Meditations: 40 Days to Justice
December 2, 2014 was the day scheduled for Keith LaMar's Oral Argument before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Cincinnati. That day was a critical one for Keith's attorneys, who would make their final plea to have his case sent back down for either retrial or dismissal altogether on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct. Those inclined toward meditation/prayer/positive thinking participated in a daily reflection for 40 days leading up to the Oral Argument. Each day, a specific area on which to focus our meditations was shared with the hopes that if we raised our collective cries on Keith’s behalf and on behalf of a broken justice system in the United States, and with the belief that when many gather together, we would receive a positive response. Ultimately, Keith LaMar did not get the ruling he hoped for, and the prior findings against him continued to stand. What did happen in those 40 days, however, is that his base of support grew by several hundred more supporters. We convened in Cincinnati and packed (literally!) the courthouse, demonstrating a vibrant energy of support for Keith LaMar in a way that had to be notable to the justices sitting on the bench that day.
December 2 — Day 1: The day is upon us at last. Today, we descend upon the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and stand in solidarity with Keith LaMar as his final appeal is made. Supporters, can we pause for a moment together and give thanks for the many blessings we have shared in coming to know one another in this fight, and particularly give celebration for how Keith has been able to lend his voice to this narrative in unprecedented ways this past year. Today, people from all walks of life will stand up in unity for this man who deserves, like anyone else, for the truth of his innocence to be heard. Today we pray that everyone will do their due diligence toward a just end: the prosecutors, the defense attorneys, and the three justices who will eventually determine what comes next for Keith. We call out to the ancestors who know Keith's struggle so very well and ask for their guidance. We pray for Keith himself as he awaits the outcome from a solitary confinement cell in Youngstown, now 21 years into this madness. We ask God to guide and direct this day, that all our love for Keith and commitment to righting this wrong culminates with a force that permeates the universe; we await a just response. Today we call out for Justice for Keith LaMar, standing on the truth that love is the only freedom...
December 1 — Day 2: Today we are sending up positive thoughts and prayers for the continued good work of the Peace and Justice Committee at First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati. Their kind volunteers are helping to set up our Vigil for Justice tomorrow. We know you are hard at work today, and we so very much appreciate all you are doing to help make tomorrow meaningful to Keith's entire support network.
November 30 — Day 3: Please lift up the many folks who are beginning to travel to Cincinnati to support Keith LaMar on Tuesday. We know of supporters coming in from Colorado, Minnesota, Kentucky, New York, and from all over Ohio; this very diverse group of people will be driving, flying and busing in and we pray for safety along the way. We are incredibly grateful to stand with the many others who will bear witness to this important step in Keith's fight for his life...
November 29 – Day 4: We have just a few days left until Tuesday will be upon us. Please keep Keith's attorney, David, in your minds and hearts especially these next few days as he prepares his argument on Keith's behalf, that knowledge of Keith's support system and the presence of friends and family in the court on Tuesday will compel him to give this shot his very all.
November 28 – Day 5: Please join us TONIGHT in a group dialogue via conference call by dialing (605) 475-4800, passcode 622434#, at 7 p.m. If all goes according to plan, Keith will be speaking to the group about his wishes for Tuesday. Let us descend upon Cincinnati in solidarity!
November 27 – Day 6: Thanks to all of you for supporting the cause of Justice for Keith LaMar. We won't stop telling this story... We've gained hundreds of followers in these past three weeks.
November 26 – Day 7: The folks doing prison justice work across the airwaves and the independent presses is astonishing. Please keep the efforts made by these amazingly generous people in your prayers and thoughts; they work tirelessly to get out the critical stories being written every day behind prison walls. Even while governmental agents try to silence them and shut them down, these journalists fight to have their freedom of speech ring louder and longer. Thank you Prison Radio, CKUT Radio Montreal, and San Francisco Bay View, in particular, for your efforts to include Bomani's story as prominently as you do. We are so grateful.
