The Campaign's Next Convention

By: Marlene Martin

Members of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty are looking forward to our second annual convention on November 9-10 in Chicago.

The convention weekend will be full of interesting presentations and discussions, as Campaign members and others take a look at our movement and how best to build it in the upcoming year.

We’ve decided to focus this year on the question of racism--and its impact on the death penalty and the criminal justice system as a whole.

To help lead this discussion, we’ve invited as our keynote speaker Stephen Bright, the director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and one of the best-known capital defense lawyers in the U.S. He will speak at a plenary session on the topic of "Race, Class and the Death Penalty."

Another planned panel discussion is titled "The Face of Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System." The speakers will include: Fred Wilkerson, a freed member of the Angola Three who spent 29 years in solitary confinement; Shujaa Graham, an exonerated death row prisoner from California; Angel Rodríguez, a member of Comite Exigimos Justicia who spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (invited); and a member of the Death Row 10 calling in via speakerphone from death row in Illinois.

Other convention highlights include meetings on "Legal Lynching: Then and Now," "Why Reforms Can Never Fix the Death Penalty," and "Organizing From the Inside Out: Making a Connection to Death Row." Plus, we’ll have a Saturday night Jam for Justice, including hip hop, dancing, poetry, and remarks from former death row inmates, family members, and others.

Save the date -- November 9-10 -- now! To register or for more information, call the Campaign at 773-955-4841. Or visit our Web site at

"When I traveled to Chicago for the first convention sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty last year, I had no idea what to expect. I can say that whatever expectations I had, the group by far exceeded them. The rally I attended was amazing. In particular, it was wonderful to see such impassioned--all volunteers--individuals working so hard to bring about change in the death penalty.

"Perhaps it was the last day of the conference that was the most gripping for me. Residents of death row actually called into the Campaign convention via speakerphone. Having spent two decades on death row in Texas, hearing their voices was quite chilling for me.

"All in all, I had a wonderful experience and hope that I am invited back again."

-- Kerry Max Cook, who spent more than 20 years on Texas’ death row before he was exonerated and freed