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The Most Relevant Stance

August 11, 2006

BY KENNETH HARAMIA FOSTER

The death row walk is undoubtedly one of extreme complexities. The struggles with life, torture, despair, hope, death etc. are ones that can be put in no simple words. Each of us as unique beings will deal with these things in different ways and because of our unique essences and beliefs there’s just no way that another man can instruct the other in exactly how to walk their path. However, it is my hopes that as ones who face a common fate. and go through common things, we can listen to each others experiences, especially when they may lead to the greater good.

I came to the question – do we humanize the death penalty? Have we sat by so thoroughly inactive that we inadvertently promoted this process? This comes to mind when Texas dearth row inmate Tony Egbuna Ford launched a month long protest against his execution date. Brother Ford decided to non-violently protest his execution to make a statement to society that he was not ok with the death process he was going through.

How many have done this? In Texas, 4 men have physically fought before their executions; Desmond Jennings, Ponchai Wilkerson, Emmerson Rudd, and Shaka Sankofa. Todd Willingham made them drag him. This is 5 out of 300-something executions. What this means is that 300-something men walked to their murders – the majority having elaborate death feasts (that which probably won’t even digest) before their executions. I asked myself; what message does this send to society’? The conclusion I came to was; I’m okay with this.

This statement creates controversy as many feel their manhood is being questioned. Well, it is not. What is being questioned is our wide range vision towards this capital punishment process. It is my wholehearted opinion that no death row inmate should walk to their execution. I passionately express that to those inmates who condemn the death penalty (the reality is that all death row inmates do not = he that to your surprise), and get out there and launch campaigns to save their lives, If we can do that in the outside world, we can do that on the inside. I believe it’s our duty to make this statement – to burn this into the psyches of our captors, other inmates, the system and the media. As one says “the death penalty is wrong”, we should stand on that until the end.

I know this is a sensitive time (facing a date) and one may not he willing to sacrifice like Brother Ford. Due to his protest the administration took his property, showers, recreation, and suspended his visits. They didn’t take his spirit or dignity though. and for those of us standing with him, we are going through the same restrictions, yet we are not broken either. Tony had prepared for all this saying his goodbyes a month ahead of time and dedicated his last month to the struggle. What courage and dedication! Many won’t do this, but that’s not a total loss. When those people come to walk you to that death chamber, just refuse to participate. What are they doing to do? Write you a case? You don’t have to physically tight. If media comes to see you, tell them what you will do. Let the world know that “I’m not participating in my own murder!” What do all of you think society would feel seeing hundreds of men and women doing this? I think it would he very provoking. It’s almost 3,600 death row inmates nationwide, but how often does this happen?

Some will try to manipulate you and say “a real man would walk head high”. This is nothing to he proud of. It’s an abomination. Some will say “what’s the use, you’re going to die anyway”. The purpose is to expose this to the world. Since 1976. there have been over 1.000 executions. There could have been hundreds of statements saying “I’m not ok with this”, and that has nothing to do with being at peace or remorseful — that is if you’re guilty or wrong for your crime. One protest does not contradict the other.

In my eyes I see this as the final statement against this death penalty. If you’re a Christian and believe in non-violence, lay it down and pray out loud about the blood on these guards’ hands. If you’re a Buddhist, speak about their Karma. If you’re a Muslim, remember your code of righteous Jihad. All of the Prophets were warriors.

Our lives have been changed by this process. Our families crushed. We need to help end this process so that the cycle of pain ceases. This one way we can play a role. This is one way we can allow the barbaric nature of the system be seen. I appeal to your conscience and principles. As politicians seek to further oppress us we have to step it up a notch to end this death penalty. I do believe that the above movement is one long overdue. I hope that you’ll deeply consider it.

In Spirit, Strength and Struggle,

Kenneth Haramia Foster
#999232
Polunsky Unit – Death Row
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston TX 77351 USA

(Note: When Tony Ford launched his protest in November a group of comrades [known as DRIVE: Death Row Inner-Communalist Vanguard Engagement. See www.drivemovement.org] simultaneously started a non-violent protest against death row and its decaying conditions. The protest is still active. Tony Ford received an indefinite stay and since then several others protested their execution: Shannon Thomas, Marion Dudleto, Tommie Hughes and Kevin Kinoy).

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