I've been told that nobody cares about prisoners, that trying to reform the System is like pushing sh*t up a hill with a pointy stick. Well, with an average of 4 friends and family members per each of our 2 1/2 million prisoners, I know that a lot of people DO care. I reckon I'll just keep pushing that poop because it's good for my soul.
So, August 13th, 2005 will find me standing in the hot DC sun. I will be wearing black to mourn the loss of Justice and The Spirit of Human Decency in the USA. The nation's capitol will be under my watchful gaze as I visualize peaceful reform. Why?
Because I know much of the truth, enough to know it would be shameful, indeed impossible, for me as an American dedicated to justice, as a human being dedicated to the spirit, as a grandmother whose babies could be sucked into the horrible existence of a prisoner or his keeper, to comfortably sit in my home with a clear conscience.
I go there because non-violent people like Mr. Gary Brooks Waid, traded by the Feds like a slave on an auction block, had to live in Florida's miserable, disgusting excuse for a state "Correctional" system. I've dealt with the bureaucratic apathy in Florida and I've seen it mirrored in police stations, courtrooms, prisons and jails all over this country.
I go for all inmates who have experienced things I pray I will never witness, and I go for the prison workers, many of them barely past childhood, who have in their hands the responsibility of keeping the nation's prisoners in an environment that breeds cruelty and corruption. I weep for the damage we do.
I'll be there because of the Murder by Errant Guards of Mr. Frank Valdes (July 17th, 1999). I want the memory of the horror of Mr. Valdes' autopsy report to remain in the mind of the public and for them to remember that the murderers in uniform never owned their crime.
I stand now because cruelty and lack of justice has happened in nearly every prison in every state in this union. I go there to remind the families that it could happen to their loved ones if change isn't imminent, and to urge the public to get involved in restoring dignity, professionalism and responsibility to those offices, agencies, and individuals who represent The Law..
Because Mr. Valdes' death began my prison vigils, and his death is the reason for the Making The Walls Transparent project (www.angelfire.com/fl3/starke), his death has become an intricate part of my personal Journey for Justice. If Mr. Valdes' death has a hand in the emergence of the truth, then his life was not in vain.
I'll be there simply because it's the right thing to do...
Two And A Half Million Families, Too Little Resistance
As August 13th, the day for the prison reform march in Washington DC draws nigh (details at www.journeyforjustice.org), I am sensing the age old desire to retreat from the struggle in fear. Many of those who know there is a reason to be in Lafayette Park are getting weak knees, making excuses, not trying their best to be there. Believe me, I know enough about the system to understand the emotion. I feel it too, but I've learned to control it so that it does not immobilize me.
You cannot win a war for justice if you go into battle for truth waving the flag of surrender. If you retreat the minute the enemy turns it's ugly head in your direction, it is almost worse than if you had never stood at all. It gives those who minister to the lies a sense of security that is dangerous to those things your common sense should tell you to care about; for our nation is being judged by the world by how we treat others as well as our own.
Every false start will only make the real start harder. The boy who cried wolf wasn't believed when it was the real thing. The suicide who threatens to take his life isn't believed until he is dead. The guards, the prison officials, the DOC nor BOP, none of them are going to believe the real battle has begun when we've threatened to do battle for prison reform, have every reason to do battle for the human rights and rehabilitation of prisoners, but back off when the front line reaches them. Then when the abuse has gone too far and we HAVE to make the stand, our struggle might have to be done without even a pointy stick to aid our efforts.
The attitude of fear pervading this prison situation reminds me of Winston Churchill's statement:
"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; If you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; You may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may be even a worse fate:
You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."
As one of the Florida inmates, Stuart Pomerantz, agreed, "Procrastination is my enemy!" We've already made it harder by waiting so long. How much longer are we willing to wait? An inmate's fair question, "How much worse does it have to get before it's time?" must be answered.
Lafayette Park, Washington DC, August 13th, 2005
New laws (Patriot Act and others) will double or TRIPLE the amount of people in America's prisons. You may do what you want, run or hide if you want, but I hope you will stand with me. We must refuse to lose the ground we've worked so hard to take. This madness must be stopped and the time is now!
I am part of a peaceful stand, as I'm sure most of you are. But peaceful does NOT mean weak, apathetic, cowardly, meek, or bending to threats, lies, and intimidation. Peaceful means to resist with everything inside you what you know is wrong.
Now hand me another pointy stick.
I will be praying for the courage that I know resides in all of you.
With great faith in the power of truth, and in you.