Why I am a monthly sustainer

By: Jack Bryson, interviewed by Sandy Jones

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) stays afloat financially through our monthly sustainer program.

This program makes it easy for everyone to be a part of the fight to abolish the death penalty, no matter where you are or how limited your time is. To join, contact Lily Hughes at lily@nodeathpenalty.org ordownload the form to mail in. You can donate as little as $5 a month, or more if you are able.

Every donation is appreciated so much and every penny is used to change the criminal justice system. To all of those who already sustain, we thank each and every one of you for helping the CEDP do what it does every day.

CEDP board member Sandy Jones interviewed California activist, Jack Bryson, about why he is a monthly sustainer. Jack’s two sons were on the platform with Oscar Grant the night he was murdered by Bay Area Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Years Day 2009.

Following the murder, thousands of people took to the streets to express outrage and demand that Mehserle be put in prison. Along with the rest of Oscar’s family, Jack was at the forefront of that movement and has remained a committed activist against police brutality and racism. He works with families whose loved ones have been victims of police violence, has visited Kevin Cooper on California’s death row, and is a tireless fighter for justice.

How did you get involved with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty?

I got involved because when Oscar Grant was murdered. I went to town hall meetings, I went to events, and I met Pat Foley and Cameron Sturdevant and Dana Blanchard and Crystal Bybee. They were helping me organize and being supportive of me. Slowly, they began to tell me about the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and they invited me to one of their events to speak about Oscar.

I have loved it ever since. I got to meet people all over the United States who were either victims or activists and they all came together and they were organizing. They asked me to go to the annual convention in Chicago to speak about Oscar Grant. I met a lot of good people there and I felt like I belonged.

Why do you think grassroots organizations like the CEDP are so important?

They are important because they are the voices for those who don’t have voices—of those who can’t defend themselves because they are locked up or because they have been killed by police officers.

Support for the death penalty is declining, and it seems that it’s on the way out. What other issues involving the criminal justice system are important for us to also focus on?

I think we should focus on the issue of police brutality. I also think we should be fighting for the men and women who were locked up on drug charges, due to the war on drugs, at the federal level. We should be fighting the DAs when people are locked up due to prosecutorial misconduct or due to police corruption.

Why is it important for you to give financially to the CEDP?

I believe that it is important for me to give financially to the CEDP because someone has to fund the fight against the system. When I give to the CEDP, I feel like I am contributing to a cause for a fight that is right. I don’t have to second-guess where my money is going.

You got involved in the fight for justice through organizing around Oscar Grant’s case. In some ways, police shootings are another form of the death penalty. Can you talk a little about that?

When the police shoot someone, and they find out the person had a record, they slander the individual’s character. It is like the police are playing the judge, the jury, and the executioner all at once.

You’ve gone to the Campaign to End the Death Penalty convention several years now. What is so special about that event?

The convention is something that I look forward to every year, when I am able to get around many activists who are fighting for different causes, yet come together around the issue of the death penalty.

Why is it important for folks to donate to the Costella Cannon fund for family member travel to the convention?

So we can build a movement that allows the family members who suffer at the hands of the system to play a central role in our organizing. These families often lack the funding needed to participate, so it is important that we pool our resources together to make sure their voices are heard.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to give a special thanks to Marlene, Pat, Crystal, Randi, Lily, Sandy and everyone else with the CEDP because they played a role in the Oscar Grant movement, and I’ll never forget that. They also helped to groom me into the activist that I am today. It was the CEDP that brought me to Chicago when Oscar was first murdered so that other activists in states across the country could become more aware and more involved in fighting for Oscar. I will be forever grateful to the CEDP.