Sunday, 30 October 2011

I feel like I am in the middle of the history of the abolition movement....

I feel like I am in the middle of the history of the abolition movement in the United States and around
the World.

Yesterday I stood in front of the State Capitol of Texas at the Twelfth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. I saw 25 human beings who were sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit.
Fortunately they were able to prove their innocence before the states that could kill them.

I have heard many of them say, they were not saved because of the sytem, but they were saved in spite of the system.

Folks, the death penalty system is broke and it can`t be fixed.
24 men and one woman testified how they would be dead today, if the states would have had their way.

The "Witness to Innocence" is a non-profit organization for exonerated death row inmates. Their recent
events in Texas, a tour throughout major areas in Texas from Houston to Dallas and from the Valley to Austin, sharing their personal stories of what it was like for them and their families to be on death row for a crime they didn`t commit.
These folks say: Stop the death penalty.
Many of the death row exonerees that were present are friends of mine. Shujaa Graham and Juan Melendez are past Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing board members and participants on many a Journey of Hope tours.
Ray Krone, Delbert Tibbs, Greg Wilhoit, Ron Keine have all been on Journeys.
I have long admired Kurt Bloodsworth and it was good to see him there. Kurt was the first person to be exonerated by DNA evidence.
I also saw my friend Derrick Jamison and it was good to see him and once again hear his powerful voice for abolition.
I met  David Keaton, the first exoneree in the growing list of 138, along with Albert Burrell, Gary Stydl again.

All these men have amazing stories. This year I thought a lot about Randall Dale Adams who was exonerated off Texas’s death row who story became well known through the film “Thin Blue Line”.
Randall sadly passed away last year. He is missed by me and the Journey of Hope.

Yes, at least 138 death row exonerees in this country who were sentenced to die, no longer worthy to live in our highly developed society.
When i comes to the deathe penalty there is no room for mistakes. As long as human beings are making the decisions on who lives and who dies there will be mistakes.

I applaud Scott Cobb and his efforts on the Annual March again this year. I have been on quite a few of these but this one held special historical significance.
Never have I seen so many powerful messengers on one stage at the same time.

Abolition movement, help these guys get out the message of why they want the death penalty to be abolished. It is powerful and affective and a vital key for abolition of the death penalty. Witness to Innocence will prove to be a major factor in not only the United States of America but also for worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

So thank you, Scott Cobb for having the vision and the determaination to carry this Twelfth Annual March to an historic conclusion.
Thank you for drawing the attention of the world to this great moment for abolition. And I am sure "Witness to Innocence" will use this as a springboard for future tours around the country. Members have also toured through Spain with their witness.

As the president of the "Journey of Hope... from Violence to Healing" I declare that we were happy and honored to be part of this historic event, and that our prayers for continued succes in your efforts to rid the world of the scourge called the death penalty.

Thank you Scott and thanks to "Witness to Innocence".

Thanks to Gloria Rubac, Hooman Hedayati, Allison Dieter and others who continually and tirelessly work for abolition in the state of Texas. Your contribution for this march is greatly appreciated. I always feel welcome in Texas when I am with you guys.

"Journey of Hope" board members Randy Gardner and Charity Lee, two of my companions this month in our Uganda Journey of Hope, which turned into the Seattle, Dallas, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio Journey, were also on the march and rally.
Randy covered his "Journey of Hope" shirt when he put on the orange death row prison jump suit that his, brother Ronnie Lee Gardner wore while on death row in the state of Utah; before he was executed last year, on June 18, 2010.

Randy saw the four bullet holes in his brother`s chest, after he was executed.
Randy, has put a dream to action, in starting a non-profit organization called "Back to Basics Organic Farm and Ranch" in his brothers memory.

Randy took his passion for abolition to Africa and was part of the team in Uganda and Rwanda. You will
learn a lot more about Randy when I talk about Africa.

