Friday, December 30, 2011

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”—
Bill Vaughn


I’m no Pollyanna. In fact, I often call on my alter ego, Pollybollocks, to back me up. She’s not shy about voicing her rather acerbic opinion that not everybody thinks threatening clouds have a bit of silver tucked in the lining. Often the grass is not greener on the other side of the conundrum and if it is then most likely some horrible Monsanto product was at work there. Light at the end of the tunnel may very well be the oncoming train.

If it takes seventeen muscles to smile and forty-three to frown, why not employ both expressions for a better face work out? Surely the combination, a kind of smilates, is the best training regimen for a person who is aware, who has a sense of humor but cannot, no matter how hard she tries, see the humor in the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachman. We laughed uproariously at the verbal antics of GWB, shared knowing looks as he stumbled through his candidacy. We know how that went. Then we laughed some more when he became the fuck up in the White House, albeit with a little less joi de vivre.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”

This is a quote famously attributed to a rather impressive woman who was an outspoken Pacifist and a renowned author. She fought for women’s rights and championed the rights of people with disabilities. But Helen Keller, apart from being a genuine Lefty, was also, famously, blind. Before that huff of indignation swells, hear me out. It’s not about what Helen Keller may or may not have actually said. It’s how we bend ourselves, like old Hallmark cards shoved in the back of a drawer, or hang our framed flowery optimism in the hallway and keep our integrity shackled to positive aphorisms that have slipped from their context while everything around us is falling apart.

We aren’t sunflowers, so why risk being hypnotized by sunshine while the powers that continue to be play their evil game in the dark, behind closed doors and on luxury yachts under the kind of sunshine we’ll never afford? I have a feeling if sunflowers could talk they would be pretty pissed off at the beating human beings have given the planet. “Where are the honeybees?” “What the fuck is going on with all this fracking?” “Is that a chemtrail overhead or are you just not glad to see me down here, facing up at the sun?” And before you chide that it’s corporations that are ruining the planet, remember: Corporations are persons now.

If you only look on the bright side then you may very well be blind to the darkness unfolding behind it.

If “Hope” and “Change” are the words you still cling to after 3 years of not only disappointing, but also dangerous returns on your investment in optimism then you’ve kept your face to the sun far too long.

Making resolutions this time of year is, of course, a form of optimism. One gathers the courage to face their demons and, once and for all, tackle them. Procrastination can surely be wrestled with and I know it’s something I’ll get around to. Eventually.

I have every confidence that I will reactivate my love of and pursuit of printmaking. A wonderful man who works with The Mister has neatly and expertly sharpened my woodcutting tools, some of which belonged to my father. I have a good supply of rice paper that has remained untouched since I last put down my chisels and knives too long ago.

I’ll write because when I don’t, I don’t feel well.

And the songwriting will grow with The Mister and me. We have stories to tell and will continue to do so. He’ll advise me to “Pecker up, Lad,” when I am down and I will laugh. Sometimes.

I’ll pay close attention to friendship. What makes one stronger and what simply detracts? Who can teach me how to be a better friend? Who understands a hug is something one may not necessarily need at any given moment of upheaval but who is there when that embrace is wanted. I’ll strive to take on differences that make us all stronger as a whole.

When something is funny I will laugh. The dangerous differences will not make me laugh. Bumbling right wing contenders for the role of Corporate-Commander-in-Chief will not make me laugh. The present Corporate-Commander-in-Chief will not make me laugh. People who follow a candidate blindly and act as if our country was not well over the dangerous brink will not make me laugh. Trampling of civil liberties, rogue cops and pepper spray will not make me laugh. The death penalty has many volunteers who befriend each other and make each other laugh, but we never laugh about the vengeful system we are working to abolish. A man on death row may inadvertently make me laugh because of his sharp wit but he will also make me cry and he will make me angry. He will show me that the spirit can soar even under the most heinous circumstances. He will also remind me that this is no laughing matter.

I will cherish those friends, new and old, who understand anger and how it can be channeled into something productive, even if it’s just a simple sharing of information. I will cherish ones who re-align me when I veer off road without regard for critical thinking and facts; who will gently tell me I am wrong. I’ll pout, probably, when criticism is not so kindly offered, but I will take it all on if it is well intentioned. If it is not well-intentioned criticism I’ll look for the kernel of truth I’m meant to unearth and then I’ll get my Pollybollocks on and tell them, “Thank you, now fuck off!” Anger, for the sake of it, will leave me inching away, looking for the door. And if I am the culprit, I’ll take my comeuppance, apologize, and learn from it.

