December 11th, 2007
The drive to Memphis is 3 hours and very boring. However, the next hour and a half of my time is absolutely wonderful. This time is spent at the Emmanuel House meeting with the Memphis TCASK chapter—the longest sustaining chapter in Tennessee. This past meeting also saw another record being challenged or broken—attendees for our monthly chapter meetings. In Memphis, there were 15 folks in attendance other than myself. The celebration of this strong showing was short lived though as Pete Gathje, Professor at Memphis Seminary and Emmanuel House operator pointed out that there was not one person of color in attendance. This vacancy is heightened more so by the statistic that Memphis is a city with 60% of their population represented by African Americans.
It would be easy to say “well, we can’t seem to get the African American community involved, what can we do?” However, the Memphis TCASK chapter is a smart bunch. They know that it is up to them to look within themselves and what they are doing to create that change and involve the entire abolitionist community.
On February 21, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. they will be putting on an event at the Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church. This church is African American and is led by Rev. Dwight Montgomery, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Memphis chapter president. Also, the speaker will be Shujaa Graham. Shujaa is African American and was exonerated from the San Quentin death row in a case mired in racial bias. So to recap: the event is at an African American church with a strong African American civil rights leader and the speaker is also African American and will be speaking about how race affects the death penalty. A smart/inspired bunch indeed!
On a national conference call today we were discussing the strategy behind New Jersey’s success. Much of it was contingent upon diversity amongst the anti-death penalty voices calling on their legislators to pass the legislation. It is vital that we involve Tennessee’s African Americans in this movement. It is vital due to historical reasons as well as contemporary and Tennessee’s success will be contingent on their diverse voice.