November 25 – Day 8: Last night, the prosecutor in Ferguson, Missouri, went to great lengths to school America about just how very, very difficult it is to indict someone for a crime. Hearing his detailed outline of how thoroughly all evidence is presented for consideration by the Grand Jury, it helps us understand Keith LaMar's frustration that the indictment against Frederick Frakes for the murder of William Svette mysteriously disappeared when Keith was later indicted (and, ultimately, sentenced to death in spite of zero DNA or forensic evidence connecting Keith). The Grand Jury for Svette's murder first issued a "true bill" to indict Freddy Frakes in 1994 after they, too, carefully assessed all of the evidence and felt with certainty that Svette was killed by Frakes. Their true bill granted the prosecutors permission to pursue justice for Svette's death, and Frakes was their guy. That is, until Keith suddenly was made the fall guy...How does that happen in a system of such careful scrutiny of the facts?
While we reflect today with the disappointment over the lack of an indictment in Mike Brown's case, we cannot be silent when the same problem rests before us Let's FIGHT injustice while Keith LaMar is still ALIVE. Read his story. Stand up for what is right. We cannot sit back silently while the government MURDERS him, too.
November 24 – Day 9: Tamir Rice died tragically yesterday in Cleveland, yet another black kid shot by a police officer. Tamir was just 12 years old. He didn't deserve to be gunned down, in spite of the foolish mistake he made playing with a toy gun (as so many other children do every day). He was just a kid. Black teenagers (Tamir is too young to even count in this) shouldn't be 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by cops than white ones. Enough is enough.
Please direct your positive thoughts and prayers for justice for Tamir's family, whose lives have forever been shattered by another overzealous police response. If you are in the Cleveland area, will you consider showing up to the Vigil for Tamir today from 4:45 p.m. - 6:00 p.m., at 1910 West Blvd, off Detroit and West Blvd? We have to stand together...
November 23 – Day 10: But joy comes in the morning! We celebrate the exoneration of Ricky Jackson from Ohio's death row, and the release from captivity of Wiley Bridgeman (and his brother Ronnie Bridgeman, who was released in 2003). They have spent nearly FOUR DECADES locked away for crimes they did not commit, set free by recanted and discredited testimony. There is always HOPE! We will not stop believing in miracles!
Today can we pray for these men and their families, that whatever time they have left to live their lives will be blessed with good things, for certainly they deserve some joy and peace now.
November 22 – Day 11: We life up the warriors with the Innocence Project who work tirelessly on behalf of those falsely imprisoned. May light shine upon them even as they seek truth, evidence, and exoneration for those serving unjust life/long sentences and/or death sentences.
November 21 – Day 12: We are thankful for another opportunity to share the documentary, Condemned: Keith LaMar, tonight with Columbus. Our thoughts are with the organizers putting that event together and those traveling to participate, as well as with Keith, who will be speaking to the audience in follow-up to the screening. May minds and hearts be enriched by tonight's fellowship.
November 20 – Day 13: Today, please meditate on this Kahlil Gibran verse from Crime and Punishment:
...And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?
Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve?
Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.
Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.
And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?
Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,
And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.
November 19 – Day 14: For all the students who are working so hard to tell Keith's story all around the state of Ohio, especially those involved in Ohio Student Association and Progressive Student Action, today we lift you up in our prayers and positive thoughts, that your good work will be heard and recognized. We appreciate all that you are doing. Keep it going!
November 18 – Day 15: We lift up the activists in Ferguson, Missouri, who, for over 100 days of peaceful protest, have not wavered in their commitment to seeing that justice is served. As the grand jury decision approaches, we ask for safety for all those on the ground. May the truth of what happened August 9th in Ferguson bear out a just ruling for the family and supporters of Michael Brown. No justice, no peace.
November 17 – Day 16: Keith has been waiting for some time now on his attorney to draft a motion to the Courts requesting a return to a lower court so that the clear and compelling evidence that proves his Constitutional rights were violated could finally be heard. As he gets closer and closer to his final appeal, Keith continues to wait on the draft of this motion, which was promised to have been done weeks ago.
So please today send up your most positive thoughts and prayers that this piece of legal work be completed expediently and effectively; it's an absolutely crucial piece in this very complicated puzzle to help save Keith's life.