Charity Lee was on the Uganda and Rwanda segments. Charity Lee is founding a non-profit organisation, called the ELLA Foundation.
Charity`s beautiful daughter Ella was brutally murdered at the age of four. Not only did Charity lose her daughter, but had the double tragedy of her only son Paris, age 13, committed the murder.

Charity will be publishing her journals, a story that took her to the depths of hell and back.
Love helped Charity to survive her cunconceivable journey. I will tell you more about Charity when I talk about Africa  or you can go to

Ron Carlson drove with his wife Debbie to Austin to be with the "Journey of Hope" as we honored "Witness to Innocence" and Scott Cobb`s dedication to the movement.
Ron Carlson`s sister Deborah Thornton was murdered by Karla Faye Tucker. After a long journey Ron`s faith called him to forgiveness and he and Karla became friends. Ron held the "Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing" banner, and walked the entire length despite having sever arthritis and back pain.

Ron had to make the drive to Austin from Houston and get a hotel for the night. He said he did the trip with his wife Debbie because he wanted to suupport me and the "Journey of Hope" as we honored the exonerees.

At one point of the program, after each of the exonerees had spoken, Ron went up and shook the hands of each death row exoneree. To Ron that was a real honor.

Can you imagine what these guys on death row have been going through, for a crime they didn`t commit?
It is sad, America, that we said they should be excecuted.
Have there been any innocent people executed?

It was so interesting that as we traveled into the country side of Uganda, that teachers in the primitive schools knew about  the Troy Davis case. They know around the world that the state of Georgia, more than likely killed an innocent person.

America, our death penalty system is known as a farce of Justice around world.

But of course; what do we care about what foreigners think?

Genifer Kaye wore Amnesty International`s "I am Troy Davis" T-shirt on the march and helped carry the "Journey of Hope" banner. Genifer is a human rights activist from Dallas, TX and good friends with Rick Halperin, who is a "Journey of Hope" board member.

We met Genifer and Rais Bhuyan during a lay-over in Dallas on our way to Entebbe, Uganda. Rais has been a real instrument for those who wish to rid this world of violence. We met for breakfast at our hotel.
It was the second day of this life changing  Journey, that began on October 2nd.
We were so happy when she was able to drive down from Dallas to be part of the march. Genifer plays the activist role that is such a big part of the "Journey of Hope".
We are three categories of people at the Journey; murder victim family members, people with death row connections and activists.

It was our great pleasure to support Scott Cobb and the Twelfth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

 It was our great pleasure to support “Witness to Innocence” and encourage their great work.

It was our great pleasure to support the abolition movement in Texas.

I know that we are right in the middle of history for abolition, not only in America but around the World.

Bill Pelke


Wednesday, 19 October 2011


I greet you in the name of Love for our offenders.

Greetings from the 241 Inmates on the Death row in Upper Prison-Luzira, Kampala Uganda.

For sure your words were a great insipiration to them and even to us who are doing all it takes to reform them as they extend words of request for forgiveness unto those they offended.
Right from the day you visited them in their Condemn Cells, I wish to notify you that in this period, 02 Inmates, namely Muramuzi Herbert and Lubowa Robert, had their death sentence overturned and awarded a sentence of 30 years including those they had spent on the death row. they now have only 09 years to serve and then walk to their freedom.

However, they were able to have this second chance in life courtesy of their attainment of FORMAL EDUCATION while on the death row. The recommendation that our office submitted to the Judges as one of their mitigation factor, played a tremendous role in having their death sentence overturned.

It is to this end that I wish to extend our sincere appreciation for the wonderful package you left for the Inmates' Schools at Upper Prison-Luzira, Kampala Uganda. this School received 39 Dozens of Writing/Notes Books and 50 Pens. I tell you, that "Blessed is the Hand that giveth...".
It was a great boost for us in a situation of scarcity that thee Inmates Schools operate in. We received them from the Franciscan Prison Ministry Team.
Thanks and may the Almighty GOD fill your purse a hundredfold.

