Black Women & The Death Penalty

Earlier this year I was apart of a dialogue on the death penalty for Religion & Politics  The Table Dialogue where various faith leaders write responses on a pressing social issue from the perspective of their faith tradition.


Never Murder.  –Exodus 20:13 (God’s Word Translation)

As an African American woman who identifies with the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith and who has found a theological home in womanist theology, my religious tradition informs my views of the death penalty in general and as it affects Black women in particular. As a follower of Yahshua (Jesus), the Ten Commandments are still very relevant to my life and shape my ethics. I do not separate the message of the Gospel from the cultural context that Yahshua was born into. In light of this I still observe the Sabbath and when I read in Exodus 20:13 that “we should not murder,” that applies to my brothers and sisters who are incarcerated as well. As a practical womanist theologian who works against mass incarceration’s impact on Black women and girls through the PICO National Network’s Live Free Campaign, which works to end mass incarceration and police brutality, I am grieved by how the intersections of racism, sexism and classism collide to send my sisters to death row. Do we see these women?

As a woman I am inspired by the account of the Egyptian enslaved woman Hagar, who after being unjustly cast out of the home of Abraham and Sarah with her son, encounters the “God who sees her” (Genesis 16:13). Like Hagar, African American women in the criminal justice system are usually unseen and unheard, especially those who are on death row. According to academics Harry and Sheila P. Greenlee, “The percentage of women of every race receiving death sentences is less than their percentage in the female population, except for African American and Native American women. The percentage of African American and Native American females receiving death sentences is more than double their percentage of the U.S. female population. Interestingly, this finding is not true for the other women of color.” It should also be noted that Native American women face disparities in the criminal justice system as well, and this reflects the ongoing injustice faced by the general Native American population since the inception of the United States, which prospered due to the stolen land of Native Americans and stolen bodies of Africa. Theologically I believe that sin is not only individual but also social and is embedded into the very fabric of American society. The United States’ original sin is racism, and the death penalty is just another reflection of this sin. Theologically we mustsee the millions of Black women and girls who are abused by the criminal justice system, whose lives end not only in murder on death row but also while in police custody. In July 2015 five Black women died in police custody and their names are:

Sandra Bland

Kindra Chapman

Joyce Curnell

Ralkina Jones

Raynette Turner

I would challenge advocates against the death penalty to expand their work to include advocacy concerning those who die in police custody, because in my opinion this goes hand-in-hand with the death penalty: One is formal, another is informal, but both are murder by our criminal justice system.

As a faith-based organizer I know that what must be done about the death penalty in general, and its impact on Black women in particular, is that we need to get organized. But this organization should be led by African Americans because we are the ones most affected by the injustice of mass incarceration. Ending the death penalty has to be a part of a holistic campaign to reform our broken, profit-driven mass incarceration system. African American women must organize against the death penalty in all its forms—whether it’s a sister sitting on death row for ten years or Sandra Bland who died in police custody. We have to organize with prophetic public actions, standing not for but withwomen on death row, because the most powerful movements are led by those closest to the pain.

We also must organize by withholding our money and our votes. According to the Nielsen Company study entitled “African American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing in 2015,” African American buying power is 1.1 trillion. According to the “Buying Power of Black America” report by Target Market News, “the purchases made by Black women are the single biggest influence on the growth of African American spending.” With this buying power we can begin to boycott those companies that utilize prison labor and those companies that invest in private prisons. According to my colleague Margarida Jorge, national director of the Women’s Equality Center, African American women are the most consistent voters for the Democratic Party. With this voting power, we should demand of all political parties, but especially the Democratic Party, that our support be tied to candidates willing to stand against the death penalty. According to research from Wesley Granberg-Michaelson in his book From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church, the average Christian in the world today is a woman of African ancestry. Black women not only have buck and ballot power; we have the power to influence the Christian church to take on the issue of ending the death penalty. For non-Black women allies the death penalty affects all of us and your voice as an ally is extremely important in supporting a movement to end this sinful practice in our criminal justice system. We all must get organized to build a groundswell that says the death penalty is unacceptable in our society. We all must see those who are on death row because they are our brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, friends, and neighbors. It is only when we see the tragedy of a criminal justice system that murders rather than reforms that we will create a society that honors the lives of all.

