March 5, 2007
Capital punishment a.k.a. the death penalty.
Why should you care?
Barbaric practice and unfair application to poor and minorities.
What you can do today:
Instead of choosing beaches and beers, a number of college students nationwide will be spending their spring break this year doing activist work. One such destination is Austin, Texas, where the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break will be held for its third year. The five-day event (March 13-17) is organized by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, and offers students an opportunity to hear from exonerated Death Row inmates as well as the families of murder victims. Participants will not only hit the streets to protest, but also learn how to effectively handle the press and meet with their legislators.
As president of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Hooman Hedayati, a sophomore at University of Texas-Austin, works year-round to try to mobilize sentiment against capital punishment in a state that has performed over a third of the executions in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Despite his state’s history, Hedayati believes that change for Texas could be right around the corner. Prior to his week playing host, he talked to WireTap’s Adam McKibbin about his personal path to activism and the schedule of events waiting for alternative spring breakers in Austin.
WireTap: What does your alternative spring break entail, and what’s the history behind it?
The alternative spring break program was started in 2005 by the Texas Moratorium Network, which is another nonprofit group in Texas. I was in high school at the time, and I found [the program] interesting. I came to Austin and became involved in the anti-death penalty movement. At the end of the 2005 spring break, a group of students and I decided to start this student-run anti-death penalty group in Texas. [We] concentrate on student activities and starting anti-death penalty chapters in high schools and colleges around Texas.
In 2006, the Texas Moratorium Network gave us the main responsibility for organizing the spring break. That was our second year, and it was a huge success — we had MTVU covering us, National Public Radio, and almost all the local papers and TV channels. Many students who came here went home and started their own groups; some who came to Austin from Kansas started Kansas Students Against the Death Penalty. This year — March 13 to 17 — is probably going to be the biggest yet. One of our main goals is to bring in student leaders from different universities and high schools and get them trained on different issues, such as lobbying, direct action, how to write press releases, how to talk with media, and, more importantly, to learn about the death penalty system in Texas.