For the past month I’ve been deeply involved in completing the Davis-Putter Scholarship application. It has been a fun, yet involved, experience I never imagined possible on death row. Who does that? Apply for competitive grants when most people expect less than nothing from you? The same could be said of completing an AA degree while on death row. Or trying to change hearts and minds.
What I discovered in earning my degree and pursuing a Bachelor of Specialized Studies degree program is that the “where” of one’s life does not matter nearly as much as “how” or “why”. The Davis-Putter scholarship is an opportunity to prove my social activism, both in advocacy for higher education in prison and penal reform in general. This grant would fund as many as six correspondence courses through my alma mater, Ohio University, but it would also be a validation of higher education in prison. Always a good idea. There is no guarantee I’ll win, of course, but I remain hopeful. The results will be determined by the end of July.
The most involved element in the application is my personal statement, which is kind of like a resume, only with more narrative about the groups and activities I’ve written about on this blog. Putting my experiences on the row over the last five years into a coherent story was interesting. I seldom stop to think about the work I’ve completed because it distracts from the work that has yet to be done. The personal statement for the scholarship forced me to reflect on my work product and what I saw gave me courage. I’m doing the right things in the best way I can, bringing attention to the humanity on death row and challenging the narrative told about people in prison. Rather than allowing my cell and sentence to be a coffin, it is the “why” of my advocacy, and “how” it gets done is something for which I thank God.