Mother, friend, abolitionist

A tribute to Costella Cannon


By: Alice Kim

We were so sad to learn that Costella Cannon passed away on June 21 from cancer. Costella was a tireless fighter for abolition who was an inspiration to all of us in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Her son, Frank Bounds, who was unjustly convicted and sentenced to death, died of medical neglect on Illinois' death row years ago. But Costella continued to fight to clear Frank's name and sought justice for all her "sons and daughters on death row."

"The reason for all my zeal and all my energy is because of Frank," she once said. "Every time I march, I'm marching for Frank Bounds and what he stood for. And I'll keep fighting until we can be sure there are no innocent men on death row. The fight has really just begun."

In July, the Campaign, along with the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Amnesty International, held a tribute to Costella Cannon at which many of us shared the impact that Costella had on our lives personally and recognized the amazing contributions she had made to the abolitionist movement.

Costella spoke out about the injustices of the death penalty at rallies, press conferences and other forums all over the country. And when she spoke, her booming voice captured the attention of everyone in the audience. Oftentimes Costella would bring the crowd to their feet. She spoke from the heart, and she spoke about what was right and what was wrong. Costella always had the courage to stand up for justice. She inspired a sense of confidence in our movement that will not be forgotten. Her life is a testament to struggle. We will remember Costella as a fighter, a dear friend and a source of inspiration to our movement. She will be missed.

"We were blessed to have known and loved this beautiful spirited lady, Ms. Costella Cannon, whose heart was as big as the steps she took against this racist penal system. Ms. Cannon has given many of us strength, leadership and guidance to stand tall even when it seems as though there's nothing left to stand on. Her courage alone has made many people take notice, and we, her adopted family from death row, heard her roar. Let's remember Ms. Costella Cannon for the way she gave us joy; for the way she fought against this racist death penalty,for the way she spoke to the masses. She was a star in our midst. When we look to heaven, let us remember our star, Ms. Costella Cannon."
--Ronnie Kitchen, member of the Death Row 10