“It really makes me believe the Great Spirit laid this trip on me so that I could bear witness of this terrible thing we call the deathpenalty in the U.S.” – Delbert Tibbs
I Just found out that death-row survivor Delbert Tibbs passed away last night. I first met Delbert at the Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty in front of the SCOTUS about 8 years ago. He was one of the few exonerees that had kept in touch with me after I left Witness to Innocence. Sometimes he would send messages of encouragement and support, and sometimes poetry. He always refereed to me as “hoo” or “cowboy” in private, and never capitalized a single word in his messages. I always assumed that he was taking a poetic license. He was a poet, with several published pieces in magazines and books. Pete Seeger put a few lines of his poems into a song titled “Delbert Tibbs.” At that time he was dedicating the song to a young black man serving a death sentence for the 1994 murder of a white woman at the Raiford State Prison in Starke, Florida. After finding out that I speak Persian, he would recite from memory verses of poetry from not just Rumi and Hafiz (whom he always refereed to as “Sheikh Hafiz”), but also from Farid ud-Din Attar’s “Conference of the Birds.”
In his letter to Gary Graham (executed in 2000 by George Bush), who Delbert believed to be innocent, he wrote: “…those who know not the sacred thing called life may break and destroy the physical body but your warrior spirit Will never die; you are part of the One who made the Sun and the Stars and the laughter of children and love.” R.I.P. delbert l. tibbs. Your warrior spirit lives on among those of us fighting the death penalty.
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