Friday, September 16, 2011

We are Troy Davis

On September 21, 2011, an innocent man could die. That is the execution date that the state of Georgia has set for Troy Anthony Davis. In 1989, Davis was convicted of murdering a white police officer named Mark Allen MacPhail. An off-duty cop, MacPhail was working as a security guard outside of a Burger King, when he was shot multiple times.

Nine people originally stated that they witnessed Davis shoot Macphail but, today, seven witnesses have recanted their testimony. Several now assert they were coerced by local law enforcement. One witness who worked at the Burger King states he cannot read, but was forced to sign a written confession. In addition, there is not one shred of physical evidence--such as a gun--which connects Davis to the crime.

His case has gained international support and calls for clemency from such well-known figures as former United States President Jimmy Carter, anti-apartheid leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and many more. This is Troy Davis' fourth execution date. Each time the international outcry has been so great that the state of Georgia has issued a stay of execution. This time, however, the Supreme Court has refused to hear his case.

The racist nature of the criminal justice system is hardly a revelation to most black people in America. While Nelson Mandela is now arguably the most celebrated ex-political prisoner in the world, the late Black Panther Party member Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt never experienced such reputation reversal, after spending twenty-seven years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Better yet, maybe someone should ask Sean Bell's young New York widow and fatherless daughters what justice means to them. There are so many examples of the horrors black people have experienced at the hands of the criminal justice system that criminal injustice has become the norm. How many of us, brothers especially, were raised to anticipate and handle interactions with law enforcement? Despite our best efforts, some of us still failed during those encounters. Even more of us know someone who did. Troy Davis was one of those people, and because of it, his life has been hanging in the balance for the last two decades.

As Howard students, it is up to us to stop settling for the status quo. We cannot simply be those parents who raise our children to anticipate injustice. Instead, it is time for us to be the young adults who challenge it.

An International Day of Action has been called for this Friday September 16. Mr. Davis has been saved several times before, and it is up to us to do it again. For our parents and grandparents, for Sean and Geronimo, for every brother and sister we know who has ever been a victim of criminal injustice, for ourselves, and most importantly for our brother, we must stand again and again and say, "We are Troy Davis."

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