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).