Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Eye and Tooth Project: Confronting Capital Punishment in Texas

By John Sullivan

Call it the ultimate deterrent; call it retribution, or closure, or simply an “eye for an eye,” Americans have historically supported capital punishment with strong resolve and a clear national conscience. Recently, however, this mandate has weakened as pressures for reappraisal and change kick against the goad of tradition. A national wave of death row exonerations, sparked by nonprofit watchdogs such as The Innocence Project, and former governor George Ryan’s mass commutation of all pending death sentences in Illinois, caused the nation to pause and wonder: How many innocents are housed on death row, how many have already been executed, how many more will die by mistake? Or worse yet, through malfeasance? Horror stories — of blatant racism in jury selection, shoddy, underfunded legal counsel and mentally ill inmates medicated merely to better comprehend their fate and legally qualify for execution — have eroded public confidence in this allegedly objective system that collects, organizes and weighs evidence, convicts perpetrators and puts them to death, all so very righteously.

Actors rehearsing
So many cross-purposes, so much pain: Where is justice here? Click for slideshow

The American Southland has pushed back against this trend but Texas remains most adamant, maintaining its huge lead in executions over all other states, and refining its version of capital punishment to ensure a due process “speedier than the grave.” While most states outside the South have stopped executions, a form of de facto abolition, Texas continues at a pace that leaves the state many furlongs in front of its next competitor, Virginia, 439 to 103. And the bulk of these executions have occurred within the span of two recent governors, George W Bush (152) and Rick Perry (200), who both disdained the standards of international law, the European Union, other American states and many communities of faith. In the words of David Dow, professor of law at the University of Houston and a defense attorney in many capital murder cases, “the day is not far off when (for procedural, political and philosophical reasons) essentially all executions in the United States will take place in Texas.”

To counter what many consider this ultimate abuse of human rights, Amnesty International USA (AI) developed urgent action campaigns supporting appeals for clemency and reform of state laws and procedures that stack the deck against both the accused and the convicted. Much of that national effort focuses on Texas and, most especially, Harris County, which has become ground zero in the American struggle for abolition.[1] Recognizing the power of personal story to convey how messy, ambiguous and conflicted both sides of this issue can be, AI Group #23-Houston launched the Eye & Tooth Project: a series of performance pieces and workshops, some in an interactive, Forum Theatre format based on Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed.” The series is focused on the injustices and cruelties of capital punishment, Texas style. In 2003, the first Forum process began with an intensive weekend workshop culminating in a Monday performance at Houston’s Main Street Theater. An hour before the show, Texas inmate Robert Lookingbill was executed and so the performance began with five minutes of stark silence: a single candle flickering on-stage in an otherwise dark theater to solemnize his passing.

Since that first foray into advocacy as performance, AI-Houston has co-sponsored abolition workshops at AI southern regional sites (Atlanta, Ga.), state conferences (Austin, Texas) and the national Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO) Conference, and presented an animated-image performance piece to support the efforts of the AI “Weekend of Faith in Action” (Houston), a collaboration with faith-based communities who also advocate for abolition. In 2004, AI-Houston hosted the annual Southern Regional Conference, facilitated a TO abolition workshop for regional AI activists and presented a dramatic collage, “On the Tip of Heaven’s Tooth,” incorporating ensemble pieces and monologues covering the gamut of torture, political murder, unjustified incarceration and the death penalty. The eponymous piece that closed this show incorporated text from five famously heartbreaking cases: the last words from the lips of inmates executed by the State of Texas: Karla Faye Tucker, Shaka Sankofa, James Coburn, Kelsey Patterson and James Vernon Allridge.

Rolling Out AI’s “Rolling Forum”

After a four-year hiatus, AI-Houston re-envisioned Eye & Tooth as a “Rolling Forum” of performances that would visit major Texas cities to support the abolition agenda during the 2009 session of the Texas Legislature. The state capital, Austin, became the project’s primary locale and AI-Houston partnered with two experienced, Austin-based TO facilitators, Kelly Howe and Kathleen Juhl. Howe, a Ph.D. candidate and instructor in the University of Texas Performance as Public Practice program, directs new plays in Austin and elsewhere, sits on the Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed governing board and has facilitated TO projects on a wide variety of issues. Juhl, a professor of theater arts at Southwestern University, also directs and teaches acting and performance studies within a social-justice framework. I represented AI-Houston in the project as a reference source for information on Texas death penalty laws, policies and abolition networks, and as a more or less experienced hand in using TO as a structure for dialogue around the issue of capital punishment. Amnesty International USA supported the project financially through a grant from its Special Initiatives Fund.