Our Schools have started a season for national examinations which commenced on 14.10.2011 and shall end on 1.12.2011, encompassing Secondary School Level Entry Examinations, High School Entry Examinations, and University Entry examinations. It is a hectic and financially expensive period but we hope that by GOD's Grace, we shall sail through safely.

In all there are 128 Candidates, out of which 53 are Inmates on the Death row. This gives us encouragement when we see you coming up and promising to support ouf efforts in providing them with formal education which is a starting point for thier reintegration into society as producitve and law abiding upon their release.
We shall continue endeavoring to provide this vital ingredient towards their reformation and rehabilitation, and as you promised, we call for your support in all forms , for it is said..:"The good you do will all coming back a hundredfold to working good for GOD on earth".

Early January 2012, we shall be undertaking new admissions into School for formal education and at the same time as the Inmates on the Death row told you in their request for alms, Registraton for Candidates for Entry Examinations to various levels shall be conducted at Elementary, Lower and Upper Secondary.

Please do not be tired to support us when we turn to you for some modest financial support which in any case does range between US $ 5000-8000 for all levels combined and for all eligible inmates which must be paid to the Ministry of Education-Uganda National Examinations Board if they are to sit for these examinations.

I would love to identify with  and be part of your efforts in overturning this vengeful punishment in the name of Death Penalty since "Two bad things cannot turn into anything good" Should the State kill...or it should rehabilitate.
This is why I stand out with my head high to call upon you to support us so that the seeds you are planting in the whole world of this noble fight, can yield great fruits internationally using a multidimensional approach of which - Rehabilitative Formal Education that we are championing in Uganda can be replicated in other parts of the world as a panacea to recidivism and state revenge sometimes on innocent victims cum offenders.

I shall continue updatnig you on the trends we are taking to realise your mission on earth and we are ready to combine efforts with you in this aspect.

I wish you well and good health and all your loved ones as we continue in the struggle.

Once again thanks for your inspirational visit to Upper Prison, for it left an indelible mark in the lives of those who listened to your testimonies, I inclusive.

We love you all.

GOD bless.


Friday, 7 October 2011

Hurray, we are in Africa

All right,
we made it to Nairobi in fine shape although the plane ride was not as nice as our previous
flight from Dallas to Amsterdam.
It was a crowded flight; I don’t think there was one empty seat on the Jumbo Jet.

Since our bags had been checked to Entebbe we headed to the gate where we were told we could get
our gate pass for our final leg on Kenya Airline to Entebbe, Uganda.
At the gate we were told the door to the plane had been shut and we would be rebooked for the first flight out in the morning.
That wasn`t what what we wanted to hear after our two long flights to arrive in Africa. We elected to spend the night at the airport rather than leave and try to find a hotel so late at night when we would just have to return early in the morning.
I had checked prices earlier in the week and prices were very steep so we decided to stay at the airport.

We called Edward’s friend Ronald who was supposed to pick us up in Entebbe. He had already made the
hour drive to meet us and I had to tell him we missed our flight. He thanked us for calling him and said
he would come back in the morning at nine o’clock.
He told us that Edward was sick. We had known that Edward had been ill but he had been confident he would be better by the time we got there. We hope he is recovering and will be fine. He has Ronald helping him organize our tour.
I am glad I had Ronald’s phone number.

We have been killing time catching a few little cat naps and just ate a meal at the only restaurant open
in the middle of the night. We did get into a few good conversations on the last flight and have been
passing out information all along the way.

But hurray, we are in Africa.

We are tired but we are in good spirits.


We are sitting on the KLM airliner headed to Amsterdam.
The plane is only half full and the three of us have monopolized the back two rows of our section. As I write Charity and 2TT’s Bill are practicing pronunciation of Swahil,i words Bill has brought along.

 As we were going over Bill’s list the flight attendant stopped by and expressed an interest in what we were doing. By the end of her ten minute visit with us we had explained why we were going to Africa and parts of each of our stories.
We shared information and our flyers on the Journey of Hope, The ELLA Foundation, and Dream One World. Dream.

One World’s flyer is about Edwards’s orphanage.

