I sit here stunned: a goofy smile on my face, a tear on my cheek. This must be what victory feels like. Forgive me if I’m not familiar with its near-narcotic euphoria.
For folks who haven’t heard, Kenneth Foster’s death sentence was struck down yesterday by Texas Gov. Rick Perry after a 6-1 recommendation by the Perry appointed Board of Parolees. This is just a tremendous victory for those of us around the world who fought to make sure yesterday wasn’t the day Kenneth was put to death. We must take the time to remember Michael LaHood who lost his life 10 years ago at the hands of Mauricio Brown who was driving in Kenneth’s car. But we also remember the words of Sean Paul Kelly, Michael’s closest friend who opposed Kenneth’s execution. Kelly told the press:
…the execution of a young man who didn’t even kill Mike? That’s not justice. It’s senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice.
When victories like this occur, every link in the chain matters. Without question, the strongest links in this chain was Kenneth and his family. Kenneth said from the outset, “It’s my belief that if this does not become a political issue then I have no chance.”
That was the plan of action laid out for the DRIVE movement on death row, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and other organizations that worked on his case. We made it political, asking the question over and over why Kenneth should be put to death for driving a car?
It was also the inspiration for a group of athletes and even a couple of sports writers, to stand together and demand that this man not be put to death. I want to take a moment and thank Etan Thomas, Dr. John Carlos, Lee Evans, Toni Smith, Dave Meggyesy, Jeff “Snowman” Monson, Dennis Brutus, William Gerena–Rochet, Neil DeMause, Doug Harris, Lester Rodney, Rus Bradburd and the INIMITABLE Scoop Jackson.
Below is a letter I received from Kenneth a couple weeks back with some of his thoughts on sports and society. I thought when I would eventually publish it, it would be a kind of eulogy. Instead it is a celebration of the struggle so desperately needed to see any kind of progress. It’s also a testament to his spirit. So good people, meet Mr. Kenneth Foster.
In struggle and sports,
Dave Zirin is the author of the new book Welcome to the Terrordome (Haymarket). He is a columnist and contributor for Nation Magazine and Slam. He can be reached at: email@example.com. Read other articles by David.