As a group, we resolved to continue the primary aims of the Eye & Tooth Project that have endured throughout AI-Houston’s long commitment to the process. Through educational outreach, we hope to increase public awareness of race and class inequities, procedural deficiencies and psychological fallacies hard-wired into the capital-punishment system in Texas. In terms of strategic advocacy, audience exposure to Eye & Tooth content and direct participation in the intensive preparation process by the actors builds on this knowledge base to create more effective allies for murder-victims’ families, death row inmates and their families, policy makers and nonprofit-sector abolition advocates directly involved in efforts to end society’s use of the death penalty. But for this latest “rolling” iteration of Eye & Tooth, we added an additional goal grounded in the real world of legislators, laws and lobbying: Our Austin performance would educate and activate both actors and audience to sign AI and Texas Coalition for Abolition of the Death Penalty (TCADP) abolition and urgent action petitions, and support TCADP in their annual “Lobby Day” at the Texas State Capital.

We adopted Suzanne Lacy’s “Stages of Community Art” structure[2] as an organizing principle for our efforts to research, promote, network and produce Eye & Tooth. This stages framework is based on the following sequence of over-lapping activity clusters that shift from concepts to community involvement to artistic action, and ultimately to gauging the impact of all that effort.

Eye & Tooth Project Sequence

What’s the focus: issues & concepts?
Who’s the focus: who is personally affected & how?
What do you want to accomplish?
What are desirable/sustainable outcomes?

Details to gather; Questions to answer; Nuances to absorb.

Networking – Coalition Building
Who are your allies on this issue?
Where are leverage points for maximum social effect?

Human, technical, financial & spiritual

Devising and implementing the art-based actions

Measuring effectiveness: socially & personally

After Suzanne Lacy’s “Stages of Community Art”

Amnesty International’s overarching human-rights perspective on capital punishment in the U.S. — a system tainted by race and class exclusion and violations of due process, and based on a false promise of catharsis or closure for victim’s families — formed our focus in framing and exploring the issue. We recognized that the unhealed wound left in the life of a murder-victim’s family, or the soul-deadening routine of a death row inmate, or the often catastrophic, and largely unacknowledged, impact of a death sentence on the convicted inmate’s immediate kin are beyond the pale of “average” human experience. So we hoped to devise “forum-able” scenes that offered empathetic opportunities for our audience to try on the skin of a protagonist, or experiment with various action strategies and points-of-view as an ally. Having recognized that, at its root, an individual’s position on capital punishment is deeply personal, often conflicted, and difficult to change with factual evidence, we realized perhaps the best outcome we could achieve would be problematizing an issue often mischaracterized as nonnegotiable, black or white, completely evil on one side, demonstrably just and good on the other.

The combination of skills and specific networks among Eye & Tooth facilitators made for a useful, free-flowing symbiosis. Howe and Juhl made good use of their Austin insider connections to arrange venues for a preliminary workshop, the weekend intensive, a popular, well-situated space for the community performance and a slew of deals on food and advertising. Their artistic networks helped recruit actors for the production, complimentary spoken word and music to flesh out the evening performance, local artists (who were also active advocates for abolition) to serve on a post-performance panel and a remarkable audience turnout. I focused on folding our project into the circuitry of the Texas abolition network hoping to promote the event, to help facilitators and the Eye & Tooth performance cadre assimilate the issue and its implications from multiple points of view and, possibly, to recruit a few additional actors already attuned to the complexities of the issue.

I outlined the ways Amnesty collaborates with other groups on this issue and, in the course of building a coalition of support for Eye & Tooth, the three of us (together and separately) made presentations at local meetings of the Texas Coalition for Abolition of the Death Penalty (Austin and Houston), contacted members of the Texas State legislature and their staff and attended TCADP’s annual state conference where we learned the nuances of strategic messaging, the basics of various proposed bills affecting some aspect of criminal justice vis-à-vis the system of capital punishment, and got sound advice on how an abolition activist could best support Representative Jessica Farrar’s House Bill 682, which mandated total abolition of the death penalty. We also identified and contacted other allies, in Austin and statewide: the Gulf Region Advocacy Center, the Texas After Violence Project, Murder Victim’s Families for Reconciliation and, of course, the local AI chapter in Austin.