November 16 – Day 17: Please join us by putting your energy into a quick action to help stop Ohio from passing legislation that would allow executions in Ohio to be carried out in secrecy. We need more disclosure, less abuse of power. http://www.acluohio.org/action/StopExecutions
November 15, 2014 — Day 18: The media plays a vital role in shaping public opinion around (in)justice and mass incarceration, so today we direct our thoughts toward truth in reporting, that those who bring us the news will act courageously in telling the harder, often unflattering, and unheard stories of what really is happening to real people and real communities. May the public come to a better understanding of just how corrupt the profit-from-pain criminal justice system really is.
November 14, 2014 — Day 19: Today we send up good thoughts for the student organizers at Cleveland State University who are hosting the film premiere tonight! In spite of some snow, we hope those who do make it will become more educated and inspired to join Keith LaMar's cause.
November 13, 2014 — Day 20: 147. 147 innocent United States citizens nearly murdered by the government since 1973. 147 innocent families forced to bear the pain of their beloved member locked away in torturous and inhumane conditions for decades. 147 human beings' lives exonerated in the nick of time...
Today, please think about these 147 survivors of Death Row, these exonerees who are then just expected to be okay, to just get back to life after the psychological horror of being sentenced to die for something they did not do. Today we lift them up. We especially remember Derrick Wayne Jamison (#119), one of Keith LaMar's supporters and an activist speaking out against the Death Penalty by bravely sharing his story of (similarly) withheld evidence (by the very same prosecutor!)...
November 12, 2014 — Day 21: Bomani-Hondo-Shakur. Mighty Warrior-Prepared for War-The Thankful. Today can we reflect together on the African attributes that Keith LaMar aspires to embody every day. Indeed, may these characteristics guide him through these pivotal next three weeks, that he be strong at all times, ready at all times, and filled with gratitude at all times.
November 11, 2014 — Day 22: It was Dr. King who said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." So on this Veteran's Day, a day we remember those who have fought for our freedom, can we commit to collectively do whatever is in our power to help stamp out injustice ANY where we see it. Be a voice for the elderly, the poor, women, LGBT folks, people of color, displaced persons, the addicted, imprisoned and returning citizens, those less able-bodied... folks suffering any form of injustice. Let's lend a hand, be slow to judge, and quicker to stick up for someone more marginalized than we. Perhaps, then, we'll find ourselves closer to what we are aiming for: freedom for ALL.
November 10 – Day 23: Today we reflect on behalf of the justices who will sit on the bench at Keith's oral argument on December 2nd: the Honorable Justices Clay, Rogers and Kethrick. In these most trying of times, may their inclination to rule on the side of righteousness be stronger than ever. May they feel a compelling commitment to live out true justice and feel all of us standing with them, expectantly. May they not be swayed by any outside influences for evil or be threatened into wavering from the truth. We lift up their work and profess that it will be good.
November 9 – Day 24: In the words of Keith's aunt, "Just rectify your mistake. I will pray for you to do the right thing." She directs these comments toward the prosecutors whose very actions have held her nephew in solitary confinement for 21 years. So, today, please join Aunt T in praying for the legal team who used Keith LaMar as a means to their quick end. Pray that they will privately look within and realize it's time to steer this in a new direction. Pray that they will humble themselves and seek forgiveness. Pray they will courageously step back now to let justice prevail. It's time to do the right thing.
November 8 – Day 25: Can we remember today all the people who face danger simply by leaving their front doors, and ask that those who see no other way to resolve conflict but through senseless acts of violence come to find their meaningful place within their communities. May there come an end to the tensions that lead to desperate actions, a cease-fire to decisions born out of hopelessness. May we all see the day when peace belongs to each and every human being.
November 7, 2014 – Day 26: We reflect today with a spirit of gratitude for all the freedom fighters working to speak truth to power, to bring justice to those wrongly accused. We lift these activists up, asking for ongoing safety, courage, and perseverance.
November 6, 2014 – Day 27: Today we lift up the 2.7 million children in the United States who have a parent living behind bars. May these children know that NO PERSON is the sum of his/her worst experiences, defy the lies that are whispered in their ears about who they are/will be, and believe that every life is meaningful and necessary to our society.
