Dec 212014

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963; Photo: Rowland Scherman for USIA

Most people do not agree with keeping innocent prisoners incarcerated. Some of them try to help. But very often, they do not see any positive results after years. Frustrated they move on with their lives and the wrongfully convicted stays where he (or she) does not belong.

What is needed is a real, i.e. effective, concept. And that is pretty much political. Effective campaigns do not get around political campaigns. See all the successful organizations and lobbyists! All of them contact those in power. And who does matter to politicians and legislators? The performance principle governs our civilization, so the strongest usually prevails. Unfortunately, often it is not the morality but the money that convinces.
There is probably hardly anyone (in a powerful position or not) who is not potentially corrupt. It is just a matter of the price. Example: XY wants ZZ to do something, but ZZ does not want to.
XY: How much do you want?
ZZ: Nothing, I’ll not do it.
XY: Come on! …100.00 $? …1000.00 $? …10,000.00 $? …100,000.00? …1,000,000.00 $? …

Human rights activists and civil rights activists seldom have the funds needed to act like XY. Their power is people – especially masses of voters, who are capable of voting out ZZ or his party. Theoretically, those masses one day might found their own party. Or better even: Look what happened in Germany on November 9, 1989 (25 years ago) when the wall and a whole system came down! In the aftermath, the Cold War between the USA and Russia ended in 1991. “We are the people” was the slogan. And people do have immense power, if ignited.

As paradoxical as it may sound, Germany post-World War II (70 years ago) also was the germ cell of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the USA. When black American soldiers freed the German people from its dictatorship, no one of sound mind wanted to be a Nazi anymore. Afro-Americans dated white “Fräuleins” (“Misses”; a term for young, unmarried women, which nowadays is rarely used) and were served in restaurants or bars without problems. At times, they were even more popular than their white comrades, who – due to the color of their skin – still had way more rights in their home country. (The Equal Justice Initiative has released the report entitled “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.” There were at least 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 – 540 of them in Louisiana.)

The Germans and the Afro-Americans had something in common: Both were subject to the whims of Caucasian Americans – each in his own way. Thus, they could perfectly identify with each other. Logical consequence: There was no (official) racism or segregation in postwar-Germany. It was the first time that those black Americans experienced equality, felt like respected Americans instead of second or third class citizens.

Among them were Dr. Leon Bass (educator, see video below) and Charles Johnson (lawyer for the NAACP and judge). Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired four-star general Colin Powell would still feel this “breath of freedom” a decade later, when he was stationed in Gelnhausen near Frankfurt. Back in the USA, those same black veterans were the ones who started to fight for their own civil rights. The Civil Rights Movement was born.

If the German nation has learned one thing from the Hitler era and the Holocaust, then it is this: Do not look away! Do not be silent! And act before it is too late! Nowadays Germany is one of the most democratic countries worldwide with politically (relatively) active citizens.

One of the most important steps to take is to make use of the right to vote – always!
In Germany, everyone (including prisoners) 18 (sometimes also 16) years of age and older is eligible to vote on election days and invited by regular mail. One just must bring his or her ID card and the electoral card (personal invitation to vote).

In the USA, one does not automatically qualify to vote. Interested citizens must have registered (applied) to vote 30 days prior to the election. One can do that online on the website of the Secretary of State, depending on where you live. In Louisiana, one may also register personally at the:
• Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles;
• Louisiana Department of Social Services;
• WIC offices;
• food stamp offices;
• medicaid offices;
• offices serving persons with disabilities such as the Deaf Action Centers and Independent Living Offices; or
• armed forces recruitment offices.

Do not just think “Free Vincent Simmons” or hope for “Justice for Vincent Simmons!” It will not alter anything. Be a part of the change and act publicly! Never ever say that you cannot make a difference anyway! Everything is possible on this planet.

This might interest you as well:

Case summary with documents on the Innocent in Prison Project International website at

How Germany does Prison – Americans on a mind-boggling incarceration road trip. (from June 16th through June 21st 2015)

Nov 262014

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