Actors rehearsing
After presenting her plea for abolition of the death penalty and reform of the criminal-justice system, Delia Perez-Meyer expresses to a supporter her pain and frustration with the House Subcommittee’s apparent disrespect and disinterest. ("Speaking Truth to Deaf Ears" in performance) Click for slideshow

We recognized that a major factor in recruiting actors for this Eye & Tooth workshop/production would be clearly ideological: Participants should support abolition of the death penalty, or at least favor a moratorium on executions. We knew the public performance could attract an audience with a wide spectrum of feelings on capital punishment, and the Forum would probably generate intense, free-ranging dialogue but, in synch with promoting the long-terms goals of the project, we wanted all the actors to start from similar feelings and beliefs. Ultimately, a diverse group committed to participating in the production process, including UT theater students, members of campus-based groups such as MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), two experienced TO actors from Houston, one of whom had previously worked with Eye & Tooth, and an array of local social-justice activists.

To provide some concepts and historical overview without overwhelming workshop participants, we focused primarily on the convergence of possible innocence and the irrevocability of execution, equity issues (with primary reference to quality of legal representation), effectiveness of capital punishment as crime deterrent, economics of capital punishment vs. the cost of life without parole, execution of mentally ill and mentally handicapped convicts in Texas, the claim by district attorney’s that execution of a murderer brings psychological closure for the victim’s family, and the social and economic consequences for families of death row inmates. These concepts informed our work with TO image structures throughout the course of the workshop and served as a launching platform for actors to become characters in the real-life death-penalty dynamic. But the authenticity, emotional complexity and conceptual depth of our work made a great leap forward when Delia Perez-Meyer, sister of Texas death row inmate, Louis Castro-Perez, sacrificed a weekend visit with her brother to participate in Eye & Tooth.

I first met Delia in 2007 when the Strand Theatre in Galveston asked AI-Houston to convene a panel of abolition activists to support their production of “The Exonerated.” The panel consisted of Dave Atwood (TCADP/Pax Christi), Clarence Brandley (exonerated former death row inmate), Nicole Casarez (director of the University of St. Thomas Innocence Project), Linda White (Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation) and Delia Perez-Meyer who represented the inmate families perspective and brought with her a show of what may be the world’s largest collection of visual art by death row inmates. As Delia told the audience of her brother’s plight we heard a through-line common to such stories: sparse resources for defense, botched or biased handling of D.A.’s investigation and DNA lab work, pro forma rubber-stamped due process, and the long, excruciating wait to be executed for someone else’s crime. She related her brother’s situation to that of two other inmates, previously executed but probably innocent, Ruben Cantu and Carlos de Luna. Delia spoke from a place of deep strength and unflinching commitment, visibly moving the audience. When I told her about AI-Houston’s ongoing Eye & Tooth project, she said, “I really want to do that. Don’t forget about me.” When she showed up at our orientation meeting in Austin, I knew we could produce something substantial out of this painfully difficult stuff.

Working through Our Dark Materials

While our way of working this issue into theater followed the more or less typical arc of any TO workshop — activation and sensory retuning games, trust exercises and image work leading into scenes — we integrated references to abolition talking points into our frequent processing sessions, and introduced a few para-theatre tools developed in the course of previous versions of Eye & Tooth. The group — including facilitators — moved through an issue-specific sociometry exercise to give us a sense of our collective experience with violence and its aftermath, criminal justice, incarceration, death row and personal ambivalence around the death penalty. We created tableau images focused on conflict that incorporated various actors in the death-penalty dynamic — the victim and victim’s family members, the accused or convicted perpetrator, the death row inmate’s family members, abolition advocates, legislators, D.A.s, judges, prison personnel, et al. — and the actors tried on various skins adopting different attitudes as they shifted functions inside the images. A riff on a traditional exercise, “Trading Masks of Oppression” from Boal’s “Games for Actors and Non-Actors,” delved into the emotional substrate of opposing points-of-view on executions, and the social pressures to keep quiet just to get along. We also used a hybrid form called “Janaka’s Double,” combining TO image theater and fluid sculpture from playback theater, to explore divergences among our inner, spontaneous reactions to the act or possibility of murder, and our publicly expressed views on the justice of the capital-punishment system.

