The list goes on

The list goes on

The list of great people I’ve met goes on and on . . . here are several more:

Vic and Diane Scott invited me to have breakfast with them on Monday and we ended up talking straight through lunchtime. They were neighbors and long-time friends of my dear friend, Marion Ward and her parents, and Marion introduced me to them. Both Vic and Diane are long-time civil rights activists who have dedicated themselves to a number of social justice issues over the years. In the early 1960’s, Vic and Diane worked with Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia partners in Georgia, then met Millard Fuller and were instrumental in helping him to start Habitat for Humanity. Diane co-authored 3 books about the history of Habitat with Fuller. They’ve also had Jimmy Carter to their home! Read more about Vic and Diane’s work with Habitat.

Vic and Diane generously shared their time, their stories, their wisdom and their encouragement to, as Diane put it, continue to “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I am so grateful to them and feel blessed to have met them!

Then, after a busy afternoon of catching up on correspondence, it was off to the “Execute Art Not People” event at the First Congregational UCC in downtown Asheville (which, by the way, is one of the most active congregations I’ve ever seen in addressing a wide range of social justice issues – these folks are TRULY walking the talk!!)

Alex Cury brought the idea for this event to Asheville, (as well as to Charlotte, NC) after hearing about the concept at the recent National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty conference. (the originator of the Execute Art Not People concept is a woman from Pennsylvania!) Alex is another long-time activist working on death penalty issues with the North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium.

Noel Nickle, a social worker and mitigation specialist who works on defense teams in death penalty cases, also was instrumental in organizing the Asheville “Execute Art Not People” event and secured First Congregational UCC as the host (her husband, Joe Hoffman is senior pastor). Noel marched in her first anti-death penalty rally as a young girl and hasn’t let up in her work on this important issue ever since.

Asheville musician James Richards brought the audience of over 75 people to tears with his rendition of Steve Earle’s Ellis Unit One.

Then Edward Chapman, who spent 15 years on North Carolina’s death row before being exonerated in 2008, read several deeply moving poems about his journey from death row to freedom.

After my talk and extensive Q&A, there was a reading of several powerful pieces from
Jill McDonough’s book Habeas Corpus

Prison chaplain and musician Mark Siler closed the program with a song written by an incarcerated man he knows and had all of us singing along through our tears.

I felt so humbled to be part of this incredible event!

Then, this morning, Noel gathered a small group of us at her home for breakfast and I got to spend time with several other strong, courageous women, including Megan and Jean, who have both lost family members to horrific and violent crimes, but are outspoken opponents of the death penalty and work for abolition through Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation Jean was part of a circle of families of murder victims and families of death row inmates who spent six weeks meeting, engaging in a healing dialogue and creating the Quilt of Healing and Hope (see photo). I also met Kristen Smith, from People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.

What amazing people . . . they’ve so inspired me! I’d love to stay in Asheville a while longer, but tomorrow, it’s on to Nashville. Two weeks, 14 speaking gigs and over 1700 miles under my belt now…but “miles to go before I sleep” . . .

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: grace goes to prison restorative justice criminal justice book tour death penalty

Next: Downshift

Previous: Activists, Peacemakers and Rabble Rousers