Voices from criminal injustice system: ‘I am Troy Davis’

New York

A sold-out crowd at Rattlesticks Theater in the West Village on Dec. 8 heard readings from the book “I Am Troy Davis,” which features the stories of dozens of people whose lives have been cruelly affected by the state and its racist criminal injustice system.

“We need to dismantle this unjust system.” A quote from Troy Davis before his execution.

Troy Davis, an African-American man accused of killing a cop, was executed in Georgia on Sept. 21, 2011, despite seven of nine witnesses recanting their trial testimony and a mountain of uncovered evidence proving his innocence.

The book was written by Davis’ sister, Martina Davis Correia, and Jen Marlow. Correia, who died after a long battle with cancer, fought with every fiber of her body over several decades to prove her brother’s innocence and to stop his execution.

Her son, De’Jaun Davis, was close to his Uncle Troy, visiting him often from the time he was a small child. De’Jaun, now a graduate of Morehouse College, continues to speak out against the death penalty and racist injustice.

Stories from “I Am Troy Davis” were read by people who have lived the racism and the unjustifiable force of the state in their lives.

Reading the part of Correia was Airickca Gordon-Taylor., a cousin of Emmett Till, killed by the Klan in Mississippi in 1955. The teenage De’Jaun was read by the first woman exonerated from death row in the U.S., Sabrina Butler-Smith.

Other readers included Cephus “Uncle Bobby X” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, killed by transit police in Oakland, Calif.; Aisha Salaam-Malone, sister of Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated Central Park 5; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, killed by police in Staten Island; Black Prison movement leader Shujaa Graham and former Black Panther Lawrence Hayes, both exonerated from death row; and two sisters of men on death row, Delia Perez Meyer, sister of Texas prisoner Louis Castro Perez, and Yvette Allen, sister of federal prisoner Billie Allen.

Some sponsors of the event were Amnesty International USA, the Mamie Till Mobley Foundation, Witness to Innocence, the Jordan Davis Foundation, Sankofa, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and The Peoples Forum.

Perez Meyer told Workers World of her connection to Troy Davis’ sister: “We couldn’t give up; our brothers are innocent. In both cases, we fought the fact of prosecutorial misconduct, the withholding of evidence and racism. Troy lost his battle in the Supreme Court as Martina stood there. The system is stacked against us at the state and the federal level. The only difference in our cases is that [my brother] Louis has finally been afforded the blessing of a great lawyer and representation by The Innocence Project.”

De’Jaun Davis closed the extremely emotional event saying, “Thank you to each and every one of you for paying respect to our family. We went through the tragedy of Troy being executed. But today people are more cognizant of wrongful convictions. Back then, people would say, ‘A black man is innocent? Yeah.’

“Racism is still in the courtrooms, but we do have victories. We must continue to work together, through blood, sweat and tears, through ups and downs. We can make a way where it may seem there is no way. Remember to involve others and each one teach one.”

The event ended by chanting the words of former political prisoner Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

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