Article by Don Harrell (Winter Park, FL)
Aleta Alston Touré, the no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners organizer of the Free Marissa Now Movement is a clear demonstration of the power of one. She stands firmly at the center of the movement, reminding all who care to notice what can be accomplished by one single solitary soul who is truly committed to battling injustice.
While representing ROOTS during the first few days of A Week of Action to Free Marissa Alexander, I had the opportunity to watch her work and to work alongside her as well. ROOTS members Andrea Assaf, Omari Fox, and Tutu Harrell joined me in this effort, which included our joint participation in the movement’s Free Marissa Now Benefit Concert.
As time moved forth, it became clear that Aleta is an extraordinarily gifted community organizer and arts activist who operates in the same revolutionary space as the countless women warriors who came before her. Women like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Lou Hammer, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Angela Davis, and Assata Shakur, to name but a few. Not only does she operate in this radical space, she does so with extraordinary clarity, preparedness, determination, and sense of purpose.
With the Free Marissa Now Movement, Aleta fearlessly confronts the Florida legislative, judicial, and penal systems by bringing world-wide attention to their recalcitrant and hypocritical nature. The challenge for Florida, she intimates, is to get rid of its antiquated laws, sentencing guidelines, ratio of disproportionate contact with racial minorities, and, of course to treat Marissa Alexander with the dignity and respect that she rightfully deserves.
“Time has come today” and it’s incumbent on all of us to seize it, by standing with Aleta in this fight. Aleta attended her first Alternate ROOTS Annual Meeting this year to network with others who “believe in freedom.” She came forward for membership and was immediately and unanimously voted in. Let’s welcome Aleta with open arms by joining her in the movement to FREE MARISSA NOW!
A Luta Continua,
TIMELINE FOR MARISSA ALEXANDER’S LEGAL CASE (from the Free Marissa Now website)
- August 1, 2010: Nine days after giving birth to a premature daughter, Marissa Alexander was attacked by her abusive estranged husband at their shared home. She writes, “In an unprovoked jealous rage, my husband violently confronted me while using the restroom. He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged for him to leave.” He attacked her while his sons were in the home. Marissa retrieved her lawfully registered gun and fired a warning shot upwards into a wall to prevent him from beating her to death. No one was injured by her warning shot.
- February 10, 2011: Alexander’s incarceration begins.
- August 17, 2011: Alexander was denied Stand Your Ground immunity from prosecution.
- May 11, 2012: Alexander was found guilty of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and received a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
- July 10, 2013: Marissa Alexander wasdenied bond pending her appeal of the guilty verdict.
- September 26, 2013: Marissa Alexander successfully appealed the 2012 trial, the guilty verdict was overturned, and she was given the right to a new trial. The appellate court ruled that the jury instructions put too much of a burden on Alexander. “The defendant’s burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self-defense,” a three-judge panel ruled. “The defendant does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, the appellate court did not overturn the 2012 court decision to deny Marissa Alexander a Stand Your Ground immunity from prosecution.
- October 31, 2013: Alexander’s re-trial was scheduled for March 31, 2014.
- November 27, 2013: Alexander was released on bond the night before Thanksgiving. She spent 1,021 days in prison. She is currently under house arrest with special conditions, including requiring her to post a $200,009 bond, remain under the supervision of the Pretrial Service Program (PCP) at all times, be subject to 24/7 electronic monitoring, and remain in home detention until the completion of her case.
- January 7, 2014: State Prosecutor Angela Corey filed a motion to revoke Alexander’s bond release, claiming that Alexander violated the conditions of her release. Alexander’s legal team filed a response to the motion stating that the correctional staff supervising Alexander’s bond release confirmed that Alexander complied with all of the conditions of her bond release and is not in violation of her bond. The hearing is scheduled for January 10, 2014.
- January 10, 2014: State Prosecutor Angela Corey’s motion to revoke Marissa Alexander’s bond release was denied and Marissa remains on “home detention,” but with more restrictive conditions.
- January 30, 2014: Alexander’s trial was postponed to July 28, 2014.
- March 1, 2014: The Florida Times-Unionreported that Angela Corey is seeking a 60 year sentence for Marissa Alexander if Alexander is found guilty in the July 28th trial. Corey argued that the mandatory minimum statute required Alexander to serve three 20 year sentences consecutively rather than concurrently, tripling the mandatory minimum to 60 years.
- March 14, 2014: Alexander’s legal teamfiled a motion requesting a new Stand Your Ground hearing.
- May 16, 2014: Judge James Daniel did not issue a ruling on Alexander’s motion for a new Stand Your Ground hearing. He said he would do so in June and he is accepting written arguments through the month of May. Alexander’s trial is still scheduled for July 28, 2014.
- June 10, 2014: Judge Danielpostponed Marissa Alexander’s trial to December 8, 2014, with jury selection beginning on December 1st. The reason given was that the judge and her defense team wanted more time to see how therecent changes in the Stand Your Ground law will impact her case. Marissa’s next court date is scheduled for August 1st when the judge is expected to render a decision about whether she will get a new Stand Your Ground hearing.
- June 21, 2014:Changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law went into effect. Changes include expanding the law to cover warning shots. Marissa Alexander’s case is cited as an inspiration for the reform.
- July 21, 2014: Marissa Alexander was denied a new Stand Your Ground hearing, which means she will not receive immunity from prosecution and must defend herself again in a new trial. Her new trial is scheduled to begin December 8, 2014, with jury selection beginning on December 1st.
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Don Harrell — a member of Alternate ROOTS for approximately 20 years — is a folklorist whose work is centered on bringing clarity to the beauty and poignancy of African and African-American life and culture, in opposition to racist attitudes and misinformed ideation.
Along with his wife Tutu Harrell, he is co-founder of Orisirisi African Folklore — an award winning performing arts company rooted in the history, culture, and traditions of Africa, that uses storytelling, drumming, dance and song its efforts. Since its founding in 1986, the company has provided its unique brand of folklore, for countless people from a vast array of demographics and cultural specific backgrounds at primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, festivals, churches, libraries, museums, conferences, corporate and teacher in-services, television and radio programs, theme parks, and special events, while exhibiting an unwavering commitment to the needs of the individual, the group, the community, and society at large.
In addition to his work as a performing artist, arts educator, arts activist, Don currently serves as a Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Central Florida and Professor of African-American Humanities at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.