Please help Troy Davis’s family.

Troy Davis & his family in a picture taken before the prison cut off "contact visits."

Readers of this blog will remember that I spent a few weeks this fall laser-focused on the case of Troy Davis, an innocent man on Georgia’s Death Row who, despite all evidence against him crumbling over the course of his incarceration, was executed on September 21. You can read the pieces I placed in The Atlantic online here: “Explaining the death penalty to my children” and here: “Troy Davis and the reality of doubt.”  You’ll find the post I wrote the day after Troy was murdered here.

I spent several weeks laser-focused on the Troy Davis case, but some people have spent several years, such as my friend Jen Marlowe. Working with Amnesty International, she did everything from producing a powerful series of videos telling his story, to counting signatures calling for the state of Georgia to spare his life. She came to know and love the Davis family, and her work on their behalf continues — in no small part because their tragedies didn’t end with Troy’s execution.

Indeed, the tragedies didn’t even start there. Troy’s mother Virginia died suddenly in April 2011, a death her daughter Martina was sure was a result of simple heartbreak over Troy’s failure to win a commutation of his sentence. Martina herself had been struggling with breast cancer for a decade when Troy was killed; two months after burying her brother, Martina herself died. The boy they all left behind, De’Jaun Davis-Correia, is an outstanding high school student who looked up to his uncle as a father-figure and is today hoping to attend Georgia Tech, where he wants to major in industrial engineering. It is a sign of the strength and the beauty of this family that De’Jaun is already a dedicated death penalty activist, and has been named by The Root as one of its “25 Young Futurists” for 2012. I cannot imagine how he gets up in the morning, much less makes plans.

But sorrow and loss aren’t the end of it. Three funerals in the space of seven months and years of cancer-related hospitalizations have resulted in bills that would overwhelm anyone.

For that reason, Jen (who is currently working on a book about Troy and Martina) is raising funds for the Davis family. Here’s the letter she sent out this week:

The Davis family lost three warriors for justice in the past seven months. Virginia Davis, the matriarch of the family, passed in April, just two weeks after the US Supreme Court denied Troy’s final appeal, paving the way for the state of Georgia to set a new execution date. According to Martina, her mother died of a broken heart–she couldn’t bear another execution date. Troy was executed on September 21, despite an international outcry over executing a man amid such overwhelming doubt. Troy’s sister and staunchest advocate, Martina, succumbed to her decade-long battle with cancer on December 1, exactly two months after her brother Troy’s funeral, leaving behind a teenaged son.

There are still outstanding medical and funeral bills that the Davis family must pay.

The Davis family has had to bear more tragedy and sorrow than any family should ever have to. Together, we can ensure that the financial aspect of these losses will not be a burden to them.

I have set up a simple way to contribute online to the family. I hope you will choose to help, and that you will share this information with others. All you have to do is click this link: https://www.wepay.com/donations/fund-for-troy-davis-s-family Any amount will be highly appreciated and will help them greatly!

Please circulate this information to others you think may be interested in helping.

Any questions can be directed to Jen Marlowe at donkeysaddle [at] gmail [dot] com.

In solidarity with all the Davis family has been fighting for and in sorrow for all they have had to endure,
Jen Marlowe
Troy Davis Campaign

If you are in a position to help, please do so. As Jen says, any amount will be helpful, and in the end, all the little amounts add up. Please also pass the word along to any and all who might be able to join in the effort.

Troy Davis is not here to help his family through this ordeal — those of us who fought for his life must now do so for him.

The power of “I see you.”

I’ve been hitting the job hunt particularly hard this week, and also have actual paying work (“this week” is currently shaping up to be monetarily equivalent to the combined months of July and August. Ah, freelancing!), which is why you’ve been seeing so many wee, little “Good Stuff” posts. This, too, will not be long.

But for some random reason, a memory just floated across my brain pan of a post a week or so back in which Ta-Nehisi Coates mentioned, almost in passing, that he was presuming that for many of the early feminists, the threat of sexual violence was a constant.

I was struck at the time by how powerful it is to have a man simply say the very thing I was thinking, struck by the unexpected wave of gratitude that washed over me as I read it, almost a little embarrassed, like: So what, a man said it — women have been known it since forever!

I don’t know why it came to me now (it may have been jogged by this story of Occupy Nashville protesters greeting a march by counter protesters with shouts of “We love you!”), but even as I wrote about something else altogether, I tried to tease out why it is so important to me to have men talk about women’s issues.

And I realized suddenly that it’s the simple power of being seen. Of feeling invisible, maybe almost without realizing it, and suddenly hearing someone say “I see you.”

The power is much greater than just that, of course — the growing involvement of men in the efforts against sexual violence of all kinds is a crucial component of the larger battle — but those moments, those little, unexpected moments when someone who has felt invisible — battered women, say, or LGBTQ kids, or Asian Americans virtually en masse — hears a simple “I see you,” those moments are often the moments that provide the actual healing. They are a balm, and they provide far more hope than I think we realize.

If only removing our blinders weren’t such a slow business.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

One good deed.

Also, if you live near me, I may come over and do this with you.

There’s this thing that I hear all y’all young folks (and some of the older ones too?) are doing, like, all the time. Texting? Is that what you’re doing with your opposable thumbs and the little buttons on your cellular phone devices? Texting?

All righty then. Here’s a 30 second, two-coffees-and-a-scone good deed that you can do with your thumbs: Donate $10 to Unicef to help with famine relief efforts in the Horn of Africa. (And if you can’t swing that right now — and lord knows, I’ve been there — just pass the message on. You know someone who can help, but they may not know how).

