Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 3: Lobbying, and rallying and marching -- Oh My!

pamela j.jpgFirst posted by Dallas Morning News. This blog post is written by Pamela Skjolsvik, a blogger and author currently finishing her first book, Death Becomes Us. A resident of Bedford, she earned a master's degree in 2010 from Goucher College in Maryland. Her writing has been included in Creative Nonfiction, the Durango Herald, and in the upcoming Ten Spurs literary journal from the University of North Texas. 

Yesterday was the Day of Innocence lobby day and rally to stop executions in Texas. After a meet and greet with the death row exonerees--Clarence Brandley, Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine and Albert Burrell--I followed the Kids Against the Death Penalty group to the House gallery.

First of all, I am ashamed to admit that I know very little about how our government actually works. (Sorry Mr. Riggle) Call me naïve, or simply optimistic, but I fully expected decorum, but speakers at the podium had to compete with the din of loud voices, casual conversations and a sort of bored indifference to the proceedings. I felt ashamed that no one was paying attention and that less than half of our elected representatives were in attendance. As people scurried around the room pressing buttons at empty desks, Teri Been, whose brother, Jeff Woods, is on death row due to the Law of Parties, had to explain the practice of ghost voting to me.

I was shocked.

As Representative Harold Dutton approached the podium, a voice of reason rang out into the room. Representative Jim Keffer asked that people be respectful and take their conversations outside. I would have loved to quote his actual words, but I could barely hear him. The room hushed as Representative Dutton honored the exonerees who were in attendance with a resolution. In regards to these men's incarceration on death row for crimes they didn't commit he said, "You have gone through hell while living here on earth."

After that, I followed the KADP members to several Representatives offices around the Capitol. The kids were concentrating their efforts on the HB 855 and HB 2511, which concern the Law of Parties. The kids spoke mainly with aides, but they were able to speak one on one with Representative Cindy Burkett. Representative Burkett listened attentively to Teri Been's story of her brother's life on death row. As Ms. Been relayed the events of her brother's execution date (he received a stay hours before his execution) she broke down. Representative Burkett hugged Teri and said, "I'm a hugger." And I'm glad she was.

Although the members of KADP are focusing their attention on a very serious issue, they are just teens. As all seven of them entered and left each office, they were sure to take a piece of candy from the various bowls placed by each sign in book. Hey, I did too. In Representative Pete Gallego's office, the kids giddily ventured out onto the balcony to take in the scenery.

As the day wore on, I asked Nick who is fourteen about his work with KADP.

In a very serious manner he told me about their meetings and the protests they've organized. I thought back to my concerns when I was fourteen. If memory serves, the only thing I was passionate about was finding the perfect hair styling product. If only I'd paid more attention in Mr. Riggle's American Government class, I too could have addressed the World Congress in Geneva, like three of the members of KADP did.

"We're like really famous in Switzerland," Nick informs me.

Yeah, I bet they are.

If you'd like to read more about their efforts, go here.

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