“WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING” – TONY FORD

Being here in this hell really affords me a lot of time to think. Some people think that I think too much. But, I can’t help it. I am introspective and I believe that this is the only way that I can grow and develop from the mistakes that I make in life. I don’t think that it is productive to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. How do you grow
doing that? Some things do need to be done in repetition, for the sake of perfection. But, if mistakes are repeated, does this mean that one becomes more perfect in their mistakes?
Well, a lot is going on here. But, that is to be expected when you live within a prison environment. Things happen and not all of it good. But, there are some good things going on that I believe are being missed by a lot of people who tend not to pay attention to death row or the things that go on here, UNLESS they are happening to someone here who has a lot of outside support. Or someone who is supported by a certain group or organization. But, what of those who don’t have that type of support? The type of supporters who will take the things that that person does to fight against the death penalty and to fight for justice in their case, and publicize these things.

 

Anyway, good things are happening, and I look forward to more good things transpiring, such as the protest that has been going on periodically when someone has been unfortunate enough to have advanced to the point of that final day
of life here on earth. The bad thing is no one seems to be really paying attention. Not the news organizations – whether mainstream or underground independent media. Nor does it seem that those who supported those who have been slain by this state, have taken these mens’ final stance and advanced it to the public view. So, in a sense, I am pissed. I am also disappointed. But, let me go back and explain what it is that I am first talking about ok?

 

Last year when I had a December 7th execution date, I started a passive non-violent protest against my execution. Even when my execution date was modified to March 14th of this year, I continued to protest. Now, please understand my doing this caused much distress. You see most people will just ride out their remaining time eat as much as they can, have their last visits, etc… and try and make like everything is ok, not withstanding the fact that the state has it in their minds to murder them. All in the name of justice… In the name of the people… Well, for me, this has NEVER been ok. And it never will be. I cannot fathom anyone thinking that it would be ok to murder anyone.

 

And, being here, especially for those who are innocent, how could anyone ever think they could make this ok??? To not resist? I am not talking violence. I am talking simple resistance against something that is so unjust. Something that is so wrong. And my view has always been this: Look I am not in some hospital bed. I am not dying of terminal cancer or some other incurable disease or illness. This state is saying that it will KILL me. And unless something positive happens, then they will. So what I need is people who will stand with and by me, as I struggle for my life. That has been my stance from day ONE. And I know that such a stance runs counter to how so many people have perceived fighting the death penalty…
I remember when I first heard about how people protested someone being killed by the state of Texas you know, the candlelight vigils? I was like, “you’re kidding right?!” Now that might sound “cold”. But I just couldn’t understand how someone could just stand by and let an execution take place!! I mean you have people who will chain themselves together to save a TREE. Or to save some animals from being killed or abused You have people who will go all out in front of clinics they believe have certain drugs that can help them. But for us here, you light a candle?????!!! So, no I didn’t understand it. While the ideas and actions are appreciated, I just didn’t get why there was no more action than that to truly let the people know that no state should be killing its citizens. But, I guess you would have to be a fly on the wall to truly understand how such low key dissent affects us here. Again, it is appreciated. But, nothing more???

Then I, along with some other brothers here, namely Ponchai “Kamau” Wilkerson, Emerson “Young Lion” Rudd, and a few others thought, “Well MAYBE the struggle out there is not vocal and demonstrative because we back here are doing nothing!” So, we set about trying to do something to show that we are not just talking a good game. That we are dedicated to this struggle. And that we would lead by example. Well, after being beaten across the head, and having countless precious personal property items destroyed – humiliations worse than what already goes on – we still didn’t garner the support we thought would come from our actions I mean I have been run in on and beaten, along with the aforementioned brothers and countless others. I have seen Howard “L.D.” Guidry (who thank God is back on a retrial!) carried down the hall like a log for refusing to walk, while he was doing his share in protesting the abuse back on the Ellis unit. Seeing brother Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham) have his property destroyed because he would dare to expose what was going on back here on death row. Seeing Willie McGinnis starve almost to death as he did his leg of the hunger strikes to protest inhumane conditions and executions. Brothers beaten and gassed for daring to take a stance and lead in those things that we felt would galvanise the people to the cause Only, this had the opposite affect. Instead, we were abandoned wholesale. We were told to “chill”. To not “cause any trouble”. This, despite the fact we were getting beaten and humiliated regardless!

 

BUT, we felt that peaceful non-violent protest would be something that was “safe”. It was also a way of protesting that we chose because we know we are not those monsters that we are portrayed to be. So, random acts of hurting other human beings was not even an option. The question was, and always has been, WHAT could we do to gain the much needed support from the outside? To show you that we are with you, and hopefully you are with us, as we do REAL activism against the death penalty – on par with other struggles and movements of dissatisfied peoples, who are oppressed and abused and ignored in their grievances against their governments.

 

Well, the things that we have been doing down here in Texas are things that I have heard coming from any other death rows across this country. Maybe this is censorship against the activities of these other death rows. But one thing that got me really excited was listening to an interview on “Democracy Now” (Amy Goodman) with California death row inmate Kevin Cooper. He stated for all the world to hear that “I (he) will not participate in the sick and twisted practice of state sanctioned murder”…., that “I will not do anything violent, but I will not do anything either to help them kill me…” Hearing this was to hear the greatest thing I ever heard from a death row prisoner. Until then I had no knowledge of who Kevin Cooper was. But his words resonated deep within me, and I reflected on the strugglers down here in Texas. So, when my execution date approached I was determined that I would not help them in this process of death…. of murder. So, on November 2nd 2005 I began my protest. And this protest brought others
out to stand with me in solidarity, they being: Rob Will, Gabriel Gonzales, Andre Simpson, Kenneth Foster, Reginald Blanton and Robert Woodard. They all participated in passive non-violent resistances with me experiencing all the hardships and pain that the administration inflicted upon us. But, we didn’t break. We stood strong. And this galvanized other men who had execution dates.
And so, Shannon “Big Tank” Thomas and Marion Dudley lay down in protest on their execution dates! Big Tank’s people even protested out in the visitation area and ran across the grounds yelling their dissent against his execution date! Where was their support? The support for their actions and sacrifice? Then, Tommie Hughes protested nonviolently.

 

Again, where was his outside support? Tee had ALWAYS been involved with protest back here. And so I KNOW that people out there knew this brave man to be a warrior who stood up for what he believed in, and could not accept the injustice being done against him even if his death sated the thirst for blood of those who called for his murder! Then Timothy Titsworth. He likewise lay down in protest. He wasn’t trying to claim innocence. But that his life was precious and that his life was worth something, and that KILLING IS WRONG! And who can forget the brave stance Lamont Reese made? His protest, along with that of his mother who yelled out “They are killing my baby!” as she watched them murder her child, made it onto CNN and MSNBC!!! And the actions of Mauriceo Brown who also lay down in protest!! And lastly William “Motown” Wyatt!!

 

ALL these men made a stance against injustice. No matter what was felt about them or their cases. They made a brave stance and little or nothing is said about it… WHERE IS THE SUPPORT? I don’t know, but I do know that here on the row those men slain by the state have support. It just baffles me that when we read the anti death penalty newletters NOTHING is said about these men at all!! So this makes me wonder, are all our actions in vain? Why don’t those who purport to be fighting for the end of this death penalty stand up and support our actions more vocally than they have? Stop standing on the sidelines allowing us to be killed without bringing light to our actions.
Anyway, these are some of the things that have been going on down here…. while you were sleeping.

 

Tony Egbuna Ford
August 9th 06

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