These exercises were invaluable, showing each of us what we had never seen, what we didn’t know, provoking feelings we had never before felt. As always, the authenticity of Delia’s experience was our best teacher. I won’t forget how she drew upon precise, indelible memories to sculpt the image of her brother’s initial hearing: the D.A. declaiming fire and brimstone, the victim’s family members staring daggers, a presiding judge, head averted, dozing in and out of consciousness, and Louis — here, she gently molded an actor into a gesture of disbelief and utter desolation, saying softly, “He was crushed. He couldn’t believe they were accusing him of this … killing his friends, like this. He couldn’t believe they wouldn’t let him go home.”

Ultimately, the TO process magic yielded two scenes. Our “home for the family holiday” scenario, “They Say Death Row, We Say Hell NO,” showed a young college student, caught on TV news supporting an abolition rally at the state capital, attempting to explain her reasons to her family and relatives, all of whom had strong feelings on either side of the issue. A second scene, “Speaking Truth to Deaf Ears,” depicted the frustratingly Sisyphean story of Delia Perez-Meyer’s journey to the state capital, every other year, to advocate before the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee for greater justice and accountability in capital murder adjudication, and plead for her brother’s life.[3] The group felt this selection offered the audience a chance, both to wear the skin of an ally with some distance from the issue, and to stand in the very center of the emotional/rhetorical maelstrom that surrounds capital punishment.

They Say Death Row, We Say Hell NO

The production was a complex assemblage of many moving parts, testimony to the diligence of Howe and Juhl during the networking and coalition-building phase of Eye & Tooth-Austin. The Rude Mechanicals, an acclaimed Hill Country performance collective, hosted our production at their Off-Center space in the heart of Austin’s Latino east side, and Buscando el Monte, an afro-Cuban jazz fusion ensemble, warmed up the crowd outside with an informal block party. Amnesty International and the Texas Coalition for Abolition of the Death Penalty provided materials on abolition talking points, urgent action cases such as Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, and a TCADP petition supporting Representative Jessica Farrar’s House Bill 682 for complete abolition of the death penalty in Texas. Robert Hoelscher of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and Bob Van Steenburg, state president of TCADP, artist collaborators, jazzman Alex Coke (“Iraqnophobia,” music for “Wake Up Dead Man”), photographer Alan Pogue, (“Witness for Justice: The Documentary Photographs of Alan Pogue,” photographic images for “Wake Up Dead Man”) and Delia Perez-Meyer comprised the post-performance panel. Austin rapper Gnostic Prophet and a screening of “Wake Up Dead Man” rounded out the evening. Honored guests included Iris Salinas, editor of La Nueva Raza, and attorney Walter Long, core team advisor for the Texas After Violence Project and defense counsel for the late Napoleon Beasley, executed by lethal injection in 2002 for a murder committed when he was 17.

Each scene resonated equally with the audience, so the facilitators chose to Forum both. Most spect-actor interventions in “They Say Death Row…” focused on using assertiveness, building coalitions with like-minded family members and marshalling factual evidence to convince — notoriously difficult with such emotionally charged issues. One intervention, however, diverged from this pattern when a spect-actor introduced a totally different character, a distraught murder-victim’s family member, who confronted the chanting abolition advocates with a show-stopping accusation: “What about me?” The actors were flummoxed by this bolt from the blue — which also departs from the traditional spect-actor protocol focused on replacing protagonists or allies — but Kelly Howe seized the opportunity to solicit our audience for ideas. Various audience members spoke up and a composite plan evolved: A small group of protesters broke ranks to listen without judgment and comfort as best they could while still holding fast to their firm commitment to abolition. This example of Boal’s old-school “simultaneous dramaturgy,” in which suggestions from the audience are played out by the actors rather than physically shown by a spect-actor, clearly demonstrated that the voices of victim’s family members must be prominently included in any legitimate dialogue about alternatives to capital punishment.

