Sunday, July 7, 2013

down in the river to pray

Saber Dane Walker

Saber Dane Walker

Saber Dane Walker

Adam Shemper

Calhoun Photography Studio

This week was a big one for work, an alighting week for the personal/professional projects I've come down to New Orleans to work on this summer. 

On Monday, I attended a rare prison conditions court hearing about the summer temperatures on death row at Angola. These kinds of cases are almost never litigated because there's no money to fund them. But there I was in a federal court room in Baton Rouge, listening to a discussion about my beloved Eighth Amendment and responsibilities of the state and the dignity of man. The suit was brought by the Promise of Justice Initiative, directed by Mercedes Montagnes, with Nilay Vora from the law firm, Bird Marella, delivering oral arguments. At one moment, Vora pointed out that we were a couple of days shy of the birthday of our country and our constitution, indicating how enduring and sacred these rights are. It was almost cinematic.

And then on Wednesday, I had an incredible, touching-all-things phone conversation with Phyllis Mann, the woman who helped orchestrate the legal effort to identify all of the inmates displaced after Hurricane Katrina, which is the story-subject of a radio show I'm producing. I didn't think it would take more than an hour, but we spoke for two, and now it feels like I have one more partner in this slightly crazy endeavor to record a forgotten moment of this country's legal, incarcerative history.

Finally, I'm hosting a screening of the documentary, Herman's House, on Monday, July 15th at 8:00. Thank you to my lovely, ever-so-tolerant roommate and friend, Johanna (of MAJO fame), for allowing me to fill our apartment with strangers. If it's cool enough (don't hold your breath), we'll project the film onto our backyard fence and sit out with picnic blankets. Bring friends, drinks, and an open mind. We'll provide some refreshments as well. Round table discussion about solitary confinement to follow the film. Please RSVP ( so I know how many to expect!

Being here, contrary to what I expected and braced myself for, has been amazingly energizing. There's so much good work being done (here and everywhere), and I'm deeply grateful for this opportunity to wield my little pitchfork in the fight.

P.S. Also thank you to my (non-genetically) tech-inclined brother, Arun, for providing the technological wherewithal to host the film screening!

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