Today I Am Grieving

By Andrea Bible
September 24, 2010

Andrea is the Special Projects Coordinator at the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women.

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Dear ones:

Today I am grieving.

I am grieving because last night, just after 9pm Eastern time, people in the State of Virginia killed Teresa Lewis.

I am grieving because the people who were given the power to decide whether or not to kill Teresa Lewis were unswayed by new evidence showing she was not the mastermind behind the crimes, as the judge who sentenced her to death believed her to be.

I am grieving because we live in a country where politicians and the courts believe it is ok to use the state's resources to kill someone.

I am grieving because we live in a country where politicians and the courts believe it is ok to use the state's resources to kill someone who functions at the level of a 13-year-old.

I am grieving because my colleagues and I, Teresa's attorneys, and many other advocates and supporters around the country who worked to prevent her senseless and unnecessary death were not powerful enough to stop it.

I am grieving because the alternative that I was fighting for -- that Teresa's life be spared -- would have meant that she would have spent the rest of her life prison in conditions of isolation and deprivation.

I am grieving because I keep hearing the voice of my friend Susan, who at age 19 plead to 25-to-life to avoid the death penalty for killing the man who held her hostage and abused her, saying, "It was exactly like my abuser. The state said that they were going to kill me, just like he used to tell me."

I am grieving because there are women whom I respect, admire, and am inspired by -- like Tracee, Ellen, Susan, Sara, and countless others -- who also faced the death penalty and now are serving Life Without Parole sentences.

I am grieving because I am remembering Deborah Peagler, who died earlier this year of lung cancer after being released from CA prison after serving more than 26 years; Debbie plead guilty in 1983 to avoid the death penalty, only to have her attorneys discover documents in 2005 showing that the prosecutor knew at the time that they did not have sufficient evidence against her to pursue the death penalty.

I am grieving because I know that the men who Teresa Lewis and her co-defendants killed didn't deserve to be killed either.

I am grieving because today, the state of Georgia is preparing to kill Brandon Rhode, whose execution was postponed earlier this week after he tried to commit suicide.

I am grieving because 35 states still have the death penalty, and there are 14 executions scheduled between now and the end of the year, and another six already scheduled in 2011.

I am grieving because our prisons are full of black and brown people, poor people, queer, transgender and gender non-conforming people, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities, people who have been subjected to horrors, people who have been neglected, people who are incredibly talented artists, people who are loving parents, people with incredible gifts, people who deserve the opportunity to express their full potential, people who deserve to live free of fear and deprivation, and people who, despite all they have endured, manage to sustain more moments of dignity and resistance and humor and humanity than I ever would have imagined possible.

I am grieving because sometimes it feels like too much; too much suffering and oppression and trauma and violence to stop.

I am grieving and I am outraged.

And I am hopeful.

I am hopeful because I know that I am a part of a powerful movement for justice, for healing, and for collective liberation.

I am hopeful because even in my grief, I feel profoundly connected to all of you who share this commitment to building another world, one where all people have access to the material, educational, emotional, and spiritual resources necessary to be safe and thrive in our communities.

I am hopeful because I am privileged to work with amazing women who join me everyday in the struggle for justice.

I am hopeful because I know that people all over the world expressed opposition to the killing of Teresa Lewis.

I am hopeful because I have witnessed, and been a part of, countless acts of resistance to the forces of violence and oppression.

I am hopeful because many of those acts of resistance have resulted in powerful, meaningful, liberatory changes.

I am hopeful because I don't have to look all that hard to see evidence that we are doing it, we are building the world we want and deserve.

I am hopeful because I have to be. There is no alternative.

And I am grateful.

I am grateful to each of you for being a part of the struggle alongside me, in your own ways.

I am grateful for the ways that each of you sustain me and my spirits, even from afar.

I am grateful for the many expressions of support and solidarity that people sent to Teresa, her attorneys, my colleagues, and me this week.

I am grateful to Teresa's attorney and to the countless other volunteer attorneys throughout the country who dedicate themselves to fighting for justice.

I am grateful that Gaile Owens, who was set to be executed by the State of Tennessee next Tuesday, had her sentenced commuted in July to life with the possibility for parole by Governor Bredesen.

I am grateful for the countless organizations and affinity groups and collectives and individuals who work so determinedly to create the change we want to see and to build the world in which we all deserve to live.

I am grateful for the opportunity to confront the dissociation and fatigue that comes from absorbing too much suffering and trauma, to tap into my grief and outrage, to express myself, and to move, once again, toward action.

And I am grateful for this life and the chance to be my best self. I hope to do right by it.

Onward, Andrea

PS: Today I am going to make a donation to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Teresa Lewis' honor. If you want to join me in doing so, you can donate online at http://ncadp.org/

I also am feeling especially proud of the work of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women this week; if any of you want to send them some love this week, too, you can go to ncdbw.org

And I also am always grateful for the work and leadership of Critical Resistance and their vision of creating genuinely safe and healthy communities that respond to harm without relying on prisons and punishment. To support their work, go here.