Last month, my beloved great Aunt passed away after battling illness with the same kind of spirit she took on to address the challenges in her life applying tenacity, courage and a good sense of humor. I had the honor and privilege of writing her obituary. It was a time of healing, reflection and contemplation. Memories, pictures and inquiries with family and friends helped me move through a century of American history to offer a vibrant narrative on her struggle and strength in living out a meaningful life.
Remarkably, my Aunt was a leader in our family and community. She was a critical thinker, agitator, strategist and organizer who kept a close view of the world and hand in our lives encouraging resiliency, progress and love.
As a young woman, she and my maternal family escaped the threat of harm by moving from a small South Carolina town on the boarder of Georgia to New York City. During the 1940s many black families were making the same travel plans because Jim Crow left many realizing that flight was a better response to their fears than a fight because so much blood had already been spilled. I believe as her eulogist suggested that untold horrific stories of her encounters with discrimination and racism moved my Aunt to work after work and family responsibilities in the civil rights movement. She taught me lessons about what it means “walk humbly, love mercy and do justice” in a world that doesn’t seem to favor the empowerment of people of color. In her eyes doing justice involved working actively in the community and beyond for the sake of humanity.
While the legislation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation there was still work to be done for progress. For example, prior to 1964 it was illegal for people of color to go to a hospital to receive medical care anywhere in the United States, very few places had colored hospitals. Many organizations continue the push for justice in education, employment, housing, health care as well take on the criminal justice system for the well-being of our society. Since 1909, the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) has been pivotal in leading the way by addressing injustice. Today, the aim is to bring an end to the death penalty in the United States, you can join this cause at http://action.naacp.org/EndTheDP
“When in Gregg v. Georgia the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to capital punishment, this endorsement was premised on the promise that capital punishment would be administered with fairness and justice. Instead, the promise has become a cruel and empty mockery. If not remedied, the scandalous state of our present system of capital punishment will cast a pall of shame over our society for years to come. We cannot let it continue.”
—United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1990
I’ve come to understand professionally that lethal injections are not good medicine. According to the Innocence Project, “seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row.” I agree with the National Urban League statement “disparities and problems cast a long shadow of doubt over our criminal justice system.”
The state of Georgia shamefully executed Troy Davis on September 21, 2011 despite serious doubts about his guilt. But our fight to abolish the death penalty lives on.”
In fifteen minutes, execution by lethal injection ended the life of Troy Davis with too much doubt.