Commemorating a decade of struggle

Highlights from the CEDP's convention

The recent CEDP convention, held on November 12-14, marked the tenth for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, each of them held annually in Chicago. The scope and breath of our work was felt from the very opening panel event Friday night featuring the cases of four innocent Black men on death row to the Sunday morning chapter presentations that delved into our local work.

One precious moment occurred when 87-year-old Lawrence Foster spoke of his grandson, Kenneth Foster Jr., getting off Texas death row in 2007. “If it wasn’t for this organization, my grandson would not be alive,” he said, and everyone applauded.

Nearly 90 people registered—a few people in attendance had been to each and every convention, and others were coming for the first time.

Featured speakers included activist and author Alan Bean, who gave an excellent keynote address on, “Challenging Jim Crow Justice”; Alicia McWilliams, the aunt of David Williams of the Newburgh 4 case of FBI entrapment in New York; Lawrence Foster, whose grandson of Kenneth Foster Jr. was saved from execution in 2007; Jack Bryson, a leading activist in the Oscar Grant fight in California; Lawrence Hayes, a former death row prisoner from New York; Sandra Reed, the mother of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed; Alan Newton, who won his freedom in 2006 thanks to DNA exoneration after 21 years in prison; Marvin Reeves and Mark Clements, both newly freed police torture victims in Chicago; Barbara Lewis, whose son is on death row in Delaware; Natalie Skinner, whose father is on death row; Joseph Hayden, a former prisoner, who was active around the Attica uprising; Darby Tillis, an exonerated death row prisoner; and family member Erica Estrada.

The two-day event was filled with emotion, passion and determination to fight even harder for justice in the coming year.

Especially moving was our Saturday night event that paid tribute to the work of the Campaign over the years. After sitting down with some good food, people took turns giving short personal tributes about their work in the Campaign. Tears, laughter and good music from Darby Tillis made for a special and proud way to mark our tenth year.

National initiatives

Delegates at convention 2010 voted in favor of four national initiatives for the coming year:

SPEAKING TOUR: Launch a national speaking tour for 2011-12, theme to be decided.

PAMPHLET: Create a pamphlet highlighting the cases of four innocent men on death row: Troy Davis, Mumia, Rodney Reed and Kevin Cooper. These pamphlets would be available for chapters to sell. The goal would be for every chapter to also commit to holding a meeting during the year with the “Four Innocent Men” theme.

NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR THE “NEWBURGH 4”: A day of activities to inform the public about FBI entrapment in this New York case and preemptive prosecution, and to express our solidarity with the defendants and their families in their struggle for justice.

Tabled to the board was an initiative to promote the case of Barbara Lewis’ son, Robert, who is on death row in Delaware. It was agreed to work with Barbara and Sandy who will begin to work on this locally first.

CHALLENGE LETHAL INJECTION DRUG: A committee will be formed to produce a statement on behalf of the CEDP related to the drugs used in the lethal injection process. One of the drugs, thiopental, is in short supply, and the manufacturer Hospira stated that it does not condone the drug being used in executions. The committee would produce a fact sheet and press statement urging Hospira to stop sales to prisons and/or to stop manufacturing the drug.

BOARD ELECTION:  Delegates elected these board members for the coming year: Crystal Bybee, Mark Clements, Martina Correia, Pat Foley, Lawrence Hayes, Lily Hughes, Sandy Jones, Marlene Martin, Derrel Myers, Yusef Salaam, Jeannine Scott, Liliana Segura, and Lee Wengraf. Sandra Reed and Darby Tillis are both honorary board members.