Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Journey of Hope Entire Poem Magdaleno M. Rose-Avila

Many reminders here for us all--please read with care...

Journey of Hope

It's a journey
for many
it's a story
of hope

it's the history
of strong individuals ...
of a people speaking
in more than one tongue

it's their song
of pain over pain
loss over loss
tears becoming rivers
rivers running off to the sea
washing away revenge

it's a journey of hope
of people reaching out with their stories
with their arms
with their hearts
telling of their memories
letting the inside come to the outside
bringing us closer than close can be

it's a journey of hope
turning our pain into promise
helping us to heal our wounds

smoothing over scars of yesterday

it's a journey of hope
parts of a rainbow
coming back together
showing us where to find
a better time
a better world
a safe house

a place where we can free our spirits
this journey pushes against
this dark blanket of oppression...
opening up the skies
letting the sun shine down on our faces
on our dreams...

turning our whispers
into loud choruses of freedom...
turning our candles
into bonfires
of justice..
turning our actions
into a forest of flowers
this is a journey of hope

a time for dreamers
a time for forgiving
a time for understanding
a time for reconciliation
a time for giving
and for receiving

this is a journey of the heart
a time to find new friends
to travel uncharted roads
to open up new doors
into the future
this is a journey
for life
and redemption...

this is a journey
for them
as well as for us
this is a journey of hope


This poem was dedicated to Bill Pelke and Murder Victims Families

(yet really--what a gift to all of us who will spend time with these healing words!
How about, let's revisit this prayer-poem often!)

Magdaleno M. Rose-Avila, his book and more...

First of all, before a rush of the gratitudes for JOH...

I decided to make one of the most gifted JOH supporters and amazingly gifted stage host/comedian/both serious AND funny spiritual guide, Leno, more visible here--rather than to leave this in the Comments only & not as full as what I really wanted to say so here goes...

I've never before enjoyed a banquet more than the one he hosted with such perfect and surprising spontaneous quips and then the way he led the circle of remembrances and re-dedication was the perfect way the end the NCADP conference.

Do see for a very interesting collection of items...
I Hope he'll send his favorite photos soon...

Please buy and read Leno Magdaleno's exceptionally interesting and poignant book
-Looking For My Wings-. The book is of manageable size for a weekend or a long flight or for an uninterrupted day. I read the chapters covering King right around MLK Day heading home from San Jose and the NCADP conference. Made the day come alive! The whole book is so moving, interesting and even has a recipe!

Besides an enjoyable style similar to the talent Leno has when he with surprising grace and humor "conducts" the spontaneous ins & outs of conference happenings--the book covers quickly a lot of territory for abolitionists, human rights activists and all interested in compassion.

I find -Looking For My Wings- particularly fascinating in that it compasses the 60's before I really was aware of the impact of that decade. The book also fills in plenty of details which I missed or knew little about at that time.

Finally I met Leno with a nice exchange about writing at the conference. In fact, he really gave me strong spiritual advise to continue making progress as a writer! THANKS SO MUCH, LENO!

Whether or not you know Leno, do get his book--and go to his variety blog as well: (book info there) You will soon feel that you know him by reading what he writes and values!!!

Leno, you are a gift to us all...


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pelke's Open Letter to John Edwards//Vote for Abolition

I wrote the following open letter to John Edwards after hearing him speak on NPR.

It would be great if you would go to the John Edwards blog at the link below and respond to this post. If John Edwards took a stand calling for a moratorium on the death penalty it could muster votes he would need for a win in the primary election. It would give abolitionist a chance to show some power at the polls.



http://blog.johnedwards. com/story/2008/1/15/114024/833

Death Penalty
Bill Pelke in Quick Posts
1/15/2008 at 12:38 PM EST

Does John Edwards response on NPR about the death penalty warrant a call for a national moratorium?

January 14, 2007

Dear Senator Edwards,

I listened to you today on NPR radio. Angela, of Wichita, Kansas asked you for your thoughts on the death penalty in America and what kind of affect it would have socially on our ideals.

You stated that you have historically supported the death penalty, but that you have HUGE problems with it right now.

You mentioned race. You stated that if you are a man or woman of color in American today you are more likely to be charged with a capital offence, you are more likely to be convicted and you are more likely to get the death penalty. You said it was the reality of the criminal justice system in America today.

You also said that we have to ensure that it is impossible for us to execute somebody who is innocent.

You also said that in many cases, if we have high quality representation, it makes a huge difference in the likelihood of conviction and the likelihood of the death penalty.