Anger and pessimism is often sorted out on long rambling walks. I love a walk in the park, sun shining above and cool crisp air urging me onwards. But the fact is, so often many details of Nature are obscured by strong sunlight. That rock that trips you because the light is in your eyes. An overcast sky makes it easier to pick out the source of all that birdsong in the trees.

My year-end resolutions have been written, in the nick of time, looks like. There are those afore-mentioned passions I will re-ignite like printmaking and the ones to continue stoking, like songwriting. I’ll continue writing stories in short story form, striving for each one to be a little bit better in its own universe. The much-loved screenplay that seems to have taken my writing partner, Lauren, and I a lot of time and no time at all will be finished and prodded into a new life off the page. There may be the beginning of a new novel if I can win my battle with procrastination. There are more personal resolutions I won’t share because I might very well fuck them up. Or I might not. Life is full of surprises.

My glass is half-empty. And I’m fine with that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason,

knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.” —José Marti


It’s that time again. A holiday season that grows inexplicably in length from year to year, a season that one clever friend has dubbed “Hallowthanksmas.” Children and parents flood the streets at the start of this season and beg door to door for sweets, which can no longer be homemade, must not be offered unwrapped and pretty much becomes an advertising campaign for manufacturers of cheap, mass produced candy. Costume outlets clean up because what I see, especially on the toney upper eastside, has been more store bought and less the result of an involved parent and a child's imagination.

Vampires were big this year. And not just among the knee-high trick-or-treaters, as the popular movement known as Occupy Wall Street has made undeniably clear. We, as a nation—specifically 99% of the nation—are being sorely tricked by the 1% who seem to own everything. What treats OWS has in store for them continues to unfold. That’s the crowd The Mister and I have joined and we don’t need to wear costumes, though we are happy to see others who protest and demonstrate in various homemade costumes that sparkle with originality and that lighten the mood of a serious attention to the destruction of our civil liberties, our way of life. We have brought treats to those who staunchly occupied Liberty Square, otherwise known as Zuccotti Park, like bags loaded with apples and oranges and then, when the colder weather set in we brought bag loads of thermal socks.

We also brought fliers.

Because around July of 2010 I began a journey with a man who I call a friend. Before that, I had searched for a way to broaden a personal dedication to ending the death penalty in this country. I joined a book club specifically geared to that cause. I needed an education, to arm myself with the facts that continue to shame our so-called civilized nation. I learned a lot. I am still learning, but at some point I felt ready to make a deeper, more personal connection. In my search I met a woman online who directed me to a young man on Texas Death Row. I read his story on the website volunteers have organized for him. He desperately needed another volunteer to type his handwritten updates that are posted on his website and facebook page. I ‘auditioned’ as it were and soon became a self-described amanuensis to Robert G. Will, a man who I would quickly learn was remarkable.

So, in October, when one of his chief supporters in Texas—a dedicated young woman with a family of her own, who still manages visits to Rob every week—sent me a batch of fliers in support of Rob’s cause The Mister and I headed downtown to OWS and did our best to engage, inform, and thank the passersby who took them from our extended hands.

Rob has been at the Polunsky Unit on Texas Death Row for 11 years. That’s 11 years of not seeing his little boy grow up or feeling a physical touch, the warm embrace from family and friends who love and support him. It’s 11 years of what he describes in painful detail in his personal letters to all of us and in his updates as an “Orwellian Hell.” That’s 11 years that he has been tortured at the hands of vengeful guards who, for whatever reasons, have themselves not learned compassion. It’s 11 years of the freedom we often take for granted. Eleven years of his life he will not get back.

Yet, he inspired and continues to inspire other men on Texas Death Row. He teaches them Yoga and meditation. He drives some toward the light of self-education. He is a self-taught artist of the highest caliber who engages and teaches non-violent resistance in the manner of the world’s greatest leaders like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. And, he continues to inspire me, and volunteers like me, who are in awe of his strength, integrity, talent and compassion.

