Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Dream Team

I've been dreaming about last night's panel presentation since I came to Tennessee. Leading off, Hector Black, with his powerful story of forgiveness and compassion as he rose above hatred and vengeance toward healing after the murder of his daughter Patricia in 2001. After Hector, Joyce House, the mother of Paul House, who has been on death row for 20 years and is innocent. Even the Supreme Court says so, but the state of Tennessee doesn't want to admit it's own deadly mistake. And then I got to talk. I mean what an act to follow. I have no amazing personal stories to tell. But I can at least put the stories in context. No, Paul House isn't the only innocent person sentenced to death; sadly, there have been a lot like him. No, Hector isn't the only family member of a murder victim to turn away from revenge; there are whole organizations made up of people like Hector. No, all those other lies about the death penalty, that it saves money, deters crime, is fair, etc, aren't true either.

Hector, Joyce, and I spoke at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Crossville last night to a small but incredibly appreciative audience. They didn't all come in that way. The Social Justice coordinator at the church told us before the talk that people didn't want to deal with the death penalty. But stories like Hector's and Joyce's have a way of changing people's minds. After we all finished talking, three different audience members announced publicly that we had turned them around on the death penalty.

This is a panel that I'm hoping to have speak in many more venues. Hector and Joyce break down the two pillars of support for capital punishment: that it brings healing to the families of murder victims, and that it is just. Hearing a man whose daughter was murdered speak about the power of forgiveness is a rare and beautiful experience. And seeing Joyce House stand up ("I'm not a speaker, I'm a mother," she declares) and talk about her innocent son confined to a wheel chair on Tennessee's death row, has power. Enough power to shine a clear light through the murkiness of the lies we're told in support of capital punishment. On the headstone of Patricia's grave on Hector's farm the following words are written: "All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle." These two people are the truths that will shine through the darkness of our state's continued pursuit of vengeance in all of our names.
Comments :
Oh, how I wish I could have been there. I have so much respect for both Hector and Joyce -- and I've never heard Joyce tell her story in front of an audience. But the Nashville TCASK Chapter had a great meeting last night! Ten of our regulars showed up to catalog the resources we have available and the ones we need that we currently lack -- an internal assessment in preparation for next month's strategic planning session.
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