William Jelani Cobb Reports from the Prison Gates

Last night, historian and author William Jelani Cobb spent seven hours outside of the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia, demonstrating, documenting—then mourning—the execution of Troy Davis. Excerpts from his talk this morning with Color Line's Akiba Solomon:

For some reason I didn’t think the execution was going to happen.

I know. Despite all we know about this country, you want to believe that things have changed.

You posted lots of photos and tweeted throughout the night, but you weren’t there in a professional capacity. What compelled you to go down there?

Well, it was political and personal. Politically, I felt that as a person of conscience I could not just sit back and not let my voice be heard when the state was going to execute a man [amid] damning questions about the nature of the trial. Personally, I think about this in terms of my father who left Georgia in 1941 for New York and never came back. When you’d ask him about his home state, he would spit before describing how a black man’s life had no value there. Now, I believed in this narrative of me coming back to Georgia. [Living and teaching here] was almost a way for me to prove that things had changed, that the efforts of all of our people had born some fruit. But now, ironically, I can see where my father was right. It turns out these people have no concern for justice and the judicial system is a sham. When you look at the evidence in this particular [case], this literally could be any of us.

Read the full conversation  at Colorlines.com