We believe, as I'm sure you do too, that more needs to be done to promote nonviolent action, and to support important efforts against war, militarism, the death penalty and other forms of injustice. The Muste Institute is gearing up for this challenge with new outreach and educational materials, including an improved website, to promote our literature and grant programs.
Meanwhile, we have a great batch of proposals for our April grant cycle-for actions at nuclear weapons plants on the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, efforts to educate youth about alternatives to military service, and other worthy projects. We'd love to support them all. But the past year has been a difficult one for fundraising, so we need your help.
To those of you who have already given to the Institute in recent months, we thank you-and we ask you, if possible, to give again. For those who haven't contributed lately, this is a crucial time to resume your support. If we can raise $20,000 by April 15, we'll be able to increase our grant making this year and pay for expanded outreach. (As always, your contribution is tax-deductible. And if you find yourself paying less in taxes this year, please consider turning your savings into a gift for nonviolence and anti-war efforts.)
We're also going to need volunteers to help with outreach, literature distribution and other projects. Please get in touch - we're looking forward to working with you.
Convention Builds Anti-Death Penalty Movement
The Muste Institute made a $2,000 grant in June 2004 to Campaign Against the Death Penalty (CEDP) for their national convention, "We CAN End the Death Penalty," held in Chicago in November 2004. Our grant went toward expenses of promoting the conference and travel subsidies for former death row prisoners and their families to attend. We also granted $2,000 to CEDP in 2001 for town hall meetings against the death penalty. This article was originally part of a report-back on the 2004 conference by CEDP national director Marlene Martin. For more information, including transcripts of speeches from the convention, see CEDP's website at http://nodeathpenalty.org
I always wonder as the convention approaches if this year's will be as good as the last. There is no doubt about it- this year's convention did hit a new high. It was FANTASTIC!! While the number of people attending was relatively the same as last year, there was a sense of seriousness about our work and a higher level of discussion. Having the Ryan Matthews family kick off the convention put the weekend in the right context-we face challenges, but we can win. Ryan Matthews was finally freed in 2004 after eight years behind bars-five of them on death row-for a murder he did not commit. It was only a year ago that we met Ryan's sister Monique and his mother Pauline. At our convention last year, they introduced their struggle to free Ryan to our group-and we made it our struggle. It was incredibly powerful to see them again in the front of the room, this time with Ryan, now free, and to hear Monique's message that they will continue to fight until the death penalty is stopped once and for all.
As always, hearing from former prisoners and family members was the most powerful aspect of the convention. One panel titled "Dead Men Walking, Talking and Fighting Back" featured Madison Hobley, who spent 16 years on death row before he was pardoned by former2003; and Shujaa Graham, who survived 11 years on California's death row and four trials before he was found innocent of the charge of killing a correctional officer, a crime he was framed for. "The coming together of people, united in a common cause, will be able to overthrow capital punishment," Shujaa told us.
We were proud to introduce for the first time to our group Billy Moore, who was paroled in 1991 after spending almost 17 years on Georgia's death row. Billy told people his story and implored the audience to consider the "guilty" in our fight to get rid of the death penalty. "Everyone is not the worst thing that they've ever done," he reminded us.
At the end of a lively debate, a majority of delegates passed the following resolution: "We do not advocate life without the possibility of parole as an alternative sentence to the death penalty." The vote was not unanimous, and the debate sparked questions about crime itself, the role of punishment in society, the question of rehabilitation and prison, and what position if any an organization like ours should take on such an issue.
However, the emphasis of the weekend was not on this debate, but on building our struggle, our group and our chapters. In a sense, the convention was a "family reunion"-which brought together many former death row prisoners and family members who had gathered at previous conventions. For the newest person to the most seasoned activist, the convention was inspiring, encouraging and energizing. It infused us with a sense of purpose for our work in the coming year.
CEDP National Director, Marlene Martin
Other anti-death penalty projects supported recently by the Muste Institute:
Big Mouth Productions: $1,500 in December 2003 for anti-death penalty outreach around the documentary film Deadline. The film aired on NBC's Dateline last July and is now available on DVD. Info: 646-230-6228; http://deadlinethemovie.com
New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (formerly New Jerseyans for a Death Penalty Moratorium): $2,000 in February 2002 for moratorium organizing materials. Info: 856-854-3182; [email protected] www.njadp.org
New Martin Luther King Pamphlet in Spanish
New! The Spanish-language edition of our best-selling Martin Luther King pamphlet now has all three of the writings included in the English-language edition: Loving Your Enemies, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam. The earlier edition of the pamphlet included only the first two. The third piece, King's famous antiwar speech at Riverside Church a year before his death, is now available for the first time in Spanish translation in this Muste Institute publication. See the Literature section of our website for details.
Massacre in Colombia
The Muste Institute is saddened by the Feb. 21 murder of activist Luis Eduardo Guerra by Colombian soldiers. Guerra was a founder and prominent leader of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó who had traveled several times to the US and Europe to speak about human rights. He was killed along with his girlfriend and 11-year old son in the nearby community of Mulatos. Also murdered were a peace leader from Mulatos, his companion and their two children, ages six and two. The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, founded in 1997, rejects the presence of all armed groups.
Several Muste Institute grantees had close relationships with Guerra and with the Peace Community: the Colombia Support Network of Madison, Wisconsin, which we funded in 1994; Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean, a 2002 grantee, whose volunteer wrote an article about the Peace Community for the Fall 2002 issue of Muste Notes; and Peace Brigades International (PBI), which we supported last year. For more information see: http://colombiasupport.net http://soawatch.org http://peacebrigades.org
New Grants, December 2004
COMUNICADORES POPULARES POR LA AUTONOMIA
EDUCATION FOR PEACE IN IRAQ CENTER
JK EDUCATION COUNCIL
SEEDS FOR CHANGE NETWORK
SOUTH TEXANS OPPOSING PRIVATE PRISONS