Voices of the Campaign convention

We CAN end the death penalty!

About 140 activists from across the country came together in Chicago on November 13-14 for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty's fourth national convention. The weekend was an exchange of ideas and beliefs--about the capital punishment system, the struggles of the past, our movement against the death penalty and how our organization can contribute to abolishing executions.

At the dozen or so plenary and workshop sessions, we heard from special guest speakers, former death row prisoners and family members of those on death row, as well as Campaign members from around the country. Here are the speeches of some of the convention's keynote speakers -- to further discussion of the struggle we face and our determination to carry on until we end the death penalty, once and for all.

Kevin Cooper: Live from San Quentin's Death Row
I am living proof that activism does work. We cannot get discouraged. We cannot give up. I will not give up.

Barbara Ransby: Linking to other struggles for justice
I’ve been asked to make some connections between what often is termed the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s and the struggles for social justice today, particularly the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Madison Hobley: Even now I'm very angry inside
I've been free for a little over a year and a half, and I'm still trying to adjust. It's taken longer than I thought. Even today, I'm still very angry inside.

Monique Matthews: The justice system failed my family
I stand before you today as Ryan's voice and America's conscience. I am here to reflect a very powerful message.

Shujaa Graham: We have to become organized
For 15 years of my life, I lived under the threat of death. People told me that I was a nobody, I was a hate-monger, and I was an extremist.

Billy Moore: People in prison can change
I am guilty. I committed a crime. I was in the service, I was in the army, and I felt that I needed to get away from my neighborhood because it was nothing but trouble. I was getting in trouble.

Phyllis Prentice: We who believe in freedom
"Ella's Song," sung by Phyllis, was created by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Bernice Johnson Reagon was one of the original freedom singers in the civil rights movement, and these are the words of Ella Baker that they put to music.

Convention decisions

Campaign members returned home from the convention inspired--and armed with some new ideas for our work ahead. The weekend gave a sense of our organization going forward--blending the new and the old together. And once again, the convention provided a place for all of us to come together and discuss and debate the state of our movement and our organization. Convention delegates voted on several resolutions and matters of business:

After much discussion throughout the weekend, during which alternative proposals were considered, delegates passed the following resolution: "The CEDP does not advocate life without the possibility of parole sentences as an alternative to the death penalty."

Chapters will highlight the issue of juvenile executions by holding a meeting, panel discussion or action to draw attention to the pending Supreme Court decision on whether it is constitutional to put juvenile offenders to death.

The CEDP will organize a national speaking tour over the next two years to include former death row prisoners, family members, activists and others to expose the injustices of the system.

A finance committee was formed to help raise funds for the CEDP and put us on better financial footing. The committee will have some board representatives, but will also be expanded to include others outside the board and outside Illinois. We also set a goal of raising our monthly donor contributions to 100 by next year’s convention.

Those voted to be on this year’s board of directors include: Madison Hobley, Greta Holmes, Alice Kim, Marlene Martin, Joe Moreno, and Joan Parkin.