November 5, 2014 – Day 28: With just four weeks left to the oral argument, Keith's attorney is busy writing the motion this week requesting the Sixth Circuit to remand his case to the District Court. Could we reflect today on that process, for clarity and persuasiveness in his writing. If granted, this motion could mean a tremendous shift in the tides...
November 4, 2014 – Day 29: Today we vote with hopeful hearts for change. May those who take office be more justice-minded. May they work for the people who most need to see fairness and opportunity. May broken communities see the return of their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers... May needful communities be served in meaningful, measurable ways by our elected officials. May our voices be heard today.
November 3, 2014 – Day 30: Today will you remember all the other men and women lingering on death row in the United States, especially those fighting to prove their innocence and/or trying to redeem themselves. Please think not just about Keith LaMar today, but also about the other four men sentenced to die out of the Lucasville Uprising: Carlos Sanders (Hasan), Jason Robb, George Skatzes and James Were (Namir).
November 2, 2014 – Day 31: We reflect today for the family members of those who are left to pick up the broken pieces after the terrible and all-too-common tragedy that is police brutality. Today we specifically lift up the family of John Crawford, whose life was ended senselessly in an Ohio Wal-Mart in August. May the U.S. Justice Department hold the caller and the officer accountable for their actions and thereby send a message that rash reactions to Black men by police must stop. 400 years of torment is ENOUGH.
November 1, 2014 – Day 32: Today, we reflect together in hope of a favorable ruling regarding the withheld exculpatory evidence at the December 2 oral argument, so that the courts will finally hear the confessions, indictments and eyewitness statements that Keith LaMar was deprived of, evidence that would prove his innocence. We ask for access to the truth...
October 31, 2014 – Day 33: Today we ask for courage to speak out for those who are oppressed by our unjust criminal system. Let us be the voice for those with less power, those targeted for profit. Let us not be silent when we see systemic wrongdoing. Today we ask for courage.
October 30, 2014 – Day 34: With the recent release of the documentary, several groups are coming together around Ohio and beyond to hold discussions in lead up to Keith's oral argument. Can we lift these various leaders up, that their time with new and uninformed people, as well as established folks who stand in solidarity already, will be well-received. Let the film and the impact of it prompt people to action on behalf of Keith and for justice in general... Justice for Keith LaMar
October 29, 2014 – Day 35: We ask today for a spirit of forgiveness for those who acted out of fear and self-preservation at the cost of other people's freedom. We ask that those who lied and hid the truth after the uprising seek to tell it now...
October 28, 2014 – Day 36: Today our prayers and thoughts are for drastic change to the broken U.S. justice system that is disproportionately targeting poor people of color and breaking up families/ communities with unusually heavy prison sentences. May the social and moral burden of profit-from-pain become a personal conviction of those who hold power to make serious reform.
October 27, 2014 – Day 37: Today we send out our thoughts to those who surround Keith LaMar inside the prison, especially the men who were also impacted by the same prosecutorial misconduct that landed Keith on death row following the uprising in 1993. We lift up his comrades and ask that their unity remain strong even as their individual cases come forth for consideration...
October 26, 2014 – Day 38: Today can we pray/meditate/reflect for the family of Keith LaMar. For these 21 years, they, too, have lived with the horror and injustice of his death sentence. We hold them up–his mother, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews…
October 25, 2014 – Day 39: Today can we direct our thoughts and prayers toward Keith's lawyers, David and Kate. In spite of past conflict, they must now prepare for Keith's case. We ask that this time, these next 39 days, be purposeful on Keith's behalf, that old trust/interpersonal issues dissolve even as clear and compelling argument for Keith's life is developed... that other issues and distractions in their lives will also be repaired. We focus our thoughts on lifting up Keith's lawyers today.
October 24, 2014 – Day 40: We focus on physical strength for Keith, that ailment would leave his body, that strength and vitality would be restored. Let him feel himself again so that he can focus on the things that matter most in these critical days ahead.