You also stated you were opposed to "death qualified juries" and how it stacked the jury in favor for the prosecution, both for conviction and for the vote on the death penalty itself.

Senator Edwards, these are some of the same reasons that I have been working for a moratorium of the death penalty. If you really believe in your response to Angela then I would ask you to add "Death Penalty Moratorium" to your platform.

This would be in step with the United Nations call for worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

I would be happy to discuss these and other reasons with you for supporting a moratorium.

Bill Pelke
Anchorage, Alaska

For NPR interview in its entirety
http://www.npr. org/templates/ story/story .php?storyId= 18085237

Friday, January 25, 2008

Three Support the Death Penalty! Let's Discuss...

Three Leading Democrat Candidates Support the Death Penalty
Let's Discuss! I will put up Bill's open letter soon...

Mike Farrell's Thank You Address in San Jose 1/19/08

1/19/08 – NCADP Lifetime Achievement Award, San Jose, CA

Thank you. First I want to thank my beautiful wife, Shelley, for being willing to put aside the fact that today is her birthday and be here to support me. Thank you, sweetheart.

Now, I must confess that this honor, this thought, and your generous reaction thrill me deeply. But I am in equal part embarrassed to be singled out in this way when we all know that so many – all of you here and so many others out there with whom we work, so many who are down in the trenches putting their hearts and their guts on the line every day – should be up here receiving this and every other honor we can bestow. So, if I may, let me accept this honor on behalf of all of you and all of those whose efforts make real Albert Camus’ belief that “when there is no hope it is incumbent upon us to invent it.”

Invent it. I think it’s up to us not only to have it, believe in it and live it, but to embody hope for those who have lost it. Not only for those who live every day in a place designed to promote hopelessness - cold, dank, dreary, spiritless cells, places of misery and inhumanity and violence and shame - but also for those who become volunteers, men and women so defeated, so immiserated by their circumstances that they give up their appeals and ask for death, rather than continue to slip down the road to misery, despair and invisibility.

We have to have hope. I believe in hope because I believe in the human spirit, this ineffable something, this force beyond our understanding that empowers whatever is good in the world to stand against what is not. As Vaclav Havel told us: "Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good."

That is what we do, you and I. And let me say that in this work I have the incredibly good fortune, in working closely with those on the board and those in support of Death Penalty Focus, to be in the company of some of the finest, most caring and most decent people it’s ever been my privilege to know. And I find that fact to be mirrored wherever I go in this country – or in the world, for that matter – to join with others in pursuit of an end to state killing. Oh, like any social movement we have our crazies, of course, but by and large we are in damned fine company.

So, by “working for good,” we stand against that other force, we expose it to the light and watch it, however slowly, coagulate and shrivel away in embarrassment, in shame, just as we saw happen last month in New Jersey because of the hope and love and ferocious dedication of Senator Ray Lesniak and Celeste Fitzgerald and her courageous colleagues at New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP).

I’m not a hater. I’m a pretty easy-going and optimistic guy, but through my years of experience with it I have come to hate the death system in this country. I hate what it is, I hate what it does and I hate the corrupting influence it has on everyone it touches. As I tell people every time I get a chance, there’s no better example of the moral corrosion our society has suffered from this damnable process of dehumanizing those we deem expendable than what is being done today by otherwise normal, patriotic young Americans who are torturing human beings in Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere. It’s the poisonous legacy of mindless authoritarians, cowards who slink out of their caves long enough to try to bludgeon others into joining them in their self-imposed agony of fear, loneliness and dystopia.

I’m not a great believer in evil – at least not in the existence of evil people. But I do believe there are evil acts, evil practices, and I believe our tolerance of them does us harm. As Einstein said, "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of people who are evil but because of people who don't do anything about it."

And I’m not blind to the fact that there are bent and broken people out there who do terrible things, evil things. With Bishop Tutu, I believe that those who do monstrous things are not monsters, but people – damaged, hurt people. And I agree that we have to have a system that keeps society safe from them, but not only by incarcerating and warehousing them, by treating their wounds, educating them, habilitating them so that they may some day return to society able to be productive citizens. And yes, reluctantly, I will agree with the doomsayers that there are some who may not be healed, some whose life experience has been so utterly vile that they may be beyond our poor power to repair; they are the dangerous ones who do harm to others without apparent thought, the vicious ones, whose contempt for life endangers others - think Dick Cheney, for example - who should be kept apart from society.

But if we concede that there are evil acts, we must also face our responsibility as a society to understand how even the worst of them can happen. To understand is not to justify. To understand is to find a way to move us forward.