Delia Perez-Meyer’s scene, “Speaking Truth to Deaf Ears,” was more difficult for the audience to engage, being situated in the halls of power and governed by rules unique to the world of legislative testimony. The most effective spect-actor strategy involved direct engagement of individual subcommittee members who were distracted, patronizingly officious, disrespectfully involved with phone calls or bantering with aides while Delia made her case. This intervention was problematic for Delia, however; she explained that direct address of individual committee members was totally counter to the norm, especially the idea of upbraiding them for disrespect. Another intervention involved changing the mindset of press who mobbed Delia after her testimony from that of sensationalist paparazzi to potential allies. “Perhaps they could report exactly how the committee members behaved,” said an audience member, “then they would be legitimate journalists.” Delia’s scene was clearly a statement on the collusion of power and media that make it so difficult to speak unpleasant or unconventional truths.[4]

Video from “Speaking Truth to Deaf Ears” by the Eye & Tooth Project, using Forum Theatre to develop more effective allies for individuals on death row (and other imprisoned persons) as well as families of death row inmates and victims’ families. Videography/editing by Bryan Parras (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services; Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say). See more Eye & Tooth videos at: http://www.youtube.com/user/hightechaztec

The panel presented perspectives ranging from murder-victim and inmate families, abolition activists engaged in actively lobbying and focused messaging, and artists who use more subtle craft to open human hearts to the possibilities of empathy. Robert Hoelscher told the poignant story of his father’s murder, how his mother called the young perpetrator’s family and compassionately forgave him, and ended with a plea for more such stories and a testimony to their power: “Let the stories breathe, and ultimately they will compel change.” Delia Perez-Meyer reaffirmed her commitment to her brother and to the many death row inmates she now claims as friends, reminding us that just because people are on death row, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re guilty, nor does it mean they should be excluded from humanity. Once again, her ferocious commitment to the human beings trapped inside this issue shone through as she said, “ … to do this work you’ve got to keep telling yourself, don’t stop, don’t ever stop, have patience, but don’t have too much patience; adapt, deal, negotiate, because it’s necessary to grease the wheels of change in ways the world can understand, but never give an inch back on your beliefs, and never forget, you do what you do, not just out of frustration, or pain, or anger, however justified: you do what do only out of love.” She closed with a brief, heartbreaking observation that for close to a decade-and-a-half, she has not been allowed to touch her little brother.

Bob van Steenburg energized the audience with a roll call of recent victories, some monumental, like this year’s abolition of capital punishment by New Mexico, close votes in Montana and Colorado, and the previous year’s abolition triumphs in New Jersey and New York. He suggested that smaller successes, like the fact that Jessica Farrar’s bill even exists here in Texas and will be officially read in a Texas state legislature subcommittee, are reasons to take heart and amplify our voices. He also offered the astute opinion that abolition may never come to Texas because of transformations in ethics or morality, but rather because it costs so much more to execute than to incarcerate for life. Alex Coke and Alan Pogue portrayed their audio/visual collaboration on “Wake Up Dead Man” as a way to make the facts of death row “real for people beyond logic and canned arguments.” In closing, Alan described the combined impact of Alex’s music and his visual images as “a power beyond argumentation, beyond bias.”

So What Happened, How Much, To Whom, and What Does It All Mean?

Looking at our process in terms of flow and artistic integrity, both scenes compressed and accentuated inherent conflict — Delia’s much more subtly — without resorting to naïve oversimplification. Complexity was not sacrificed for an easy fix; again, Delia’s scene was most problematic, and yet utterly revealing, because the terms of her interactions with legislators were circumscribed by protocols and traditions that seem calculated to disempower and deter ordinary citizens. Through the lens of impacts and sustainability, Eye & Tooth successfully connected actor participants and audience with an issue that most citizens consign to the realm of the Other, or exploit to demonize and exclude various races and classes as a tactic in our fruitless national culture wars. Citizens who would not have known such details were introduced to the function of jurisprudence subcommittees and the mechanics of lobbying and organizing, and were given opportunities for connection with organizations like Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, the Texas Coalition for Abolition of the Death Penalty and Amnesty International that channel information, provide technical assistance and actively seek energetic volunteers. I know that three members of the cast went over to the Capital on Lobby Day, and Kelly Howe spent many hours in those same halls inviting legislators to our event. Nearly everyone who stayed signed the TCADP and Amnesty International petitions. On the other hand, none of the invited legislators actually attended Eye & Tooth. In all honesty, we invited only “friendlies,” who were as sure of our support as we were of their good efforts to reform and humanize Texas law, but it would have been encouraging to see them in the audience, and learn from their contributions to the dialogue. Regardless, the Eye & Tooth project honors them — most especially, Representative Jessica Farrar (House District 148) — for their courageous stands, and their investments of time and effort in abolition issues.[5]