Speaking with her about our reason for traveling to Africa was very cool.
We have another fan and supporter. She then told others attendants and several stopped by to wish us well.

This morning at the hotel where Bill and I spent the night in Dallas we were joined by Charity, Rais
Bhuiyan and Gennifer Kaye. Rick Halperin was supposed to have joined us but his Dean at SMU had
called for an emergency meeting so Rick was not able to come.
I have known Rick for over 20 years and it is always good to see him, so I was disappointed but understood.
When we return from Africa, Charity and I will participate in the 12th annual march against executions on October 22 in Austin. Rick plans to meet us there so at least I will see him on this trip.

It was great to meet Rais, a man who has really impressed me with his story of forgiveness and
reconciliation. It was a real honor. It was also great to meet Gennifer Kaye, a human rights activist with
Amnesty International from Dallas.
Gennifer is a friend of Rick and Rais and has become friends with Charity through Facebook. Charity had dinner with them last night before Bill and I arrived.

The trip has started like clockwork, like it was a trip that was meant to be. Several more donations have
come in from James, Jenni, Aleksandra and Peter since the trip started.
James and Jennifer also paid for lunch and breakfast respectively.

I was worried about our connection once we got to Nairobi because we only had one hour to catch our next flight to Uganda, and since we would have to retrieve our luggage, go through customs and then catch the last flight of the night to Entebbe, Uganda it was a tight schedule.
Fortunately the KLM agent was able to check our baggage all the way to Uganda.  So we had no longer to worry.

I was able to talk with Randy Gardner before we got on the plane.
He will arrive in Uganda about 36 hours after we do.
We will be the four musketeers at that point and our team will be together.

Also we were able to talk with Sister Margaret who serves with Sister Helen Prejean.
She wished us God’s blessing on our Journey. If God be for us who can be against us? Although I missed the Faith in Action program in Anchorage yesterday, my preacher, Ron Meyers, talked about our Journey and hold a prayer for it.

How wonderful to have a pastor who feels the same way about the death penalty as I do,
and he is supportive of my work?

Blessings to all who read the Journey of Hope diary and blog.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

This trip was meant to be, each of our life’s journeys has brought us to this point.
It was no accident.
The stars are all in alignment.

Peace and Love,

Nakupenda: Swahili for I love you – Thanks 2TT’s

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Monday, 3 October 2011

At the airport in Seattle

                                                Bill Babbitt, James Basden and Bill Pelke

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Another Journey begins...

Another Journey begins....

This may be the most important Journey of my life and for the "Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing".

I boarded a plane in Anchorage, Alaska and am on my way to Seattle, Washington, to meet up with Bill Babbitt. During our 4 plus hour lay-over we will meet for lunch with James Basden.
James and Bill have a common bond. Both of them had brothers that were executed.
James has been very supportive of our African Journey of Hope.

From Seattle, Bill (2TT’s Babbitt) and I will fly to Dallas, Texas where we will stay overnight, and then head for Uganda tomorrow afternoon.
Tomorrow morning we will meet up with Charity Lee who will accompany us on this Journey.
The three of us will have breakfast with Rick Halperin, Journey of Hope board member, dear friend, and Human Rights professor at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) , and Rais Bhuiyan, the man who forgave his attacker in the 9/11 aftermath killings that took place in the Dallas area.

Several others will be joining us, hopefully Stan Allridge, whose brother James was executed by the state of Texas in 2004. I stood behind Stan, Sister Helen Prejean, Dave Atwood and others and watched as
the state of Texas put poison into James blood and killed him.
Stan also watched another brother be executed in 1995.

I have never met Rais before so I am looking forward to that.

And then Charity, 2TT’s and I head for Uganda.
We have to fly to Amsterdam, then to Nairobi, Kenya and from there on to Entebbe, Uganda, where we will meet up with death row exoneree Edward Edmary Mpagi. I haven’t seen Edward since 2007 on the Texas Journey of Hope.

Randy Gardner will join us Uganda several days later.

