[caption id="attachment_808" align="alignleft" width="299" caption="Troy Davis artwork courtesy of Amnesty International"][/caption] The execution of Troy Davis this past week was a crime against humanity. Enough evidence existed to show that Davis was innocent of a crime committed more than twenty years ago. But the state of Georgia killed him anyway. Here is a statement I found on the Internet from Mr. Davis before his death: "I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime. As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can't even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail." We must stop the killings in our name. No more death penalty. No more life without the possibility of parole (the other "death penalty"). Everyone deserves a fighting chance to live, to redeem themselves, to give back to our communities and society. Death is a "final" solution. We can’t kill crime by killing the criminals, especially in a criminal justice system that has too many innocents convicted of crimes. Last week I also had the pleasure of speaking in Salinas, an area in the migrant farm country of the central coast of California that has been known to have more gang murders per capita than other areas of the state. What a strong community! I had two community talks, one at Hartnell Community College, and one at Sherwood Hall. The first one had around 300 students, community members, parents, teachers, and more. I spoke and moderated a panel that included the mayor of Salinas, the police chief, teachers, and community leaders. Everyone united around the need to bring real peace, resources, and a new vibrant community spirit to Salinas. The event at Sherwood Hall ended with around 500 people. The Poetic Justice Project, a theater group of formerly incarcerated actors and artists, opened up to rousing applause. I also showed a trailer for a new film that Tia Chucha’s is raising money for on the theme of how the arts transforms communities for the Create/Cultivate fund of the L.A. County Arts Commission (please go to www.tiachucha.com to see the video and donate to this great project). Middle and high school students from some of Salinas’s poorest schools attended. I had one talk with high school students, which was filmed by two TV crews. I must say, the coming together of people from the Rotary Club, to Boys & Girls clubs, to local schools, to recovery and parolee groups, was wonderful. The Salinas mayor, Dennis Donahue, was gracious and actively involved. I also have to thank the great work of Colleen Bailey, executive director of the National Steinbeck Center, who made all this possible. And I thank my friend Miguel Lopez who made sure the high school students were able to attend and speak with me. Their voices, ideas, and concerns were right on. As Colleen Bailey wrote me, "the gang problem is not a hopeless problem. Transformation is possible." I’m presently in Chicago preparing to speak in a number of schools, community gatherings, at the BUILD gang intervention program, at the large juvenile detention center, at Northwestern University Law School, and at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Barbara’s Bookstore on Wednesday, September 28 for the Guild Complex. This will be a joint reading and talk with my friend and mentor, Haki Madhubuti, founder of Third World Press and one of this country’s leading African American poets and social justice leaders. I will also be promoting my new book, out now, the sequel to my bestselling memoir, "Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A." The new memoir is entitled "It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing" (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster). It’s available at bookstores anywhere, Amazon.com, and, of course, at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. The memoir is also available as an e-book and will eventually be produced as a companion audio book with "Always Running" by Dreamscape Audio Books. You can check out my events page on my website for talks, readings, and book signings I’ll be doing for the new book throughout the country. c/s
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