*Delivered on a Death Penalty Action vigil immediately following the October 5, 2022 Execution of John Ramirez in Texas
I’m tired of these vigils. Really tired. We show up. We try to do what we’re supposed to do. We try to be present. We feel like we’ve accomplished something. Then, a few weeks later we do the same thing all over again. Why? Why are we so comfortable going through the motions? The truth is, you can get so good at crying…so good at mourning…so good at grieving…that you forget that what you need to be getting good at is fighting back…organizing…abolishing all this bullshit once and for all. You see, the question of the hour is not how you feel…the question of the hour is how are you going to use those feelings? Not necessarily where do we go from here…but more so…how are we going to go from here? Again, we could spend the rest of our lives attending these vigils…we could spend the rest of our lives upset and angry that these executions are happening…or we could give our lives to making it stop…to abolishing the death penalty once and for all.
Since we’ve been on this vigil, I got a phone call from someone who is on death row in Oklahoma. When he asked me what I was doing, I told him that I was on a vigil for John Ramirez who was being executed in Texas. Immediately, he said, “Fuck that” and hung up. I was taken aback for a moment, then I realized that if I was on death row somewhere, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to spend my time hearing about an execution somewhere else. Then, I got a deeper truth. Maybe we are so used to doing these vigils that we aren’t saying “Fuck that” enough. You see we should be concentrating on getting the hell away from these things through destroying the source of their existence…the death penalty. So, maybe the rest of us should start saying “Fuck that” a lot more.
We’ve read a bunch of scripture tonight. We’ve talked a considerable amount about God. We’ve had some movements of the Spirit. All of that is well and good…but my prayer tonight for this group…for this organization…for all who do this work…is…God give us rage. God give us rage. Help us to be angry. And may we use that rage…that anger…to transform our society…to push back against this horrible injustice that is the death penalty.
We heard earlier the Psalmist say, “Ye, though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Tonight, remember…you don’t have to fear any evil. Ye, though we have walked through the valley of the shadow of death tonight…we don’t have to fear any evil…you don’t have to fear any evil. Because justice, righteousness, grace, mercy, hope…they will be your guide.
I want everyone who has traveled through this space of death…this valley of death…tonight…I want you to remember John Ramirez…not as an angel…not as a saint…but rather as a human being…just like the rest of us. A human being who the State of Texas murdered tonight. And in your humanity…I want you to make sure this shit don’t ever happen again.
May this be the last vigil. Let’s declare that with our prayers…in our lives…in our actions. Let’s declare that this is the last vigil. Tonight is going to be the last vigil! You might say that I’m a dreamer…but I can tell you that I’d rather be a dreamer than be found with the executioners. I’d rather be a dreamer than be an accomplice to the death penalty.
God give us rage. God help us to be angry. God give us rage. That we might go out and make this night the last night that someone is executed. May we be the abolitionists who get to see the death penalty abolished.