For my birthday, would you be so kind….

emily-and-daddy-cropped-13September 21 is my birthday.

It is also the second anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, and also day #921 in the Syrian civil war, which has forced about six and a half million people to run from their homes into an unknowable and deeply frightening future.

Every year on his birthday, actor Nathan Fillion (Buffy, Waitress, Castle, and most importantly: Firefly) asks people to give to his favorite water charity; it’s a lovely thing, and some years, I’ve even done as he asked. And so, inspired by Mr. Fillion, I’ve decided to do a similar thing, if on a much smaller scale (I mean – I know you love me as much as you love Nathan Fillion. There are just a few million fewer of you. Is all).

If you enjoy this blog, or my writing over at The Daily Beast, or the piece I just ran on xoJane (of which, by the way, there will be more in the future), or if you like my Tweets, or, heck, maybe you know me personally and maybe I make you laugh every now and then — and if you have a little spare dosh to pass around — please consider celebrating my birthday in one of the two following ways:

  1. troy davis suitIn Troy’s memory, please purchase I Am Troy Davis, published this week and written by my good friend Jen Marlowe and Troy’s sister, Martina Correia-Davis, who died of breast cancer soon after her brother was killed. It’s the story of Troy, his remarkable family, and the on-going struggle to end the death penalty. (And not for nothing, but Jen is a hell of a writer). Can’t say it better than Susan Sarandon: “I Am Troy Davis is a painful yet very important book” — unless it’s Maya Angelou: “Here is a shout for human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty. This book, I Am Troy Davis, should be read and cherished.” If you make your purchase through the non-profit publisher, Haymarket Books, it’ll cost you $18.
  2. There are more than six million Syrians who have run from their homes in fear. About two million of them have crossed international borders; more than four million remain within their war-torn country, trying desperately to get by. There is so little that we can do to reach out and help the Syrian people — but we can reach out to support the folks working night and day to support them: Please donate to the UN Refugee effort. This is how I’ll be honoring my own birthday, and all who have raised and loved me so far.

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

And hey, if you happen to be Nathan Fillion? Thanks for everything, man. And please celebrate my birthday with me.

Troy Davis’s nephew got accepted to a prestigious college – but tuition is tough.


You will remember Troy Davis, executed by the State of George two years ago for a crime he did not commit. While fighting for his life and for an end to the death penalty, Troy was particularly involved with and proud of his nephew De’Jaun, and was known to regularly help De’Jaun study for tests over the phone from death row.

An excellent and dedicated student, De’Jaun was accepted to the prestigious Morehouse College (where the President spoke this past May), but his family has been beset by sorrow after sorrow in recent years (all of them also costly): A few months before Troy was executed, De’Jaun’s grandmother/Troy’s mother suddenly died; then Troy was killed; then De’Jaun’s mother/Troy’s sister Martina, long living with cancer, also died — all within about eight months.

And of course, no matter what, tuition is never easy. My friend Jen Marlowe (who produced the videos about Troy’s case for Amnesty, and has written a book about his case and his family) has organized a fundraiser for De’Jaun — if you have a few extra dollars, De’Jaun could surely use the help with his school expenses.

We couldn’t save his uncle, and we couldn’t save his mom. But maybe we can help him through school. That’s what community does. If you’re in a position to help, please click here.

Troy Davis’s birthday.

Troy Davis should be turning 44 today; instead, we just marked the first anniversary of his unwarranted execution at the hands of the State of Georgia.

My friend Jen Marlowe, the filmmaker behind those powerful videos produced by Amnesty International in the fight for Troy’s life, produced the following video in his memory, calling on all of us to continue the work that Troy began from his prison cell, the work to abolish the death penalty. One way to do that is to support Amnesty in their fight against the death penalty; another way is to work for the passage of Prop 34 in California, which would abolish the death penalty in that state, and replace it with life in prison without possibility of parole.