No evildoer ever believes he or she is doing evil. In the beginning of Mein Kampf, Hitler says, “In dealing with the Jewish question, I’m doing the Lord’s work.”

Simone Weil, in “Gravity and Grace,” tells us that “Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.”

Phillip Zimbardo, the Professor of Psychology at Stanford whose prison study exposed the damage to both prisoners and guards done by the distorted power relationship such circumstances impose, says, “For me, evil is the highest level of inhumanity. It could be one-on-one, like the torturer and his victim, but more often than not at that level it’s the individual as an agent of a system.”

It’s that system, the death system – and the willingness of some to submit to it out of fear while others use it to serve their own political ends – that we must expose to the light.

Expose political ambition and, yes, willful ignorance. I cringe at them all, but the killing of Stanley Tookie Williams still makes my blood boil. The cowardice of Gov. Schwarzenegger – a man whom the late Red Buttons perfectly described by saying he didn’t know if harass was one word or two – is staggering. He wrote me a few years ago claiming “California’s administration of the death penalty is free from the kind of systemic defects that have called its accuracy into question” in other states. And today, in the face of a $14 billion dollar budget shortfall, he cuts services for children and the elderly while setting aside $136 million for a new death row.

We have work to do here. And we will do it because it is good work, necessary work, some would say heart work, some would say holy work. It is all those things.

On our board we have clergy and non-believers and everything in between. I’ll never forget Lance, my esteemed friend and our extraordinary Executive Director, a self-proclaimed atheist, who one day at a meeting was extolling the wonders of our small and dedicated staff, he was singing their praises and raised his eyes and just caught himself as he said, “I thank the…” ceiling.” Whether thanking God, the ceiling or something else, atheists, agnostics, rabbis, priests, clergy and laymen and women all work with a shared vision, a shared sense of mission, a shared love of life and a shared awareness that there are mysteries the solution to which are not available to us in our current state of understanding, but which can best be approached through a mutual sense of love and respect. As Einstein said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."

I’m not a religious man, though I believe there is something smarter, higher, nobler and more sublime out there. I see it in you, in your eyes, in your work, and I sense it here, in this place where the betterment of humankind is the common goal.

I lost a friend two weeks ago, a magical human being with a poetic soul who died suddenly, inexplicably, at far too young an age, and took from the world an eye and an ear for beauty the loss of which leaves me breathless. When John spoke, with his lovely Irish brogue, he had a way of reaching inside the words to find a deeper meaning. When he reminded us that we are people of privilege and said that ‘the duty of privilege is absolute integrity,’ he helped me to understand our charge here in this life. His death wounded me and, as those events tend to do, it reminded me that we all must die at some point. But it also reaffirmed for me that by God that point should not be determined by some political hack or some heartless, inhumane, arrogant ‘system’ that holds itself more valuable, more meaningful, than some lost, wounded invisible soul who never got the chance to see past the boots of those holding him down.

So in thinking of John, who was himself a former priest, I want to offer to you a bit of a prayer that recently came my way. It was written by an unknown prisoner in Ravensbrück, a Nazi concentration camp, and left by the body of a dead child. It seems to me to speak to much of what we do – and for whom we do it.

“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering -- our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all of this, and when they come to
judgment let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Thank you for this honor and thank you for what you do.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Journey of the Heart

From the end of the poem by Magdaleno M. Rose-Avila
entitled "Journey of Hope" in his book -Looking For My Wings-

This is a journey of the heart
a time to find new friends
to travel uncharted roads
to open up new doors
into the future
this is a journey
for life...and redemption...

Join us as we remember together former journey folk moments and joys...

Many vignettes and letters coming soon with photos

Please see below and send your own memories and gratitudes...

Send to Connie at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NCADP 2008: Special Recognition Award

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NCADP 2008: Special Recognition Award

Due to circumstances mostly beyond our control, we are a little tardy in posting the final award given at this year's NCADP 2008: Reaching for the Dream conference. We meant to post on Sunday and couldn't, and then we were travelling back to Washington, D.C. from San Jose on Monday.

But here, at last, is the final awardee. Today we honor Bill Pelke, who is the outgoing chair of the NCADP Board of Directors:

Bill Pelke
Special Recognition: Outgoing Board Chairman, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
One of the best known and most beloved leaders within abolition circles is Bill Pelke, outgoing chairman of the NCADP Board of Directors. Pelke has served on the NCADP Board of Directors since 1996 and has been board chairman since October 2004, in addition to the countless hours he has served as executive director of The Journey of Hope….From Violence to Healing.