This is a dream come true for all of us. Not only for Bill, Randy, Charity, Edward and I but also for Kathy Chrism who has been helping Edward from afar for many years now to build his orphanage/ school in Uganda.

Kathy runs the organization "Dream One World" and her dream is being fulfilled with our Uganda trip.
There are few things I have done in my life that I would consider as God inspired, as this trip.
It came together on short notice and the support fell into place. The organizing has gone like clockwork as if all the stars were in line for this great event.

We will be taking our message of love and compassion for all of humanity and helping Edward not only to
abolish the death penalty in Uganda, but also helping "Hands off Cain" and the  " World Coalition to Abolish
the Death Penalty" while being in Rwanda where we will meet with the African delegation trying to bring about abolition there.

Then we go to Nairobi, Kenya on a mission of justice and reconciliation where we will be speaking in a large church before coming home.

More later.

Love and Peace, Bill

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Follow the signs and your Journey will be blessed....

By: Charity Lee..The ELLA Foundation

“It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” ~~ Wendell Berry

Life is a journey…we have all heard variations on this theme at some point in our life. As children we approach this journey called life as an adventure. In our innocence we assume that all adventures are magical, mysterious, and fun. Then, if we are destined to do so, we grow up. As we walk further down the path of life we learn that adventures are also perilous, grueling, and fraught with tangible despair. We often get lost along the way. There are no simple directions to and from point A and B. Our paths are full of twists and turns. Sometimes we are so lost we feel there is no way we will ever find our way back home, no way we will ever find ourselves again.

I am not now, nor ever have been, a religious woman but the first time I held my son, then eight years later my daughter, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is a power in this world that is far greater than anything I had ever imagined or acknowledged before and that this power had the amazing ability to create life. I was just blessed enough to be the vessel for this amazing creation I held in my arms, cradled to my chest. And not only could this power create life it also had the power to create all-consuming, mind boggling, fiercely death defying, unconditional love appear in my heart and soul in the blink of an eye. Every time I heard my children laugh I had more proof of this power at work in my life. Every time I saw one of their beautiful smiles more proof was granted to me, a woman of no religious conviction or fervor at all. I did not need a religion. I was given something better…life and love.

Thirteen years after my first real experience of the divine nature of life my life and my love were destroyed in the fifteen minutes it took my son to murder his sister. With seventeen thrusts of a knife I lost the two stars I relied upon to guide my adventure, my journey. I could not navigate the ship of my life anymore. My stars had gone dark and I was drowning in a sea of grief, despair, rage, and pain. I spent many days and nights yelling in rage at this power who gave me my stars only to take them away. I yelled myself into exhaustion and finally into humility. I begged this power to give me a sign, any sign, to navigate my ship by again. I did not want to drown, did not want to die full of grief, despair, rage, and pain. I made a promise to Ella the night she died that I would live life as best I could for her. It was important to me to keep this final promise to her but I had no idea how to do this without her in my arms. So I begged with every ounce of my soul to be given a sign. And my wish was granted.

The night I let go of my anger and begged for a sign my daughter came to visit me in a dream. She sat on my lap, wrapped her arms around my neck, and told me to stop thinking with my brain and start thinking with my soul. She told me to stop looking at life with my eyes and to look instead with my heart. She told me there are signs everywhere that mark the good and bad paths we can walk upon in this crazy, mysterious, magical, painful adventure of life. All I had to do was remember love and the signs would be clear. She hugged me, kissed me, whispered in my ear she loved me. I woke up in tears and have been able to see the signs that mark my path ever since. I have faith in love so I have no choice but to have faith in my signs. I follow them no matter if I want to or not. I can promise you my signs have pointed out to me many painful paths I have not wanted to walk down. But I do because I know all my signs point to a greater and even more amazing love than the love I have in my life now.