House Bill 682 never made it beyond subcommittee, but it did receive a detailed reading and discussion. Other reform measures ultimately made it into laws that codified standards for attorneys representing indigent defendants in capital appeals cases, raised compensation rates for wrongful conviction and incarceration, and established an advisory “Innocence Commission” to study methods of preventing wrongful convictions. And remarkably, the State of Texas is slated to open its first ever Capital Defense Office, with nine attorneys detailed to manage post-conviction appeals in death-penalty cases. These incremental steps toward reform may seem insignificant on a national scale, but given the grim situation in Texas over the past few decades, the 2009 legislature produced real change in criminal-justice processes that may begin to reverse disturbing local trends.

Eye & Tooth will convene again in Dallas/Fort Worth; the time frame for the workshop/performance is tentatively set for late Fall 2009. AI-Houston also planned to field an Eye & Tooth in Galveston to engage the medical community (through the University of Texas Medical Branch) on the issues of physician involvement in training execution teams, or actually supervising the process on-site, and the uses and abuses of expert testimony in determining whether a defendant accused of murder is mentally ill or cognitively handicapped. The immense damage caused by Hurricane Ike in Galveston interrupted this leg of the project, but Eye & Tooth will not be over until memories of the “Huntsville Death House” are consigned to “the way things used to be.” As Reverend Carroll Pickett, former prison chaplain at the Huntsville unit of the Texas prison system, and now a staunch advocate for abolition, observed in his recent book, “Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain”: “The death penalty, no longer hidden in the shadows, seems to have emerged as a social issue that is causing soul-searching and has give our nation pause. In that I see hope.” Eye & Tooth also hopes to ratchet up our collective level of soul-searching, to lengthen and deepen those reflective pauses, and to move the painful fate of families who have lost a loved one to violence — and the living hell of inmates on death row — further out of the shadows, and into the light of reason and compassion.

John Sullivan directs the Public Forum & Toxics Assistance division of the NIEHS Community Outreach and Education Core at the University of Texas Medical Branch @ Galveston, Texas. He uses Theatre of the Oppressed, photo/video voice and documentary video in collaborative environmental-justice projects. Sullivan is a member of Amnesty International USA Local Group #23, Houston, Texas, and co-directs the Eye & Tooth Project with AI-23 member Sheli Rae.


[1] The total number of offenders sentenced to death from Houston/Harris County totals 280. The next highest number is Dallas County at 96. (As of February 5, 2009)

[2] Lacy, Suzanne. “Debated Territory: Toward a Critical Language for Public Art." in S. Lacy (ed.) Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art. Ed. Suzanne Lacy. Seattle: Bay Press. 1994.

[3] The Texas Legislature convenes for legislative business every other year.

[4] Before the spect-actor phase of “Speaking Truth to Deaf Ears” commenced, Kelly Howe reminded the audience that Delia Perez-Meyer had donated and enacted her own story, and that this painful outcome really happened more than once. She emphasized that, as potential spect-actors, we were not offering a critique of Delia’s actions but rather were looking for leverage points within (or beyond) the scene where Delia’s issues might pick up traction, gather allies and generate empathy with a wider audience. Delia chose to do this scene because she wanted the audience to see what the advocacy process looks like, and experience a fraction of the frustration activists have felt trying to communicate with and change a previously immovable legislative-judicial system.

[5] In addition to Representative Farrar, supportive legislators include: Senator Rodney Ellis (District 13), Representative Sylvester Turner (District 139), Representative Harold Dutton (District 142), Senator Juan Hinojosa (District 20), Senator Eliot Shapleigh (District 29), Senator Eddie Lucio (District 27), Representative Dora Olivo (District 27), Representative Elliot Naishat (District 49), Representative Terri Hodge (District 100), Representative Lon Burnam (District 90), Representative “Chente” Quintanilla (District 75).

Videography/Editing by Bryan Parras (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say)
Still Photography by Liana Lopez (Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say)
Text by John Sullivan (Amnesty International Local Group #23 / Houston, Texas)

Original CAN/API publication: August 2009

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