The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America

By Mark Lewis Taylor | Go to book overview

acknowledgments

Whether this book’s rhetoric is raised in lament, denunciation, or in an announcement of hope and life, I must acknowledge those who suffer in lockdown America today. They have not only cried out, they have organized. They have invited those of us in the outer prison to think along with them while they labor within the belly of the beast that is America’s carcerai archipelago, its prison and death row system.

I send thanks, then, to Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose struggle for his own life and for others, has waged a resistance to empire exemplary to us all. As my quoting him at the outset of the Preface suggests, I consider him both leader and colleague in the struggle all of us must wage if we value real justice for all in the American lands of the twenty-first century. I remember, too, Ziyon Yisraya, executed in Indiana in 1996 (one of two black men executed for the death of a white detective in a predawn police raid, in which prosecutors still don’t know whose bullet killed him). Those especially, who die in struggle, live on in our marching and organizing, giving power ’til the fight is won. We remember you, Ziyon.

I remember, too, Gary Graham (Shaka Sankofa, as he renamed himself) who was executed on June 22, 2000, maintaining an innocence that was supported by human rights activists the world over, and also by the New York Times, which devoted three editorials to him within the space of one week. Sankofa breathed his last while looking at the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., and saying, “They know I’m innocent…. They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me.”1 Sankofa died on the lethal injection gurney, after putting up a fierce physical fight, and, according to witnesses, with one eye open.

I like to interpret that one open eye as the vigilance that the forever dead maintain in the world of the living. I take that open eye as a challenge to remember (the very idea, by the way, signaled by the African notion of Sankofa2) all the tormented ones, dead or alive, who have unjustly suffered lockdown America. These dead, through our remembrance and action, are a resource for the struggles we still must undertake.

Grateful thanks go out also to Reginald Lewis, also on Pennsylvania’s death row, turning out stories and plays for children to perform at different times of the church year, for my worshiping community and for others. I am grateful to Lawrence Hayes, a one-time death row inmate in New York, who earned his master’s degree from New York Theological Seminary while in prison and now, upon his exoneration and release, teaches every citizen who

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