And now, given the holiday spirit, we are asking for people to accept this plea for Robert G. Will and return with a generous donation. He needs financial backing, a lot of financial backing. Volunteers both here and abroad are working tirelessly for his freedom, to overturn a gross injustice. So many of us are struggling in our own way with economic downturns, as the 1% casually refer to the tsunami caused by the banks and corporations that threatens to drown us. All of us have personal responsibilities to family, friends, and the kind of lives that generous people live.

He needs so much more than court-appointed attorneys. Sadly, as Rob himself has written, it is all too typical that Texas court-appointed attorneys do nothing more than to aid the state. Prosecuting attorneys are armed with audio and visual exhibits. They prepare extensively. Everyone who has been released from Death Row has benefitted greatly from extensive fundraising. Supporters will have to raise over $100,000 to get the DNA testing done that secures a release. As Rob has written: “From knowing men who have been exonerated from Texas Death Row I’ve witnessed first hand how absolutely vital funds are for any and all legal purposes. Every exoneree has had pro bono and/or paid attorneys. I need to have that kind of help on my legal team. I need your help; we need your help.”

You can help in ways big and small, literally. Visit our webpage for Rob and read his story. Learn about this remarkable young man who has been wrongfully sentenced to Texas Death Row for a crime he did not commit.

To help in our efforts to raise funds for his cause check out our web shop! There are solidarity items like the PERSEVERANCE unisex t-shirts with a bold graphic design. These are high quality 100% cotton shirts designed by Dennis Schröder from Supportershirt and printed by DirAction from Hamburg. And they come is all sizes! Or choose among the other original items offered here.

Our main goal is to bring attention to Rob’s case by raising awareness and raising the much needed funding for his legal defense.

Lethal Injustice Rob Will e.V. is also a part of the Rob Will Defense Committee. They are a non-profit organization approved and registered in a local court in Leipzig, Germany. They have a tax number and are authorized to issue receipts for all donations. All contribution from donations and merchandise will be used exclusively for Rob’s defense and for his campaign.

Please consider making a generous donation in one of two ways:

Sending money via is very easy. Just click on the "send money" tab at the top of the paypal page. Insert our email address——for the recipient and follow instructions.

You can also make donations directly to our bank account:

Lethal Injustice Rob Will e.V.
Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
IBAN DE17860205000003507800

Give the gift that keeps on giving. Be that person who spreads the word about Rob Will. Support Rob’s bid for freedom. Thank you all, in advance, for that perfect gift that will bring us all a generous return.

* * *

This poem by
Assata Shakur was included by Rob in the very first update I typed for him:


I believe in living. I believe in the spectrum

of Beta days and Gamma people.

I believe in sunshine

in windmills and waterfalls,

tricycles and rocking chairs.

And I believe that seeds grow into sprouts,

And sprouts grow into trees.

I believe in the magic of the hands.

And in the wisdom of the eyes.

I believe in rain and tears.

And in the blood of infinity.

I believe in life.

And I have seen the death parade

march through the torso of the earth,

sculpting mud bodies in its path.

I have seen the destruction of the daylight,

and seen the bloodthirsty maggots

prayed to and saluted.

I have seen the kind become the blind

and the blind become the bind

in one easy lesson.

I have walked on cut glass.

I have eaten crow and blunder bread

and breathed the stench of indifference.

I have been locked by the lawless.

Handcuffed by the haters.

Gagged by the greedy.

And, if I know anything at all,

It’s that a wall is just a wall

and nothing more at all.

It can be broken down.

I believe in living.

I believe in birth.

I believe in the sweat of love

and in the fire of truth.

And I believe that a lost ship,

steered by tired, seasick sailors,

can still be guided home

to port.

