Poetry and Prose

Poetry and Song about Our Members

Delbert Tibbs

By Pete Seeger*

"I'm sitting here on Death Row, Delbert Tibbs my name.
Say, won't somebody listen to how that I been framed?
Don't they know my jury was all white?
Don't they know the facts they kept from light?

I need a poem to tell how I been framed
I need a poem to expose this racist game
Say, don't we all need a poem to break these iron bars?
Wouldn't you like a poem to help you see the stars?

Well, the State of Florida is just one of many.
But the state of slavery! Don't we wish there'd never been any?
Don't we wish slavery never existed nor never was?
But slavery was here. Now we can't say, "Becuz, becuz, becuz."

Chorus (refrain)

Strange, strange, now I've met some beautiful people.
Some meet and greet upon the street, some gather under a steeple.
Some call 'emselves one thing, some call 'emselves another
But now I know! I do have Sisters and Brothers.

Final Chorus
They're helping me write a poem to tell how I been framed
A truthful poem to expose this racist game.
Say don't we all need a poem to break these iron bars?
Wouldn't you like a poem to help you see the stars?

*American cultural icon and folksinger Pete Seeger penned this song to raise funds for Delbert’s case when it went to retrial in 1976. Some of the lyrics are culled from Delbert’s own words and poetry.

Walking Feats

By Jaron Joseph McKinnon*

I did not find my way I just never lost hope…
I have been on the verge to break but, by God, I never broke
Except my shoes in,
Except perhaps my arches…

I have died many times
Resurrecting my mind
Marked a menace, my sentence stuck me like lightning,
But it also enlightened me
Of the system:
The truth of the lies we live with I cannot--
I refuse to believe in justice…
That blind lady didn’t give a damn about me
Didn’t give a damn about my innocence
Nor my humanity
So I saved my faith for a higher grace…

They pride me of my story,
But I can feel it in my gut that my salvation
And my glory is other-worldly
I am convinced…
I was convicted

For my soul learned what true guilt is…
It is unrequited redemption
Do not try to tell me of hell
Unless you have been confined and constrained consciously
Within a 6x9x9.5 cell

See, I was placed on this earth to fulfill a journey
I left behind brothers that may never know the beauty of becoming released
So, I go on
Go on
Go on
Raising and growing
And raising
And raising
And growing
My Walking Feats
Until every silently worn soul
Innocently placed on the row
And every man is understood not to stand for the death penalty
And until every particle of an ounce, of a wrongly accused prisoner is set

*Jaron, a talented English Lit major, wrote this poem in honor of Delbert Tibbs after he heard Delbert recite his poems at DePauw University in 2012.


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If you are interested in reprinting any of these pieces, please call 206-713-5685 or email sanderson@witnesstoinnocence.org for permission and terms of use.

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