In Troy’s own words:

We can correct all the wrongs if we just continue to stand together, and that’s what’s most important. We need to continue to stand together and educate each other, and don’t give up the fight.

We are all Troy Davis, now.

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: 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.

UPDATE: Calling legal professionals and clergy for Troy Davis.

Yesterday I wrote about Troy Davis and the fact that he has been sentenced to death for a murder that he almost certainly did not commit. Despite copious evidence pointing to Mr. Davis’s innocence, the state of Georgia will likely give him an execution date in September.

In that post, I asked that you watch a video and sign the Amnesty petition, but Jen Marlowe pointed out that if you are a legal professional or member of the clergy, you can take an extra, crucial step: Joining a sign-on letter to demonstrate that those most familiar with the law, and those most intimately attuned to this nation’s spiritual and ethical standards, support Mr. Davis in his request for clemency. Legal professionals can sign the appropriate letter by clicking here; members of the clergy can add their names by clicking here.

This cannot be stated baldly enough: Troy Davis may soon be put to death for a crime he almost certainly did not commit.

Please ask someone you know to join you in taking a stand.

“A verdict that is not ironclad is not good enough to support the death penalty.”

UPDATE: If you are a legal professional or member of the clergy, please click here to read an important update.

Let me get this out of the way: I am opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances. I think that Adolf Eichmann should have been allowed to rot in prison. I don’t think that killing people helps society in any way, if it’s not absolutely necessary for reasons of defense, and I don’t believe that the death penalty acts as any kind of deterrent.

And yet, I do understand the impulse behind the death penalty. Some people really have done monstrous things, and I can understand the desperate feeling that such monsters produce in our hearts, the horror, the sense that monsters do not deserve to live.

But at the very least, should we not be absolutely certain that the person about to be executed is, in fact, a monster? Did, in fact, do what we’re killing that person for doing?

Twenty years ago, Troy Davis was convicted of murdering Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. There is no physical evidence tying Mr. Davis to Officer MacPhail’s murder, and seven of the nine non-law enforcement witnesses have recanted, saying, time and again, that they were frightened and coerced by police, and that moreover, they were terrified by the man they believe to have actually committed the crime. Mr. Davis has himself always maintained his innocence, and jurors have said, flat out: “If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row.”

In spite of all of this, and much more, Mr. Davis remains on death row. He has already lived through execution dates (once coming within an hour or so of death — stop and imagine that for a minute) only to win a stay each time — but a stay of execution is procedural. Mr. Davis is still in danger of being killed for a crime that, at the very least, it is entirely possibly that he did not commit — and he will likely be given a new execution date in September.

If you have 73 seconds to spare, please watch the following video, made by my friend Jen Marlowe, who has done holy work in bringing Mr. Davis’s case to the public eye for years (if you have a bit more time, you can watch the series of four videos in which the shorter clip’s themes are fleshed out and more details provided). Please, please: Sign the Amnesty petition — Amnesty has wisely taken no stand on Mr. Davis’s guilt or innocence, maintaining only that in a case this riddled with doubt, no one should be put to death.

There is one chance remaining for Mr. Davis: The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Parole Board can consider information that the court system cannot, and exercise clemency. In the words of Prof. Anne Emanuel, a death penalty expert at Georgia State University:

Because I find this conviction and this sentence so troubling, what I would like to see the Parole Board do is not only exercise the power of clemency to set aside the death penalty — I think that is an absolute moral and legal necessity in this case, if for no other reason than it is so terribly unfair to the jurors themselves who allowed this death penalty to proceed when the evidence on which they relied has now been disproved and some of it withdrawn by the state itself…. A verdict that is not ironclad is not good enough to support the death penalty.

Please do these two small things — watch the following video, and click here to sign the petition — and then do one more thing: Tell someone else.

Simply put, there is nothing on earth that justifies putting Troy Davis to death. Please do what you can to save his life.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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