Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Back home

Our thanks go to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty for putting on another wonderful conference this past weekend. NCADP's annual conferences offer geographically scattered abolitionists a chance to come together and talk, listen, put faces to names we've known only over email, deepen connections and form new ones. and generally have a great time together.

MVFHR speakers contributed to a variety of workshops and panel presentations. Bill Jenkins led a workshop on "The Impact of Homicide on Families of Murder Victims"; Kate Lowenstein, Bob Curley, and Vicki Schieber spoke on a panel titled "Families of Murder Victims as Speakers: How to Support them when you ask them to speak," moderated by NCADP's Rachel's Fund director Mary Achilles; Renny Cushing spoke on a panel giving the History of the VIctims' Rights Movement, along with Kerry Naughton from the Partnership for Safety and Justice and Vicki Smith from the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Bob Curley and Brian MacQuarrie were the focus on a morning plenary session. (Brian's book The Ride chronicles Bob Curley's journey from supporter of the death penatly to opponent, in the aftermath of the murder of his son Jeffrey.)

At Friday evening's Murder Victims' Family Members "meet and greet" gathering, hosted by Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, victims' family members from all around the country had the opportunity to be together in a relaxed setting and to share good food and conversation. The experience of standing together in a circle, each briefly stating where they were from and who they had lost, was powerful both for the participants and the supporters who witnessed it.

At Saturday evening's awards dinner, we were all thrilled to watch MVFHR Board Chair Vicki Schieber receive the Abolitionist of the Year award for the tremendous amount of public speaking and meeting with lawmakers that she has done in an array of states over the past year. Vicki accepted the award with her husband Syl at her side and against a backdrop of beautiful photos of her daughter Shannon, who was murdered in 1998 at the age of 23. Vicki told the audience that she did this work to honor Shannon and carry her spirit forward, and in the audience that evening we could all feel how true that was.

Congratulations again to Vicki, to all the other victims' family members who gave their hearts and their energy to the public presentations throughout the conference, and to all the abolitionists who work so hard to carry this work forward.

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