Onleilove Alston, M.Div., MSW, is a native New Yorker and Executive Director of Faith in NY, an affiliate of the PICO National Network, where she leads A Women’s Theology of Liberation, training women of faith to organize through a gender lens rooted in their faith. She tweets@Wholeness4ALL

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By J. Daryl Charles

The United States Should Abolish the Death Penalty, as Pope Francis Implores

By Joseph A. Fiorenza

For Mormons, a Contested Legacy on Capital Punishment

By Patrick Q. Mason

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The Liebster Award & 100 Followers!

Thanks to Mahogany over at Crazy Fun Sexy Guide: For Women I was nominated for Liebster Blog Award!!! I also found out that I have 100 followers today! I am grateful for everyone who reads and follows this blog.  I have been busy but I will  be making regular post soon I promise. Stay tuned for some Advent (Christmas) reflections and interviews to encourage you during this crazy time of year! Be Blessed.

libsterWhat is the Liebster Blog Award?

It’s an award that was reputedly started in Germany in order to give smaller bloggers recognition for their hard work. You receive this award from a fellow blogger that feels your blog is both worthy & important to them.

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My A to Z Wholeness Blogging Challenge!

AtoZBloggingChallengeSmallThis month I will be doing a A to Z Wholeness Blogging Challenge! I really enjoyed doing the Poem A Day Challenge this summer and I think doing another challenge would be a great way to get back to posting on a regular basis. The title of this blog is Wholeness4Love because I wanted to focus on all aspects of wholeness: physical health, spiritual well-being, emotional healing, social justice and creative expression. For my blogging challenge my main focus will be wholeness in the area of health. Personally I am on my journey to holistic health and though I am no expert as I learn I want to pass the information on. As we end the year I believe in cleansing, cleaning and purifying so you can enter the New Year cleared, revved- up and ready to go! I invite you to join me on this journey by reading the post and doing an A to Z Challenge of your own!

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2012 Blog of the Year Award!

It has been very encouraging to receive a few blog awards lately and thanks to Nizy over at Nizy’s Life Compendium, Eunice at Living and Loving, Rynnie at Modest is the Hottest I received five “Blog of the Year 2012 Awards”.

Below are blogs I think deserve this award because of the inspiring content:

  1. Nizy’s Life Compendium
  2. Crazy Fun Sexy Guide for Women
  3. CloudIn
  4. The Tale of My Heart
  5. Tripod Trippin’
  6. Coco J. Ginger Says

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Spreading the Love!

I am very grateful and encouraged to have been nominated for the Beautiful Blog Award and the Inspiring Blogger Award by Mahogany who has a wonderful blog filled with daily inspiration, videos and classes to help you live a life of bliss, check this sister out!


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Link Love!

My article Romney vs. Reality: A Social Worker’s Perspective has been shared on a couple of great sites and I am so grateful so I wanted to pass on the link love and share some articles I love with you.

I am now a Huffington Post blogger thanks to Rev. Jennifer D. Crumpton  who passed my article on to the editor of Huff Post Religion! She has a great blog on Patheos.

My article was featured on:

Faithful Democrats

Sojourners Emerging Voices Blog

For Harriet (where I remixed the post for Black women): The Economic Myths That Keep Us Chained: Romney’s 47% vs. Reality

Huff Post Religion

Link Love

My cousin’s challenging reflection: Nice Guys Finish Last….

Fat Fem Pinup’s thought provoking post Love: The Myth of Instant Gratification

Black Energy News always comes with practical but deep knowledge here is her most recent post: How to Duplicate Things You Appreciate in a Relationship

LA Liberal Evangelical Examiner ask Whose Religious Experience & Politics

I hope you enjoy these post as much as I did, share and follow these great blogs!

I Won The Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

Thanks to LyannV I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! This is my first blogging award and I am grateful for the recognition. When you are nominated for the award you have to:

1. Post the award image


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