest Ave. my old block and onto where the event I was attending was. It was about a 7 mile walk. I loved every step of it. When I first moved to Forest Ave. hip hop was pretty much only found in the Bronx that's my word. I lived there till it hit all 5 boroughs and creeped into New Jersey pretty much. It was an honor to be back to now sit on a panel to discuss bringing hip hop into schools as a tool for teaching kids. All praise due to hip hop.

The panel discussion went very well, I met some really dope people that really cared about kids just as I do. I love kids and hope to one day do more for kids than I already do, our future. After how I use hip hop to fight for prisoners rights and against capital punishment as well as all injustices I took part in a workshop where I learned a lot of vital techniques I can use to further my mission.

I didn't stay long after the work shop I gave out stickers and buttons and hit the streets. I needed to get back to North Carolina. I bid my goodbyes and I was out. This truly was a day I will never forget.

On this day I walked 4 Arthur Taylor.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 19 Walk 4 Life. Leave the driving 2 who?

Day 19 I woke up way before the sun and got dropped off in downtown Raleigh for my trip up north to participate in the H2A Hip Hop festival in the Bronx. H2A or Hip Hop Association is about facilitating, fostering and preserving the hip hop culture. It's a non-profit organization dedicated to serving educators and those committed to reaching youth through hip hop culture which is what I do. I educate youth and adults about our criminal justice system, about the history of prisons and about capital punishment. This three day festival was held at the Ralph Hernandez School of performing arts in the South Bronx about 7 or 8 blocks from my old neighborhood. Let me tell you it was an honor for me to be invited to sit on a panel to share what I have been doing world wide with hip hop as well as what I am currently doing, the Walk 4 Life.
Because I was taking a bus up north didn't mean I was taking a break, as soon as I was dropped off at the bus station I went to work giving out buttons and fliers as I explained what I was doing to anyone that would give me moment of their time, the struggle never seizes for me. As long as I have brotha's and sista's locked in cages waiting to be murdered, I will not seize.
On a daily basis I find it amazing that I continuously find myself talking to people that don't agree with capital punishment. Now I know there are cold heartless people that do agree with this barbaric act but I feel that the majority of Americans don't not agree. Now the media states that we are divided by 60% pro and 40% against. I believe these polls are most likely taken in areas that consist of those people I never see, those people that get the tax breaks, those people that live in areas where the police actually server and protect, not where they prey on human beings. I believe if these polls were taken where common folk live and in the ghettos across America a different story would be told. I believe just like in the days of the civil rights movement where they held voter registrations in poor areas, we need to hold death penalty opponent registrations. I think that many people that may be against the death penalty remain silent out of fear. Now if they witness large numbers of death penalty opponents gathering together in unity their fear will subside. Death penalty opponents are about life and love, compassion and reconciliation how can this not attract people. They just need to see us out in numbers. Most importantly politicians need to see us out in numbers. Politicians are attracted to large organized groups of registered voters. Not only this politicians that agree with death penalty opponents would feel more confident to step up and speak out knowing they would be backed by the people. Uniting out on the streets of America is the only way we will counter the effects of the fear the media instills in Americans. I also believe that believe that by uniting in such way in solidarity would also cause a ripple effect that would also see a drop in violent crimes. Young men and women across America that feel abandoned would surly be attracted by such a powerful unification of the people.
After boarding onto my bus I quickly set up my lap top and got to work tackling my never ending e-mails. It is amazing just how many people around the world have been responding to the walk 4 life. I pray that this momentum does not slow down till we see victory.
From Raleigh, North Carolina our first stop was at a Burger King. This was about two hours after hitting the open road. We were allowed 20 minutes to get something to eat and use the rest rooms, smoke and stretch our legs. I used this time to reach more people. At times I feel like I am on the campaign trail running for president. Yes I pet dogs and kiss babies too. If allowed I'd pin a Don't Kill For Me button on a babies diaper. We have to get them young before they are programed to believe it's ok to kill in the name of justice.
Not more than ten minutes after pulling out of the rest stop the bus had a blow out. Let me tell you people were not happy at all. It wasn't so much that we had a blow out, it was the fact that the tire was really bald. We could not understand how this tire made it passed inspection. It was a retreaded tire. The way our economy is everyone is trying to cut corners to save money. I don't think buses should be allowed to use retreaded tires especially after being told by the bus driver that if it had been a front tire we most likely would have flipped over. I stood there in shock when he told me and a few other passengers that a front tire blow out makes buses flip. Amtrak was looking pretty good at that moment.
We were paid a little visit by state troopers as we waited for a repair truck to come out and fix the flat tire. This set us back about 2 hours I was not happy at all; none of the passengers were happy.
After the tire was fixed we reached Richmond Virgina where we were asked to get off of the bus. We were given little information as to where to go. I chose this particular bus because there were to be no changes. Well because of the flat we were made to not only change buses, we had to wait some three hours. I felt like I was flying AA. Anyway at the Richmond station I noticed a large number of prisoners waiting for buses on their home. How do I know they were prisoners? Because I was one of them at one time. The state clothes given to prisoners are easy to recognize. As I watched them walk around confused I wondered how many of them would make it in the free world knowing they were released with nothing. When I say nothing I mean no money, no job and no education or rehabilitation. I prayed for them.
I walked around and spoke to a number of people again receiving nothing but positive reactions. Keep in mind I was amongst the poor here. I don't think people of wealth ride the bus. They may leave their driving to others but it's most likely chauffeurs. Anyway three hours later I was on my way once again back up north.
The flat tire got me to New York City about three and a half hours later than I had expected. But after all was said and done it felt good to be home even if it was only for one day.