Report from the CEDP's 13th Annual Convention

By: Lily Hughes
Friday, December 13, 2013

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty's convention and the 14th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty took place over the weekend of Nov. 1-3. It was a great weekend filled with touching moments, serious discussions and inspiring actions!

The  “I Am Troy Davis”  Book Launch Event

On Friday November the CEDP co-sponsored an I Am Troy Davis Book Launch, with Haymarket Books, at the University of Texas. This new book recounts the life and execution of Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis. The book tells the story of one families struggle to save the life of their loved one against all odds. Other sponsors included Amnesty International- UT chapter, International Socialist Organization, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the English Department at the University of Texas 

We were so honored to have De'Jaun Davis-Correia speak! De'Jaun is Troy's nepehew and Martina Correia's son. It also featured former California Death Row prisoner Shujaa Graham and former Illinois juvenile life without parole prisoner Mark Clements. One of the highlights of the program was when we played a recording of Martina speaking to the CEDP convention via phone just before her death in 2011. After the recording De'Jaun talked about sitting in the room with his mom while she spoke to us and making funny faces at her. It was a tender moment that was truly touching.

Saturday's Convention Program 

In the morning, there was an excellent panel of family members, former prisoners and activists  - the highlight was Timothy McKinney who was recently released from death row in Tennessee. This was his first time to speak publicly and his first physical contact with many of the family members and former prisoners that have worked with the CEDP for years. His words were very moving and inspiring, bringing many folks to tears. 

Also on this panel was Airicka Gordon-Taylor, cousin of Emmett Till and director of the Mamie Till Mobley Foundation, who was attending our convention for the first time. Tim and Airicka were joined by Sandra Reed, mother of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed, Barbara Lewis, mother of former Delaware death row prisoner Robert Gattis (now commuted to life without parole) and Jack Bryson, whose son's were on the platform the night Oscar Grant was killed by BART police in Oakland, CA. Delia Perez Meyer, sister of Louis Castro Perez, and Liliana Segura, a journalist and advocate for Timothy McKinney. 

That afternoon, CEDP folks once again participated in the Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in downtown Austin, TX.  About 200 people marched and heard from some fantastic speakers. Featured guests at the March were the group of former prisoners with the Witness to Innocence who caravaned around the country speaking before joining us in Austin. As is the case every year, there were groups of new prisoner's families that participated and made links with the abolition groups present.

Evening Welcome Home Celebration for Tim McKinney

There was a welcome home party for Timothy McKinney immediately following the March - this was perhaps the most well attended event beyond the march! There was an informal speaking program at the party and lots of free food - as well as a cake for Tim. Tim sold a good amount of his artwork over the weekend and at the party we passed the hat and raised money for Tim - with the Kids Against the Death Penalty making an impromptu contribution of $100! 

Convention on Sunday

On Sunday, CEDP members gathered for a morning meeting to discuss the challenges facing our group, discuss strategies for the coming year and elect our Board of Directors.

One of the main challenges we discussed was the lack of active CEDP chapters that we once had. This has the case over the last few years and we have strived to figure out what it means for the future of or organization. Despite a lack of chapters, our members around the country are engaged in all kinds of activity, both around cases we have traditionally worked on such as Kevin Cooper's case in California, but also in fighting against "the new Jim Crow" – both as CEDP members and as parts of new formations fighting against police brutality, against racism and for prisoners rights. 

We discussed the importance of the work we have done through our website and in particular the blogs we hosted:  our California blog that took up debates about abolition and life without parole that centered around Prop 34 in California and the Justice for Rodney Reed blog we hosted by our dearly departed friend Caitlin Adams. Through written contributions from prisoners and CEDP activists we have been able to project our voice on a number of issues with our newsletter, The New Abolitionist, as well as over our list serve and on our website.

Despite the smallness of the event overall - 40 people registered for the weekend convention - it was an important for continuing to maintain the relationships between the family members, former prisoners and activists that make our CEDP "family" and reaffirming our commitment to a number of cases we are working on around the country.

CEDP Board of Directors and Initiatives

The slate for the Board of Directors going into convention was proposed to stay the same as our previous year. However, Barbara Lewis was nominated from the floor during discussion of the board vote. Her nomination was unanimously approved. 

The CEDP board for the coming year is: Crystal Bybee, Mark Clements, Pat Aties (previously Foley), Lawrence Hayes, Lily Hughes, Sandy Jones, Yusef Salaam, Liliana Segura, Delia Perez Meyer, Jack Bryson, and Barbara Lewis.

The members of the convention present also voted to amend our bylaws to take out references specifically to chapter members and convention delegates. Thus, all members present at the convention were able to vote on proposals made on the floor.  

While we didn't vote on any specific national initiatives, we discussed starting much earlier to plan our convention next year, with the idea of involving more of the allies we are working with and bringing more folks in from the public.