Welcome to #90mStrong Mondays. Each week we’ll share a story from one of the 90 million people who opposes the death penalty. Are you one of the #90mstrong? Raise your voice to put an end to the death penalty! Share your story at NCADP.tumblr.com.
“When I was growing up in Gary, Indiana, every home in my neighborhood was a Midwestern style rancher. Every one of them had a huge four-door sedan parked in the driveway (Made in the USA, of course) – and just about every home had a Dad who worked in the steel industry.
My Dad operated a crane at U.S. Steel, he was a union activist, and he was a body builder before such a thing was vogue. He lifted weights in the garage with the door open to provide fair warning to all the young men in the neighborhood who would dare harm his four lovely daughters.
He was the strictest father I knew and he was my greatest protector.
It was a call in the middle of the night that changed that. My Dad had been shot in a robbery attempt. I spent the plane ride to Chicago convincing my twenty-something self that it couldn’t possibly be a big deal – and praying to God that it would all be OK. I couldn’t lose my father now, not when we had finally made our peace, not when I had just come to truly appreciate him.
I went directly to his hospital room. I looked at all the tubes and hoses and nurses. I squeezed his hand, kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear: “I need you with me ole Man.” There was Delta blues yet to be discovered, dances to do in the living room.
In four days, he was gone. It was the day before Thanksgiving.
In protest, it would be a dozen years before I’d ever “celebrate” Thanksgiving again – a dozen years before I would even eat turkey.
My father’s murder was never solved.
But I knew long ago that even if the murderer was found, the only thing that would provide true healing for me would be equality and justice.
I seek justice as I work to end the death penalty alongside other family members of murder victims. And I seek equality for Colorado as I speak against a state “death row” that houses three people: all African-American men, from the same county, from the same high school.
In memory of my father, Johnnie Banks, Sr., I work to end the death penalty so that I can sleep one day without nightmares about bullet wounds and hospital rooms; so that the dreams of my father can one day bring peace.”
Colorado Spring, Colorado