A Testament of Fearlessness and Truth: Reflections on Troy Davis

“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.

Jackson, Georgia in front of the 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.

Supporter from Savannah

“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.

6:45 pm, moments before scheduled execution

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.

11:08 pm, September 21, 2011

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.”[1] 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.

You can sign Amnesty International’s Pledge “Not in My Name Pledge” here.



[1] Adapted from the Ethics of Anusara Yoga, 2010.

25 Comments

  1. We still live in an age of barbarism. It’s worse, I suspect, because we truly should know better by now. Thank goodness for those who see clearly and care. As hard as it must have been, I’m glad that you and so many others were there for him.

    Half a world away, we also cried and had broken hearts for Troy.

    Blessings to Troy, and to everyone who chooses to stand against injustice.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Chelsea.

    “We must continue to stand in our Truth, practice compassion, and fight for justice in any and every possible way.” Absolutely.

    Much love to you.

  3. Beautifully written Chelsea. Thank you for sharing. My prayer is that this tragedy will not be in vain but will be a catalyst for change.

    1. Gina, thank you so much for teaching me how to see life in a new way. Learning how to apply the UPA and 3As in all that I do (including the stuff I write on here and in school) is serving me so well. Your contribution to this world is making such an impact. I am so grateful that you are one of my teachers. See you soon! Infinite Love to you!

  4. The sad thing about this, is that ANYBODY could be a Troy Davis.
    If the judicial system gives in to tiredness and indifference, further efforts to investigate the truth will forever be doomed to fail. He was denied a lie-detector test! Now why would anyone deny a convict a lie detector test? I fear I may guess the answer: too tired it seems to go through the ‘hassle’ of really digging out the truth.

    1. Yes, the issue with the lie detector was especially disturbing to me. It is very clear that “the powers that be” were afraid to face the Truth in such a radical way. Why else would you deny that request? The fact that he wanted to take it shows that he had nothing to hide. I just pray that we continue to stay aware of the many other cases like brother Troy’s. Thank you for reading and sharing your voice to the discussion!

    1. I L O V E You Cheryl!!!! You are so awesome you change-maker you. You serve so many children and communities in ways we may never know. Thank you for your service. See you soon!

    1. Thanks for reading Danica. I really do hope that this experience taught all of us a great deal about our judicial system and how to participate in democracy. We need to continue to be proactive in every aspect of society, including voting! I know I am preaching to the choir, but I think it is important for us to continue the conversation and take action!

  5. Chelesea, thank you for sharing your experience at such a personal level. I too opposed the execution of Troy Davis. I signed many petitions, prayed and hoped. I oppose the death penalty period ! I pray today and everyday that we each know personal and world Peace, that we can be kind to ourselves and each other. That there may be a time when there is such kindness and peace prisons no longer exist. I really like your quote from Anusara Yoga and pray I can live it daily. I appreciate your yoga classes as a practice towards that goal.
    Love.

    1. Thank you for reading Callahan and sharing these powerful words. I am not a supporter of the death penalty either, especially when there is even an ounce of doubt. The movement thanks you for signing those petitions! Although Troy Davis is no longer with us in the physical world, his spirit can live through us all as we continue to practice democracy by participating. I am so grateful for your presence in my life. So great to practice yoga with you! Love you!

  6. Thank you Chelsea,

    Straight up, legal lynching…

    In the spirit of Lauryn Hill & Nas, we should “open every cell in Attica [& other colonial concentration camps] & send them to Africa [or we need to at least benefit from resources stolen from our varying homelands].”

    If we’re ever going to beat this, we’re going to have to use our pens and our persons to rise up against imperialism, demand global reparations, & struggle for self-determination…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4ZyuULy9zs&feature=youtu.

    Rest in Power, comrade Davis

    Cam

    1. Patrick,
      As usual it is an honor to hear your voice! The social justice that you not only talk about, but PRACTICE with the youth in California is the kind of practice that brings awareness and resistance against situations like this. I hope that you continue to enlighten the People (especially the Youth) while they continue to teach you.
      * I love the “rest in POWER”….indeed. Talk soon!

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