Om Saturday, October 1, thousands joined in to celebrate Troy Davis’ life at the Jonesville Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., and tens of thousands more joined online through the webstream. The power of our global community – united to honor, to stand on convictions and to show respect – was palpable inside the church.
There was little talk of sadness, little mention of grief. The Davis family, compelled by their deep faith, chose to celebrate Troy’s spirit, to honor his life, and to continue to move his mission to abolish the death penalty.
Their strength mirrors Troy’s own. Half of his life was spent behind bars, a captive of a system designed to crush even the mightiest of spirits. But Troy never lost hope. He never lost his faith in God or in his higher purpose.
In the execution room, Troy used his last words to proclaim his innocence one final time. He then made a call for his movement – all of our movement – to bring about to end of the death penalty for good. And then, in his final breath, he asked God’s mercy upon those about to kill him.
Even in his darkest hour Troy Davis saw light. In the face of death he showed compassion, resolution and conviction – a bravery that will forever be remembered.
So together, we will honor Troy’s memory and work to end the terror of state sponsored execution. It was a goal of Fredrick Douglass, Ida B Wells, and Thurgood Marshall. And it is a goal that the NAACP will carry forward in the weeks and months ahead.
A punishment reserved almost exclusively for poor people of all colors, and especially for those like Troy who are of color, is not a punishment. It’s the most irreversible and violent act of discrimination, and the ultimate violation of human rights.
The way that each of us can ensure the end of capital punishment comes as soon as possible is to shift from rallies where we shout the slogan I am Troy Davis, to a sustained campaign where we practice the faith of Troy Davis. If our movement is going to be successful, then we must focus on three types of action:
First, we must target the death penalty for elimination in ten more states.
Second, we must approach every sitting District Attorney and candidate for District Attorney and let them know that they will no longer get our votes unless they stop sending people to death row.
Finally, we all must vote. We are more powerful than those who would do wrong in this world. But only through our collective voice will we achieve our goal.
The time has come for us all to come together and finish what our foremothers and forefathers started. We will end the death penalty, and we will do it in honor of Troy Davis.
Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO
PS: If you have not yet signed the petition to end the death penalty of the United States, please do so now, and ask your friends and colleagues to do the same.
Photo: Friends and supporters chant in the street outside Jonesville Baptist Church following the funeral of Troy Davis in Savannah, Ga., Oct. 1. Stephen Morton/AP