Which brings me to the point of this blog…

Two months ago I was having a conversation with a professor of mine. I met with her to tell her I was not going to enroll in the MSW program this year because in the year since I put in my application I decided to start The ELLA Foundation™. She wanted to know more so I told her what the ELLA is about and what I’d like to see it grow to be. After hearing my story she asked me if I knew a man named Bill Pelke or had ever heard of Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing. I said, “No.” She said, “You should look it up.”
That was it. Three sentences, one question, two statements, twenty-seven words. But those short simple words struck a chord in my soul so I filed them away and went about my day. I Googled Bill and Journey of Hope the next day. I spent a hour on their website reading stories and news articles. This was no small barely born ELLA Foundation™. This was an international and well known nonprofit whose members were all somehow affected by murder and were all opposed to the death penalty. Like all websites there was a ‘contact us’ button so I decided to listen to the notes that had strummed my soul strings and contact Bill. I hit the ‘contact us’ link and sent an email. Just because I am a little type-A I decided I would call too…a number was listed after all…and left a voicemail too.

I assumed I would receive some generic computer generated reply back, assumed there was no way a President and Co-Founder who traveled the world to tell his story and spread the message of love and compassion for all humanity would have the time to personally contact me. I should know by now never to assume anything. I heard from Bill in less than 24 hours, we talked, I sent him a video of a speech I gave, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bill likes to say that he does not know how to open doors but he knows how to walk through them when they are opened. I always laugh and say that he knows how to open doors just fine. The only difference in our techniques is he is quiet and gentle both in his knocking and his walking through. When I see a door that needs to be opened I have no problem kicking it down and making my entrance as loud and obvious as possible if need be. Different methods; same result. The door is open and ready to walk through.
Because I trusted and followed my signs and Bill graciously opened his door when I so persistently knocked at it, The ELLA Foundation™ and Journey of Hope have walked through many doors together and now have the opportunity to walk through another.

Journey of Hope was asked by Mpagi Edward Edmary to come to Uganda to aid his efforts for the abolition of the death penalty in his country. Edward spent eighteen  years on Uganda’s death row and was exonerated only because his alleged victim was found to be alive. Since his release he has spent his time working to build a school and orphanage for the children of death row and other inmates who were forced to leave school when their family member was incarcerated.

When Maria Donatelli, Coordinator for the World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, was made aware that the Journey of Hope was going to be in Uganda during the 9th Annual World Day Against the Death Penalty, she invited the Journey of Hope to attend a two day conference in Kigali, Rwanda sponsored by the WCADP and Hands Off Cain.

From Rwanda Journey of Hope goes to Nairobi, Kenya for several meetings.

Bill asked if I wanted to go to Africa with Journey of Hope as a Journey of Hope member and representative of The ELLA Foundation. Of course I said yes. We leave for Africa on October 3, 2011 and return home October 19, 2011. We will speak in middle schools, high schools, college classes, and at rallies. We will visit Uganda’s death row for men, the women’s prison, and family members of death row inmates. We will share our stories of pain and loss and spread the Journey of Hope message of love and compassion for all mankind and ELLA’s message of Empathy, Love, Lessons, and Action™.

We are joined on this trip by Bill Babbitt and Randy Gardner
Bill speaks around the world about his brother Manny who was executed in 1999.  Bill has raised over $2000 so this Journey can take place.

Randy founded Back to Basics Organic Farm and Ranch in honor of his brother, Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was executed by the state of Utah by firing squad on June 18, 2010.

These two brothers will share the torture that their families went through because of state sanctioned executions.

If you had told me the night my daughter was murdered that I would one day be the Founder and Executive Director of an international violence prevention and human rights nonprofit foundation I would have looked at you like you were crazy. You may look at me like I am crazy because I decided to live my life based on signs from a power we cannot see with our eyes.

I ask you now…which one of us is crazier? Open your heart and follow your signs my friends and your journeys will be blessed…

Stay tuned to The ELLA Foundation™ for blogs about our shared Journey of Hope.

Journey of Hope

Dream One World

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Hands Off Cain

Murder Victims Families for Human Rights

Back to Basics Organic Farm & Ranch