-Assata Shakur

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief
that develops the powers of the mind.
—Marcel Proust

She listens to the young man standing before her. They are in the empty function room of Estonia House. The room is lined on either side with metal folding chairs. A paper tablecloth covers a long table holding electric coffee urns. Platters of miniature pastries lay untouched, and empty cups and plates wait to be filled.
“My father,” he says, “had always believed he had an astrological twin.” She’s known this young man since birth, since before his birth. There is the resemblance but the real proof is in his voice. She hears his words, but feels an undercurrent, some indefinable tension that birds must feel perched on power lines. This phantom’s manifestation, like an obstinate whisper in her ear, is his father’s presence. She knew this man, the person whose life will be the focal point for the next couple of hours. The son is interrupted from their conversation when other guests arrive.
Outside, the elegant Beaux Arts building fits like a storybook relic among the midtown neighborhood of massive, impersonal fabrication. Directly across East 34th street was where her father’s shop once stood in a 5-story tenement. He’d worked among a clutter of antiques awaiting rejuvenation. Gold leaf floated in the room like precious dust motes. The smell of varnish pressured the air of his second story loft forcing a sharp intake of breath until the lungs got used to it. The building was torn down to make way for a movie theater. For a long time the air space above remained clear. Now a suffocating wall of featureless architecture blocks the sun. She is unaccountably relieved to see the Clover Delicatessen still hugging a busy corner at Second Avenue.
Runners in the New York City marathon are somewhere all over the city. When she and her husband left their apartment on the Upper East Side the frontrunner for the men had already sprinted down Fifth Avenue, at the top of their street. She remembers her old friend. He had, for most of his life, abhorred exercise. He had never, as far as she knew, ever jogged. He was a writer, a journalist, and a poet. He was an astrologer, and a philosopher. He was a politician who never ran for office. He was a self-taught reader in Sanskrit. He provoked and informed. He argued relentlessly. He was sometimes high-handed with fatherhood. Mastering chess was an obsession. He devoured books until the end. He was a thinker, not a runner.
So, it was a dual surprise when, a few years after he’d left New York for a much sought after life near the Pacific Ocean, he informed her that he had been ill for a while and that he’d embraced Yoga. His body, he told her, had been under attack. The illness remained unspecified, her queries ignored.
He was happy. Southern California was sexier than New York, he said. He was where he wanted to be.
The room in the landmark mansion is too big for the gathering. An initial procession of guests tapers off and there are fewer than 30 in attendance.
Hers is among the low murmur of voices that must make inquiries among strangers, or recognize faces that time had for so long put out of sight. With a start she recognizes her old friend’s sister. She reminds her so much of her brother. When had they seen each other last, they cry? They embrace. A woman who is about her age is a stranger until she mentions her name. With a rush of memory catapulting towards her, she confronts the first time she met her old friend, over 35 years ago. It was at a community newspaper and the woman before her had been married to the founder. Her friend had been the editor-in-chief, a muckraker who strode through a basement warren overrun with cats, fully aware of and entitled to his personal significance. He cosseted the women in the office, carefully stoking their desire to be noticed, appreciated, and blithely fended off protestations of going too far. Yet he ignored her. She knew, even then, what that would lead to.
Footsteps echo off the wooden floor until a circle forms loosely around her friend’s son. He thanks everyone for coming to honor his father. He invites anyone who wishes to say something to please, feel free. After an initial hesitation one after another of the men present steps forward to recall a man who defied simple interpretation. As each takes a turn at raking memory into a personal reflection she whispers to her husband as to who she knew or had heard spoken of over the years. Most she does not know. Her husband quietly urges her to say something. What he knows of her friend comes from meeting him shortly after they’d married. The stories she’d told had little in common with what he is hearing. She demurs. This is the time to speak of a man’s accomplishments, his personal power and what he loved best in the world: Socratic dialogue, writing the kinds of essays of which she understood very little, his very great pride in his son’s accomplishments. One guest reminisces about an unflappable attention to detail, getting a story factually correct and still packing a wallop. They speak of his almost fanatic dedication to making a chess champion of his son. Another man expresses a joking disappointment at the absence of any of the young female beauties their friend had had in his life at any one time.
She thinks this man who is speaking would be shocked to learn that she—an unfashionably full-figured woman in her mid-sixties—was one of those women he idolized, put right up there on a pedestal and then lectured adoringly into cultural awareness, like Charles Swann’s obsession with Odette de Crécy.
She met him when she was divorcing her first husband. They worked together at the newspaper, she as a graphic artist supporting herself as a fine artist. She marveled at his flagrant self-possession. For a young woman with a background like hers, he was both fascinating and terrifying. Ignoring her was his way of stalking her. They danced around each other and sometimes with each other until, for a brief tumultuous time, they were a couple.
She was a painter. Her studio was a basement room on East 85th Street, across from the Dwight School. He knew her circle, her fellow artists, the journalists and all the rest of the crazies that made up her world post-divorce. He preferred to entertain rather than join them. She both resisted and embraced his Svengali-like attempts at educating her. He made her read Proust. He read philosophy and history for hours in her damp studio and they drank bourbon while she painted. He wrote sonnets for her that grew in grace and intensity. The ones she treasured most were about her cats. When she stopped sleeping with him he was both the jealous would be lover and the dispassionate observer. He urged her repeatedly. “You are a writer,” he proclaimed. “It is in your stars.”
