The following post is a segment from a longer piece I wrote. The full version can be found here.
On September 21st, 2011 Troy Davis was executed after a long wait on death row and a decreasing amount of evidence. The day he was executed I spent hours glued to the radio. The night before I had made phone calls and signed petitions. I had contacted the youth in my organization (Jewish Youth for Community Action– JYCA) and asked them to do the same. When Troy’s time neared, all I could think was Oh My God, they are going to kill an innocent man and we are all just listening. I felt alone as I listened to the voice of Amy Goodman. Then they postponed the execution. I found a vigil at Plymouth Church and joined the group—a mix of passers-by like me, and church members. Together we held candles and rang bells while reading the names of the 700 people currently on death row in California. 700.
A few hours later I met with a group of youth action leaders from JYCA and just as I pulled up to the meeting, the Supreme Court announced they would do nothing to stop the execution.
I presented the youth with my original meeting agenda for the night. The plan had been to talk about the things that make us numb and get in the way of our core drive for justice. But we knew it didn’t make sense to talk about our general activism when injustice was happening at that very moment. Instead, we listened to the live Troy Davis coverage. We turned it off. We held each other and cried. We talked about how powerless we felt, how powerless the executioner must have felt. To simply act on their job like that. And then, though I too felt small and woefully under qualified to facilitate such intense feelings, I was somehow able to shift our conversation. If this is how disempowered we feel, then others must feel this way too, I prompted. So isn’t our role as action leaders to help people feel really powerful so that they stand up and act for a change? The youth thought about it. Yes, yes, that’s it, they said. They shared success stories, they shared goals. They couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the group the truth they discovered: that we are really powerful. And we do get to act for change.
What with the foreclosures, bank fees, bad mortgages, and also the murders of Oscar Grant and Troy Davis, we have been feeling hopelessness. We caught a glimpse of inspiration as young folks, from Egypt to Greece, Israel to Libya and all over, decided to stand up. And finally in the U.S, we caught on too.