Martina Davis Correia passed away tonight. Martina had a long eleven-year battle with cancer, and at times, was winning. But today she rests in peace.
Martina was an incredible woman. I came to know her through our mutual work against capital punishment. She fought tirelessly for her brother, Troy Davis, who was on death row in Georgia. But she also fought tirelessly for all those on death row. A brave and courageous woman, Martina inspired so many in this world.
Below are a few photos that I captured of Martina, mostly outside the Georgia prison where her brother was ultimately executed on September 21 of this year. I recently wrote about my experiences being there with Martina as her brother was dying, which you can read here.
Here is an excerpt from my article:
Just after 11:00 pm, I was with Laura Moye, the Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director for Amnesty International USA. Martina brought a young woman over to us and introduced her to Laura. Martina told Laura that this college student, Monica, had driven, by herself, from California, to protest the execution. Martina told Monica to give her contact information to Laura to get involved in the work to end the death penalty. Laura handed Monica a notepad and pen, and Monica provided her information. It was an extraordinary scene, which I took a photo of [pictured below]. Martina, who could have been overwhelmed by the tragedy of the moment, knowing her brother could be executed at any time now, chose to still keep organizing, connecting activists for the cause.
All along we have said that this is not just about Troy Davis, it is about justice, about fairness, and about an end to state killing. Martina embodied that in this moment. With her brother at the end of his life, she was still unselfishly committed to making sure there were no more Troy Davises.
Immediately following this exchange, Benjamin Todd Jealous, the President of NAACP, called the crowd together to announce that word had come out of the prison that the execution was happening. All eyes quietly focused on the ground, or into the sky. Martina and the rest of Troy's family were in the center of the circle, surrounded at this moment by love and community. We stayed there, like that, until a chant of "I AM TROY DAVIS" grew from the inside, and resonated into the still of the night.
Two days later, I finally brought myself to look at the photos I had taken that night. My emotions were still raw, and I didn't want to relive Troy's execution yet. But I felt a responsibility to get the photos out into the world, given my unprecedented access to the scene.
As I went through the images, I stopped on the photo of Martina bringing the college student over to the Amnesty International director to trade contact information. I looked at the time that the photo was taken. 11:08 pm. The exact minute that we now know that Troy Davis died on the gurney.
I broke down in tears. These were not tear of sadness, but tears of admiration and hope. In the photo Martina isn't looking at anyone around her, but is looking off toward the prison. Somehow deep inside, she must had known what had just happened. You can see it in her face. But even in the darkest moment of tragedy, the tireless work of Martina, all Troy's family, Amnesty International, NAACP and the countless worldwide supporters of human rights carried on. There was no giving up, even in that moment. The work to end the death penalty continued, right then and there.
Martina, we will always remember you.