Troy Davis Lives
I woke after a fitful sleep yesterday morning and my throat hurt from yelling and my body ached from marching. But in my head all I could hear was "I am Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis!" and if the dull sense of numbness that I'd lain down with a few hours before didn't quite disappear, it did get light enough for me to pull myself up, and to get back to work. This is an amazing moment, not just for the darkness of such blatant and abhorrent injustice, but also for the opportunity to build this movement and change the course of history.
When we heard that Troy's execution was going forward, we were still gathered in front of the Supreme Court in DC. We were a smaller crowd, but such a cathartic moment feels bigger, feels louder. For hours, we were many, having marched from around the city to this spot, colliding in solidarity with students from Howard University who had marched from the White House only moments before. We'd spilled into the street, calling back and forth, "I am Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis!" We'd rallied, forgetting about the rain, our voices echoing off of each other, moving in rhythm, only stopping for a few brief moments to talk about next steps, to plan beyond the night no matter what was in store.
When we heard, we gathered around a woman reading from her smartphone in the quiet now, many of us who were left frantically tried to confirm, knowing well what was happening a few hundred miles away in Jackson. As bright camera lights moved in, a few people spoke their outrage and their disgust. Amidst quiet sobs and angry words, one man called out, slowly and deliberately, "the Supreme Court Justices are murderers!"
If I look more deeply, trying to find meaning in those hours that Troy was strapped to a gurney, and those moments that he waited for the poison that would kill him to enter his veins, I wonder about those words. In the last hours, as it rained in Washington and police officers in riot gear marched ominously through crowds of people singing “We Shall Overcome” in Jackson, the Supreme Court certainly had the power to issue a stay, to consider again the enormous doubt about what happened to Officer McPhail in 1989 as he tried to protect a homeless man being pistol whipped. But with their denial at the end, they were really only participating in a process that had long ago begun, and unless we continue to stand up now, will continue without end. Ultimately, if those Justices who refused to issue a stay of execution again at the eleventh hour killed Troy, then so did I.
I am Troy Davis, I said. Then so too am I his executioner, who started the poison flowing through that cold IV drip. We are Troy Davis, we screamed. We are Troy Davis, and we are the million who stood up and shouted in his name, the thousands who marched and prayed and hoped this last week. We are Troy Davis, and we are the 5 members of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, who seemed to have the power of life and death at the tip of their pens. We are Troy Davis, and we are those who remained silent, we are those who shouted that a cop killer should be wiped from this earth. We are Troy Davis, and we are the witnesses who changed their stories, we are the jurors who sentenced death. We are Troy Davis, and we are Larry Chisholm, issuing a death warrant.
We are Troy Davis, and we are Annaliese MacPhail, who wanted justice for her lost son, irreplaceable, who got revenge on a world that tore hers apart. We are Mark Allen, Jr., and we are Madison MacPhail, fatherless. We are Joann MacPhail, alone, waiting for a husband to come home, with a door that will never open. We are Kim Davis, whose hero is now dead; we are DeJaun, fighting for an uncle on death row. We are Virginia Davis, gone from a broken heart; we are Martina Davis-Correia, the voice of the voiceless, fighting with our souls more battles than our bodies can bear. We are two holes in this world where one was, and we are healing. We are Troy Davis. We are Mark Allen MacPhail.
We are cold, asking for change, asking for food on the street. We are walking by in silence, our wallets fat from our latest Wall Street score, from our annual bonus as we testify before congress that tax-payer money should bail us out, that our dollars should vote, that we should not pay taxes, or spare a dime.
We wear our body armor proudly, ready to spring on this singing crowd, and we shall overcome. We are the 2.3 million behind bars, 5 million visiting our parole officers, wearing our ankle bracelets; and we are the prison guards, happy to have our jobs and to leave this place for a meal and a night with our loving families. We are the children who see our parents only behind bars, and we run their schools, tracking fates set by test scores and lotteries. We are Obama; our comment is inappropriate. And we are Reagan, the ghost of law and order; we want to keep our communities and our families safe. We are them.
I read that Troy’s last words—after maintaining his innocence, after reminding us that his spirit would not die—were to bless those who were taking his life. I hope that I face death with such courage, and with such compassion. We’re in the midst of something here, and now is a time to act, and to let the power of our grief not just unite us, not just invite us to reflect, but to move forward together, and to cross those lines that we so often use to divide. We live in this world, we have made it, and we have a responsibility to be creative as we push forward. Not in my name, we might shout. But that's about stopping injustice, and about fighting against tyranny and oppression; when the state kills, it's nothing less than that. State killing is not justice; it's not really even revenge. So in taking the pledge to keep going, I hope to recognize that we're also fighting for something. I hope that with every step I take toward abolishing this capital punishment, this ultimate dehumanization of us all, I do it conscious that just as we move away from the barbary of the past, we're moving toward something differeny in the future. That constructive, creative project we do in Troy’s name, I do it in Reggie Clemons’ name, I do it in my partner’s name and my sister's name and my future children’s name. I do it in my own.