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)

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