But it's never too soon for people to think about whether they might want to directly participate in this year's event or figure out a way to otherwise support it.
The annual Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty is held on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court each year from midnight June 29 to midnight June 2. June 29 is the anniversary of the seminal 1972 ruling Furman v. Georgia, which temporarily struck down death penalty statutes in the United States. July 2 is the anniversary of the sadder 1976 ruling Gregg v. Georgia, which allowed executions to resume.
I recently asked Abe Bonowitz, who helps organize the event, to share with me his thoughts on why the fast and vigil is important. He ignited my imagination by invoking the phrase "Abolition University" to describe the educational value of the event. This year, there will be additional teach-ins, more speaking opportunities, maybe some other manifestations of our abolition work such as music, spoken word performances, etc.
Abe wrote the following to me in an email:
The Fast & Vigil furthers the cause of abolition by enhancing the skills and education of grassroots activists who are doing the work every day in whatever way they can, wherever they happen to be, and by educating the public via the mass media, and to a lesser but equally important degree, those who encounter us in person.
Some of what the event provides:
1. Inspiration, training and education to activists working on the issue.
2. Public education to those who encounter it directly and via the media.
3. Symbolic presence at the heart of the issue, coupled with an opportunity for personal sacrifice and re-dedication by individual participants.
4. An annual opportunity for camaraderie among participants.
I personally see all four goals as important and useful, and I have ranked them in order of their strategic value. This is why I have been instituting the evening "teach-ins," which this year will be more rounded to provide information, inspiration and training, over and above that which one gets just by being a full-time participant. The whole thing functions as a sort of "Abolition University." This year the speakers will be recorded, audio, if not video, and the talks will be made available on the web, for whatever that is worth, and also deposited in the archives for future reference.
Last year, this blog had just launched when the 11th Annual Fast and Vigil occurred. We "covered" the event live, to the degree that resources would allow. Although our plans have not solidified yet and much depends on resources (i.e., interns!), in some shape or form we will be covering the event live again. In the meantime, the vigil has its own website. Go here for more information!