Often he stopped by her studio, which was usually a buzz of heated discourse, dedicated drinking and the heady rush of oil paint and turpentine. When she wasn’t there he left hysterically funny notes taped to the studio door. His handwriting was an instantly recognizable swash. He signed the notes: “Ludwig Von Beetfield.”
He was as passionate as any man who is in constant spiritual and emotional pain can be. He charged at her, demanding, cajoling. He poured over her astrological chart and advised her. He told her what was meant to be. He, of course, was what was meant to be. She didn’t buy it. Artistic freedom was her reward for a difficult and stultifying marriage. He sometimes raged and she would send him away.
One night, when she’d sent him away, he’d lost his keys. In a drunken frenzy to escape her rejection he broke a window to get into his apartment. She shudders a little when one of the speakers, a roommate of his at the time, recounts his arrival home that same evening. Assessing the locked front door, the broken window, he laughs about calling the cops only to find his friend passed out in the apartment, snoring like a distempered bull.
Their commonality was their fathers. Defeated men, artists in a world that never understood them. He was both embarrassed and angered by his father. She knew that feeling very well. Never, he told her, had he ever felt anything but a freak, a stranger on the planet. Among his schoolmates he stood out for his Asian features. He committed a lifetime to exploiting that difference. He sharpened a rapier wit on their inadequacies. He was smarter than all of them. Of that, there was no doubt.
He married another when she finally, categorically refused his advances. Too much pain, she told him. Too much anger. They would drink each other dry.
He’d had a son, now her friend, who is wise beyond his years. She watches as he sits, silent and attentive to each speaker who reveals no secrets of his father’s life. The marriage foundered on the rocks of her friend’s despair at being misunderstood, of another hoped for protégée fleeing the force of his passion. When his son was still a little boy, his wife divorced him as acrimoniously as was humanly possible.
She leans closer to her husband. He takes her hand, squeezing it in recognition. The speeches fade in and out.
They reconnected when his son, still young, was tall enough to ride the Pirate Ship at Coney Island. She was completely taken with the boy. He knew she was set against a second marriage, as she was quite capable in her independence and her art. When she wasn’t looking he remapped the playing field and offered her a marriage of true minds. They would have an intellectual relationship based on vast amounts of freedom within the marriage, a kind of Bloomsbury marriage of the minds. He knew she didn’t want children of her own, and though he said he agreed, eventually he resorted to the poetic pressure at which he excelled.
He wanted to marry immediately and she insisted on a year. She wanted to go through four seasons with him. He told her he had stopped drinking. She needed more assurance. She spent time with his mother going to museums. His father roamed like a specter through his broken dreams. She looked forward to being a stepmother.
Within months of their announcement he bridled and threw off the constraints of sobriety. She broke the engagement.
“Are you alright?” her husband asks. The last speaker has retired to polite applause. The sister remains quiet and observant. Her physical appearance more proof of the family line. Her brow is creased with sorrow. A young woman with a softly rounded face and the features that guarantee her uncle will not be forgotten trembles at her mother’s side. She begins to speak. Her lower lip quivers as she stumbles over her gratitude to those assembled.
When, many years later, she’d told him she was going to marry again, her old friend went to great lengths to dissuade her. He told her finally that he had done everything he could to have the Universe inform him that the marriage was absolutely wrong. He’d read their astrological charts, consulted the Tarot and threw the I Ching. The answers never varied. Her marriage was destined to last. They were marrying in the most difficult of their respective phases and would be challenged on every level, but if they came through it, and he was sure they would, it would be a lasting marriage.
They remained friends. She felt he was distancing himself for the past few years but still he responded when she contacted him. When she saw him on his infrequent visits to New York and she accompanied him on a shopping mission, she found it difficult to witness his extravagance in courting some young woman or another with expensive gifts. It was a bittersweet recognition—knowing how financially strapped he was—of the same kinds of gifts he’d made to her a long time ago.
Coats and bags are retrieved. Guests slip away. His son’s wife keeps a wary eye on their little girl, trying to make sense of all these strangers.
His sister tells her before leaving that her brother’s ashes were scattered upon the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s funny, isn’t it, that the marathon is today, she remarks to her husband. She looks over at her old friend's son who poses for photographs with his father’s friends. She waits for an opening to take her leave. “What about it?” her husband asks. “Oh, you know. The irony, if that makes sense. He wasn’t a runner. Really, the opposite.” She tells him he jogged her life on so many levels—art, culture, literature and politics. He jogged her way of seeing, of feeling and of learning. It’s kind of fitting, she adds, that his memorial should be here in Manhattan on the day of the marathon. Her husband touches her shoulder imperceptibly. “He walked and walked and walked these streets in search of stories,” she sighs.
“Come,” she says to her husband. “He’s free.” She starts for her friends son—her friend—and suddenly remembers an e-mail she received from his father. “Well, I am a grandfather,” he wrote. “She was born on my birthday. I am elated.” She steps carefully around the squirrely two-year-old bundle of blonde energy embracing her father’s legs who stares up at her with a familiar scrutiny. She holds the child’s gaze. He had found his astrological twin after all.