“The earlier we act, the more children we can save. Americans are a generous people, and a little goes a long way — just $10 can feed a child for 10 days,” said Caryl Stern, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

To help UNICEF’s efforts, text “FOOD” to 864233 to donate $10 from the United States or visit the website. Follow this link to make a donation from other countries around the world.

If you want to learn about more ways you can help (personally, I donated to Mercy Corps), CNN has gathered some good information (the story is illustrated with one kind of sad picture of a family, but nothing horrifying – don’t be afraid to click) : Famine in East Africa: How you can help.

If you want to learn more about the famine, here’s NPR’s report from earlier today: Bill Frist: In Somalia, The World Is Responding But The Need Is Greater. (Frist just came back from a fact-finding mission that he led with Jill Biden, and I tell you what: I forgive him everything he did surrounding the Terri Schiavo case now). There’s one picture, mildly horrible. But then, so’s the famine. According to Frist, 29,000 children under the age of five have died in the last 90 days.

IF YOU MAKE A DONATION AND CAN PROVE IT – let me know! And if you send your email or snailmail address to elhauser [at] hotmail [dot] com, I’ll pop a little something in the mail to you — a nice quote, a funny comic strip, something to give you a wee smile when you go to the mailbox.

And please, please: Help if you can, and spread the word.

Oldie-but-goodie: Think of the children.

I’m doing some serious thinking about my place in the blogosphere, but in the meantime I’ll be running the occasional oldie-but-goodie —
because some posts deserve another moment in the sun!

*****

You know what the world needs? Fewer kids growing up scared and alone.

Honestly. If we were to make that a real priority in our social struggles, I think that half of our troubles would fall away in a generation or two.

And you know what would really help with that? Less shame.

When kids grow up ashamed of themselves, it usually doesn’t play out very well later in life — for the adults they become, or for the world around them. Shame is a hell of a motivator, it’s true, but not necessarily in the right directions.

So the other day, over to the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan wrote a little something about the fact that President Obama’s safe schools “czar,” Kevin Jennings, is under attack by the GOP as a “radical homosexual activist.” Sullivan’s focus was on the editorial umbrage being taken by the Washington Times over the fact that Jennings wrote the forward to the 1998 book Queering Elementary Education.

Ok, so, first of all, full disclosure: I didn’t know. There is so much anger and umbrage being taken all over the place, what with the world going to the dogs and your whatnot, that I missed this one.

But now I know, and (aside from the fact that I sure as hell hope that Obama doesn’t cut Jennings loose*), I have found myself thinking a lot about the passage that Sullivan quoted from the Washington Times piece (and no, I won’t be linking. They can get their own damn page views):

Mr. Jennings’ foreword explains why he thinks it is important to start educating children about homosexuality as early as activist-educators can get away with doing so. “Ask any elementary-school teachers you know and – if they’re honest – they’ll tell you they start hearing [anti-homosexual prejudice] as soon as kindergarten.” And “As one third-grader put it plainly when asked by her teacher what ‘gay’ meant: ‘I don’t know. It’s just a bad thing.’ “As another author in the book notes: “Any grade is ‘old’ enough [for the proper education] because even five-year-olds are calling each other ‘gay’ and ‘faggot.’

And that’s the bad thing about this Mr. Jennings, apparently.

Here’s the thing: What kids do matters. How kids talk, about each other, about themselves, and about the world around them, matters. And if a gay kid, or a kid who might be gay, or a kid who has a two moms, or a kid with a gay uncle, hears “gay” used as a pejorative all the fucking time, that kid will get one message, loud and clear: “Gay” is bad — indeed, it is laughably bad.

It matters that we raise children to become good adults, but it matters first that they be good children — we need to teach them to treat each other well, at every age and stage. I know that the right would have us believe that conversations about gay people are conversations about sex (and nasty sex at that), but they are, in fact, conversations about love, and identity.

Who you are is who you are. And our children need to learn that shaming people for who they are is a bad thing — and the sooner they learn that, the better.

A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, my son told me that last year (when he was 9), someone in the school library said “That’s so gay!” — and he told the kid to cut it out. I almost fell over from the pride.

Our kids can be part of the problem — or they can be part of the solution. They don’t need to talk about sex, to learn that there is no shame in being who you are. They don’t need to be introduced to topics beyond their ken, to learn that kindness and acceptance are the building blocks of a healthy society.

And if we teach that, fewer kids will grow up in shame, alone, and frightened. And this country will be a much better place — a more perfect union — indeed.

*****************

In a related matter, just look at this! 50 Years of Pentagon Studies Support Gay Soldiers.

I think my favorite line is this, from the 1988 study:

Studies of homosexual veterans make clear that having a same gender or an opposite-gender orientation is unrelated to job performance in the same way as is being left or right-handed.

Being left-handed was once considered unnatural and indeed “sinister” (go look up sinister – definition #4 in my American Heritage: “On the left side, left”). Children had their left hand tied down in order to force them to change to a more “natural” right-handed life. Is it possible that the day will come that gay people will actually just be treated like a somewhat rare kind of person, like the 7-10% of the population that is left-handed?

One has a right to dream.

*6/9/11 update: I’m happy to say that Obama didn’t cut Jennings loose. Click here to read his DOE biography. (His partner is mentioned at the end, as is his “granddog”…!)