In 2003, Pelke authored a book that mirrors his organization’s name -- Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing. The book details the May 14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. Paula Cooper who was deemed to be the ringleader was sentenced to die in the electric chair by the state of Indiana. She was fifteen-years-old at the time of the murder.

Pelke originally support the sentence of death for Cooper, but went through a spiritual transformation in 1986 after praying for love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. He became involved in an international crusade on Paula's behalf and in 1989 after over 2 million people from Italy signed petitions and Pope John Paul II’s request for mercy, Paula was taken off of death row and her sentence commuted to sixty years.

“The answer is love and compassion for all humanity,” Pelke says. “The death penalty has absolutely nothing to do with healing. It just continues the cycle of violence and creates more murder victims’ family members. We become what we hate. We become killers.”

Looking back on his tenure with NCADP, Pelke sees both an organization and a movement that has matured and grown more sophisticated. “The NCADP had a lot of goals and dreams when I joined the board,” he recalls. “We have seen the NCADP grow to the point where many of those dreams have become realities. The funding is much better, the work with affiliates has greatly improved, the staff has grown and continues to grow and the NCADP has taken the leadership role in the abolition movement. The movement itself has changed with the new voices of victims’ families, death row families, exonerated death row inmates and prosecutors, wardens, police chiefs and other activists being heard.”

Pelke, a retired steelworker, has dedicated his life to working for abolition of the death penalty. He shares his story of forgiveness and healing, and how he came to realize that he did not need to see someone else die in order to heal from his grandmother’s death. He also helps organize Journey tours nationally and abroad. Pelke has traveled to over forty states and ten countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story over 5000 times.

Although Pelke relinquishes the NCADP board chairmanship this month, he by no means is walking away from abolition work. In addition to directing The Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing, he also sits on the board of the Justice and Reconciliation Project and he hopes to be more involved with the restorative justice process in the future. “I plan to continue to walk through any open door in keeping with my commitment to God on Nov. 2, 1986 – the night my heart was touched with forgiveness for Paula Cooper,” Pelke says.



SEND Your Gratitudes and Suggestions

NOTE from Connie...

We will soon be posting & re-posting tributes and simple gratitudes to Bill and/or to the Journey of Hope during the coming days and weeks. Some of these are here already under comments for various other blogs. Please remind me if you don't see your's posted or re-posted soon. We would be happy to receive any photos not yet sent of any Journey folk who were at the NCADP conference recently in San Jose. (Or JOH folk who were anywhere else in the world.) We also would be glad to receive suggestions for the JOH from those who know our mission. Keep "tuning in"!
Connie L. Nash PO Box 1267 Brevard, NC 28712

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

FROM BILL PELKE who sent this the First of January 2008

Happy New Year,

2007 is now history. For the abolition movement great historic strides were made in 2007. The death penalty was abolished in New Jersey. This is the first state to repeal the death penalty in the modern execution era. There was a defacto moratorium around the country waiting for the US Supreme Court, that still continues, to decide on a way to execute someone without being cruel and unusual. Death sentences carried out in 2007 were at a ten year low. States like Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Maryland and others made great strides towards abolition in 2007.

2007 is now history. 2008 is the future. My new year's wish-hope is that we can use the momentum from 2007 to move us to even greater gains in 2008. The Journey of Hope was in New Jersey when they began their fight, and the Journey of Hope will be in any other state that wants our help in moving towards abolition.

Celeste Fitzgerald credits to organizing of the murder victims family members as a key to victory in New Jersey. Exonerated death row inmates also made a great impact on legislators and voters. The Journey of Hope's message of love and compassion for all of humanity, and its approach of combining victim family members, exonerated death row inmates, death row family members and committed activists is the way to go according to many people in the abolition movement.

Please take note of the Journey blog and the great job Connie Nash and Rachel Lawler are doing. Please feel free to contribute you thoughts at any time.

Let us hope that in 2008 the Journey can continue to lead and show the way.

Peace on Earth.

Bill Pelke, President
Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing
PO Box 210390
Anchorage, AK 99521-0390
1-877-92-4GIVE(4483) Toll Free
Cell phone 305-775-5823
"The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity"


Contribute your own reflections, stories, suggestions here and whatever you might offer Bill/JOH of your own time, talent and gifts to keep the Journey of Hope strong and make it even stronger for 2008. See the contact info above. Email items for the blog to Thanks deeply for all the contributions to the blog! Connie

WATCH for JOH Photos to follow...