MARATHON MAN is an original short story by Linda Danz.
STORIES ON THE AMERICAN FRIEND Writers Guild of America, East #R28299
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business organizations, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The use of names of actual persons, places, and events is incidental to the plot, and is not intended to change the entirely fictional character of the work. © NOVEMBER 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

God gave Noah the Rainbow sign, don't you see?
God gave Noah the Rainbow sign, no more water but fire next time.

Traditional Gospel song


James Baldwin was a famously angry writer, a famously angry self-described American Negro writer who once said, “I'm angrier now than I was when I was called an angry young man.” His writing took over my consciousness when I was a young woman trying to find her way from her father’s defeated Conservatism, his inability to see that what suffocated him as a so-called lower class White man was a roaring, insatiable monster that devoured Black men in this country. I watched as my father’s anger was further diluted and misdirected with alcohol and the lies of men in office like Richard Nixon. I needed to find anger, to understand it. As always, I turned to the writers.

This morning, at Riverside Church for the New York City memorial for Troy Anthony Davis who was executed by the State of Georgia on September 21st 2011, I, as a much, much older woman, was looking for that anger all over again.

Now, the Mister and I are not the slogan-emblazoned T-shirt wearing type. Maybe because I am always trying hard not to draw attention to myself because I write stories and I can better hear another’s story when they are not focused on me. I attend demonstrations with my camera and notebook, and try to find those photographs that aren’t intrusive yet still tell the story. I want to listen. I want to see. The Mister is a Brit so his reluctance is self-explanatory. But today we put on the t-shirt. On a field of Black, the white type stated: we will not be silent.

Within moments of arriving at Riverside Church, which is on the upper Westside of Manhattan just above Columbia University, a gentleman, an African American man, approached. “Hey, I love your shirts!” We told him we got them at the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstration we had been to the day before. His name was Clarence. It was early and the South Hall where the memorial was to be held was still filling up. Immediately we three launched into a spirited take on current events and the obvious issue of the death penalty, like old friends and not three people who only ten minutes before were strangers. Of course we talked about the dismal state of journalism, and Clarence referenced the New York Times: “A bunch of overpaid stenographers,” he chortled. He was less delicate about his feeling for our president. Clarence won’t be wearing a spangled t-shirt any time soon. His eyes grew brighter when he spotted someone he called ‘a hero.’ Democratic State Senator Bill Perkins from Harlem shook Clarence’s hand warmly, they spoke awhile and the senator promised to catch up with Clarence afterward. Clarence told us that Senator Perkins was one of the reasons we did not have a death penalty in New York State, something for which I am deeply grateful.

