“They can take my body but not my spirit, because I have given my spirit to God.”- Troy Anthony Davis
As we approached the exit into Jackson, Georgia I became very nervous. Making the left turn toward Prison Boulevard seemed like a scene out of a movie. We were abruptly greeted by the images of law enforcement officers, helicopters, news vans, and fellow protestors. Without wasting any time we immediately made our way to the field that bordered the rural Highway 36 standing parallel to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison.
Initially, the scene seemed very casual as the crowd was surprisingly modest in number and the police presence was only a fraction of what it transformed into by the end of the night.
A woman from Troy Davis’ hometown of Savannah, Georgia quickly began to organize individuals to line the rural highway (whose traffic was dominated by pick-up trucks and eighteen wheelers) in support of Troy Davis.
“No justice! No peace!” could be heard for hours, along with energetic call and response chants like, “We won’t let Troy Davis die! Stand up! Testify!” No one questioned this woman’s authority, everyone simply followed suit and organized.
Throughout the evening I observed and participated in prayer, moments of silence, chanting, singing, and meaningful conversations with complete strangers. However, for the most part I remained very quiet and still. I remember sitting on the hill watching the scene and occasionally crying when no one was watching me. I thought about our brother Troy Davis and how much he has endured over these 22 years. I thought about the MacPhail family and their loss. I thought about fellow protestors both at the scene and around the world who never met Mr. Davis, yet felt so compelled to protest an irreversible injustice that lacked humanity and above all Truth. I thought about all of the innocent lives that have been lost to senseless acts of violence, injustice, and ignorance based in fear.
As the sun began to set and the 7:00 hour drew closer we began to notice the amount of law enforcement that appeared to be growing exponentially. Lines of approximately 200 SWAT team members dressed in all black, wearing helmets filed in by the dozens carrying weapons. Georgia State Patrol cars dramatically zipped down the highway with lights flashing as more officers filed out of their units armed with clubs. In my opinion, it looked like the front line of a war; however, the difference was that unarmed men, women and children occupied the front line of protestors and remained unmoved by the tension that was building. At about 6:45 pm a spiritual leader from our community of protestors suggested that we all kneel and begin to pray.
Just minutes before the planned execution, protestors began to shout, “Troy’s execution has been delayed!” My travel companion and friend quickly verified the news on his phone and immediately supporters began to cheer, cry, fall to their knees, and celebrate. I was witnessing a miracle right before my eyes and in that moment I began to cry uncontrollably with many others. Within seconds of our celebratory cheers, hugs, and cries we were reminded by several supporters that “we are not done yet”.
My friend and I continued to wait until we heard the final decision. Many representatives from a church in metro Atlanta encouraged us to retreat from the front lines and wait in the nearby church for our safety. We decided not to—instead we waited in the field. We waited as closely as we could to the prison. More importantly, we waited as closely as we could to our brother Troy Davis. Hours had gone by, yet our exhaustion meant nothing in comparison to all Mr. Davis and his family had experienced up to this point with regard to waiting. I am amazed by the courage conveyed through Mr. Davis’ words in 2008 when facing execution:
“… no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.”
As the evening came to a close I looked around and noticed that many people were expressionless and exhausted. I remember telling my friend, “I feel so empty”. I mean I truly could not muster any emotion because there were so many unknowns.
Would we find out tonight? Are they going to cancel the execution? I was even composing a list within my mind of all of the friends and colleagues I would encourage to come out with us next week to protest. However, we soon received word that Mr. Davis was not granted clemency.
At 11:08 pm the entire world watched one of the most inhumane and despicable acts of violence imposed on a human being by the hands of our extremely flawed judicial system. A man whom was never proven guilty with evidence and proclaimed his innocence to the family of the victim until his very last breath was murdered.
Brother Troy Anthony Davis has taught me so much about living in one’s Truth. There had to be a point in which a man who spent 22 years of his life incarcerated and had his execution delayed within minutes of scheduled injections had to reach a place of peace within. Every activist, minister, and community leader I’ve heard speak about Mr. Davis, describe him as a very peaceful and spiritual man. Mr. Davis illustrates how freedom can be experienced even within institutional boundaries. Mr. Davis exemplifies that “Whatever we encounter, whether it is auspicious or malicious, good or bad, uplifting or disheartening we have the choice to respond in ways that are more life-affirming.” Troy Anthony Davis certainly affirmed his life through his faith, his words, his relationship with his beloved family, and the ways in which he never allowed fear to discourage him from speaking his Truth. I am so honored to have walked proudly with so many others and with Troy until the final hour. We must not allow brother Troy’s physical death to have been in vain. We must continue to stand in our Truth, practice compassion, and fight for justice in any and every possible way. Thank you for teaching me and rest well brother Troy Anthony Davis.
You can make a contribution toward the efforts of the NAACP here as this organization was integral in Davis’ fight for Civil Rights and the rights for all citizens.
 Adapted from the Ethics of Anusara Yoga, 2010.