Cross-posted on Campus Progress.
Looking for something to do during spring break this year? Here's an idea: come to Austin, Texas for a week of activism and education against the death penalty as part of the 2007 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. The event is open to both high school and college students. Register now.
The 2007 anti-death penalty spring break, organized by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty and co-sponsored by Campus Progress, Amnesty International, Texas Moratorium Network, NCADP and other groups, is designed to to give students something more meaningful to do during their week off, rather than just spending time at the beach or sitting at home catching up on school work. This is the place to be if you want to become a part of the next generation of human rights leaders. Go to the beach to change your state of mind for a week, come here to change the world forever.
Students will participate in workshops led by experienced, knowledgeable presenters who will teach them skills that they can use to go back home and set up new anti-death penalty student organizations or improve ones that may already exist. The skills participants will learn can also be used in other issues besides the death penalty. During the week, students will immediately put what they learn into action during activities such as a Death Penalty Issues Lobby Day and a Direct Action Day. There will be opportunities to write press releases, speak in public, meet with legislators or their aides, and conceive and carry out a direct action.
"This is an historical echo to what happened in the 1960s when people came down to the South during the Civil Rights Movement to help people register to vote, what they called freedom summers. This is very similar to what was going on back then, but here the issue is the death penalty." said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network.
Texas leads the nation by far in number of executions. Texas performed 45 percent of all the executions in the United States in 2006. Twenty-four people were executed in Texas in 2006. There were 53 executions in the U.S. in 2006. Since the U.S Supreme Court ruling in 1976 that allowed executions to resume after a four-year period during which they were considered unconstitutional, there have been 1060 executions in the United States. Texas has performed 381 of those executions, which amounts to about 35 percent of the national total. According to the 2000 census, Texas has only 7.4 percent of the nation's entire population.
This spring break was featured last year on mtvU, NPR and the front page of The Huntsville Item. MTV is planning to send their crew to Austin again this year to shoot the spring break for "The Amazing Break," an MTV show featuring alternatives to beer and beaches. Coverage by MTV and other media outlets ensures that the anti-death penalty message of the alternative spring break will reach thousands and thousands of people.
Throughout the week students will participate in workshops and have a chance to talk and eat with people that they probably never imagined they would encounter in their daily lives, such as Shujaa Graham, an African American man who spent 3 years of his life on California's death-row for a crime he did not commit or Renny Cushing, a former New Hampshire state legislator whose father was brutally murdered or Christina Lawson, whose husband was executed by the state of Texas in 2005.
Other speakers include Moresse Bickham, who was on death row when the Furman v Georgia decision was announced in 1972 abolishing the death penalty on grounds that it violated the U.S. constitution. Another ruling four years later allowed executions to resume. Bickham was released in 1996 and at 89 is now the oldest living survivor of the Furman v Georgia decision.
Participation in the Annual Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is an invaluable experience. Participants will come away with firsthand knowledge of the anti-death penalty movement and a new understanding of how they can affect public policy. Plus, they will an opportunity to form new friendships that could last a lifetime. During the spring break students will have plenty of free time to enjoy Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World. The famous SXSW Festival is the same week as spring break, so if anyone is interested they can attend some of the films or music events during their free time.
Thanks to contributions from Campus Progress, Resist Foundation and other groups there is no participation fee for the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break except for those people who need housing. If you do not need housing, because you live in Austin or you are making your own housing arrangements, then your participation is free, but please register so we know how many people to expect. Participants are expected to travel to Austin at their own expense and pay for their meals and incidental expenses while in Austin. We will provide some free pizza and snacks a couple of times. Housing is available for a fee of $25. That's right. $25 for all five days. That's $5 a night. Students will stay in rooms with one or two other people at a dormitory near the University of Texas at Austin.