Friday, October 12, 2007

Making Connections with Tennessee Students

When our members travel somewhere to speak, so much of the work is about making connections with people – in the sense of reaching them with one’s story and one’s message and in the sense of finding common ground. Last weekend, MVFHR board member Vicki Schieber was the keynote speaker at a conference for students organized by the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing (TCASK). High school and college students from all over the state came together to learn about the death penalty and specifically about how they can organize anti-death penalty initiatives within their own schools and campuses. You can read TCASK Executive Director Stacey Rector’s write-up about the conference and Vicki’s participation in it here.

“My favorite forums involve speaking to students,” Vicki said when describing the event after she’d returned home. “I think our greatest hope is in getting young people involved, interested, and organized about this issue.” The students had a chance to ask questions both during the public presentation and in more personal conversations with Vicki afterwards, and they raised all kinds of issues including how best to explain their anti-death penalty work to parents who aren’t fully comfortable with the idea.

Tennessee State Representative Larry Turner, who has long been supportive of abolition efforts there, was another of the speakers at the conference, and he told the audience that his own brother had been murdered five years ago – something he had not talked about publicly before. Vicki was able to make a connection with him and let him know about MVFHR’s work. Lawmakers who are also family members of murder victims and who are publicly anti-death penalty can be powerful voices, as a story in this issue of our newsletter, published last year, describes in detail.

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