September 21 was the 5-year anniversary of the day Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia — despite major doubts about evidence used to convict him. The #TooMuchDoubt campaign surrounding his case drew the support of Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, George W. Bush’s FBI Director as well as hundreds of thousands of others. It was the most tweeted about social cause in 2011.
I even saw guards crying during one my last meetings with Troy on Death Row. Like the former warden of that Death Row, they too were haunted by fears that Troy was actually innocent.
Despite his more than two decades of confinement, Troy was able to give back to the civil rights movement of which his family had long been a part and the cause of abolishing death penalty, but most notably he gave back in the form of mentorship to his nephew De’Jaun. Troy served as a father figure to De’Jaun, helping with his homework from behind bars.
In fact De’Jaun saw his uncle more than he saw his own father. They visited almost every week from the day De’Jaun was born until the day Troy was executed — despite the fact that Troy was on death row the entire time.
De’Jaun played a public role advocating for his uncle’s freedom from the age of 3 when we first met through his senior year of high school when Troy was killed. As he told me just days before his uncle was executed, “Everything that is best about me as a man, I learned from Troy.”
He is truly the boy Troy raised from death row.
In one of our last meetings on Death Row, Troy looked at me and said, “Ben, you’ve known my nephew a long time. If they really do this to me, youll have to be his uncle too and make sure he goes to college and graduates.”
De’Jaun is now a senior at Morehouse College. I have supported his education every year and we talk, text, and visit often.
Every year, we have honored Troy by helping to abolish the death penalty. Since he was executed we have succeeded in Maryland and Connecticut. This year we are focussing on California.
However, this is the biggest and toughest anniversary yet. This year we have decided we should also celebrate the life Troy lived from prison.
Thus today, I am asking you to help De’Jaun and I honor Troy by extending Troy’s tradition of mentorship and service against the odds.
While preparing for a career in STEM, De’Jaun is helping others coming up behind him at Morehouse and in Georgia’s public K-12 schools do the same. He has started the Makerspace STEM education program to teach Morehouse students about engineering and tech and enhance their career-related STEM skills.
In some school districts, students have access to advanced STEM programs in high school. Other students have access to programs like the acclaimed Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academies that provide rigorous STEM education outside of school. Students like De’Jaun didn’t have access to either, Makerspace was a designed to help bridge the gap for students like himself.
On this fifth anniversary, De’Jaun is honoring his uncle’s memory by raising money for the program, which also teaches middle and high school students from Atlanta about STEM.
Troy Davis’s greatest legacy lives on in De’Jaun, and it would mean so much if you could support his campaign.