Lee Wengraf, from the Campaign To End the Death Penalty began the program. I met Lee some time ago when I was attending the NYC chapter of CEDP’s book club. I learned a lot in that time, eager to read books about the men and women facing this heinous institution, the truth about the prison industrial complex and its stranglehold on justice in this country. I met those who have been exonerated from death row, and heard them talk about their experience. I witnessed their continuing support to end capital punishment. Through one route or another I came to the struggle of a certain Robert Will on Texas Death Row. I volunteered to type his handwritten updates from the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. I sent him the books he requested. Soon we were writing more personal letters to each other about books and art and music and about day-to-day life in New York for The Mister and me. It was good to see Lee again today. When I told her about my connection with Rob she said, “That is a very important case.”

I started to write that this isn’t meant to be about Rob, it’s about Troy. But it is about Rob. It’s so certainly about Rob that I feel Troy Anthony Davis would agree with me.

I listened to the speakers in South Hall, each following the other, adhering to the time limit imposed for the brief hour that the hall was available. Lee read a statement from Martina Correia, Troy Davis’s sister and his unflagging support. We heard a representative from the Campaign To End the New Jim Crow tell us, “We have to take responsibility for where our country is going.” Reverend Phelps, senior minister at Riverside Church, stated baldly that “…a great evil has been committed in this nation.” The core message of a faith that animated him is that we have no fear of death. Why then he asked, do we think killing is the worst thing we can do to a person? And then he asked the question: “Haven’t we been here before?”

The audience murmured their assent. Yes, yes, and yes.

Yusef Salaam, who in 1989 was one of a group of young men falsely accused and wrongly jailed for a crime that is so famous it needs no retelling. I remember it as if it was yesterday. I can’t imagine how a man like Yusef Salaam can ever forget it, put it behind him. But when I have heard him speak before and when I listened again this morning I had an inkling of that in his poise, his grace, his well-spoken demeanor. “Are we just another painting,” he asked, “or are we a masterpiece?”

One after another, each speaker rose to impart something meaningful, something personal. How in the African tradition, the loved one is honored as an ancestor but we must also pick up their struggle and fight their fight. We heard that we can crush the system that buried Troy Anthony Davis.

But I didn’t hear anger until a young woman rose to the lectern. Asia Dorsey is student and organizer at NYU. She wobbled a bit in her delivery, so clearly was she moved. But the anger was there. “Mr. President,” she demanded, “One of ours was murdered. We have been hurt!” And then she said the words that have been on the minds of so many of us: “Mr. President, where were you?” People around us quietly repeated: “Again. Say it again.” Later The Mister suggested there needed to be more from her, but, like the other speakers, her time was limited. “It is not okay to kill somebody,” she continued in a less wavering voice. And she left us with the admonition that a generation has been galvanized, something we witnessed the day before at Liberty Square, beneath the ever rising Freedom Tower at Ground Zero.

The singer, songwriter Karen Taylor delivered a beautiful and moving rendition of “Motherless Child.” During her performance hammering came from somewhere, an insistent tapping sound that I wanted to imagine was Troy letting us know he was listening.

Kenyon Farrow from the Center For Gay and Lesbian Studies told us that to come to accept being black and innocent is an oxymoron on the planet in which we live. His remarks in full can be found here.

A young woman representing the New York chapter of Amnesty International said, through tears, that though she had thought long and hard about what she was going to say today, it wasn’t until the train ride to the church that she found the words, the beautiful words that said she had never met a woman who walks more like a warrior in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth than Troy’s sister Martina.

A man named Jazz, a long time activist said, “You can’t unring a bell.” He told us we have to address this question of mass incarceration that turns our communities into open-air prisons. “I am Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis. This is our battle cry going forward.”

I thought of my father, beaten by the system in which he had put so much blind faith. I am still his daughter. I thought of my friend Rob Will who sits on Texas Death Row, unbeaten and fighting every moment of his existence to prove his innocence. I am still his friend. I left Troy Davis’s memorial with these parting words: “You cannot unring a bell. But you can stop it from being rung again.”

One of the speakers today was Brian Jones. He is an actor, activist and teacher. When once given the opportunity to speak with Troy on the telephone his initial reaction was: “What do you say to a man in a cage?”

We say: “We will not be silent.”

Please go to these links to learn more about Robert G. Will. You won’t be disappointed and may even become a supporter: