Cher Kossacks !
As some of you know, I spent last week in Washington, DC, lobbying on Capital Hill against long term solitary confinement, and in support of Albert Woodfox, the still imprisoned member of the Angola Three who has spent 42 years in solitary confinement. Mr. Woodfox's trial was overturned in 2013, but the State of Louisiana is, as we speak, preparing to retry him.
I also attended this year's Ecumenical Advocacy Days while there. The focus of this year's conference was on Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation, so lots of discussion about the ways that racism plays a part in the huge numbers of people of colour who are in US prisons, and how to change that.
Friday night, Rev. Traci DeVon Blackmon was the primary speaker. She is a leader in the peaceful protests that have been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. What an inspiration !
Saturday, I took a workshop on Palestinian children are being kidnapped by Israeli authorities and locked in prisons. Very eye-opening and heart-breaking.
Sunday, I took the workshop on long-term solitary confinement and how that is torture. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture had engaged a local carpenter to build a replica Solitary Confinement Cell, so those attending the conference could have some experience on what it was really like. I was prepared, as much as you can be, for the noise and the oppressive light that was on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but what took me by surprise was the constant jarring vibration going through my body from the cells below, and the pain in my body from laying on a concrete bed. I had the opportunity during the conference to meet and spend time with a young man named Galen, who had survived 4 1/2 years in solitary. I am staggered that he has his sense of humour.
Monday, we hit the streets of Capital Hill, and lobbied our elected federal officials. I joined the Washington State delegation, in honour of my husband, Dan, a Vietnam vet who survived being tortured, who lived in Washington State until he moved to be with me. We met with staffers from Maria Cantwell's office first, and I was thrilled to see that when I spoke about long term solitary confinement as torture, asnd sleep deprivation as torture, that he wrote both down in large caps :) We then met with staffers from the offices of a few of the congressional representatives. Our last visit was with staffers from Patty Murray's office, and we were thrilled that, unlike the 15 minutes the previous staffers had all given us, they met with us for over half and hour ! YAY !
I also spent the previous Wednesday and Thursday lobbying in all of the offices of the sentors and congressional representatives of Louisiana, bringing to their attention the case plight of Albert Woodfox. During Wednesday's lobbying, I had the huge and undoubted honour of meeting (and getting the autograph of a real American hero, and steadfast advocate, Congressman John Lewis. SQUEEEE!
On the fun side, both of my excellent Kossack hosts, work at the Library of Congress, so I had an opportunity to get a two year reader's card :) WOW ! For a Library Geek like me, that is gold :)
It was an excellent trip full of real advocating, and lots of learning and educating done, and lots of contacts made !
I would like to thank my Kossack Angels who made it possible for me to make this trip. You truly make a difference. Thank you ! My heart is full to over-flowing ! One exceptionally amazing Kossack loaned me the use of a card so I could book my plane flight while the rate was low. I still need to pay her back, so I would be truly, truly grateful for any contributions you might be willing and able to make. I will need about $300, because I had neglected to remember travel medical insurance (just in case), and the baggage fees were more expense than I thought they would be, because another airline was handling my flight to DC (United :( ) My paypal address is email@example.com Every dollar counts and will be very gratefully received and passed on to my angel.
Thank you, All, for everything,
Love and Hugs,