Tuesday, June 29, 2004

'You are the people who keep me going'

Here's another update on the ongoing Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty by NCADP intern Kristen Bell. Check back tomorrow for more updates!

With passionate speeches, cheers, and banners, the rally on the first day of the fast and vigil called for an end to the death penalty - not tomorrow or next year, but now. Speakers like Bill Pelke of Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing and Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation urged rally participants to make their voices heard in the offices of the Supreme Court directly behind him. I joined in the closing song, raising my voice to sing:

"We shall not, we shall not be moved,
We shall not, we shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's standing by the water,
We shall not be moved."

But when I was singing, I did not think that O'Connor and Scalia and the rest of the court were listening. Even if a note or two made it up to their lofty offices, I was pessimistic that they would actually pay attention.

And yet I still sang.

I sang not to be heard by the Supreme Court, but to be heard by the people around me. I sang to encourage them in their work and let them know that they do not stand alone. I sang for people like Christina Wesson, Mike Kennedy, Mikhaela Payden-Travers, John Wilkins, and Dane VonBreichenruchardt. These are not the names you might recognize at the forefront of the abolition movement; they are the names of ordinary people who simply came out to take a stand. I will share their stories over the next few days.

"You are the people who keep me going," said Juan Melendez, an exonerated death row inmate, in his speech to rally participants. In a fight that requires near infinite patience and persistence, that encouragement is essential. And that is what we got today.

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