Poem – “On the Row” by O’Della Wilson

Introducing O’Della Wilson as a contributor to The Optimism Club.

ODella Wilson


As a small child, I was fascinated by our legal system. As I grew older, my fascination turned to dismay as I witnessed more and more injustice and corruption. That ignited a fire inside of me, a drive towards finding justice that is equal and unbiased. Hopefully I can do my small part to make this world better – through the power of the written word, one of the many gifts I received from God.

Life is a learning experience full of lessons, to live and learn. What it all boils down to – attitude! Our attitude towards life in general is what we “choose” it to be. We take with us from that and thus, pass along those attitudes to every other person we encounter in life. I choose to look at life with optimism, taking the good & positive with me and sharing them, learning from the bad & negative so as not to repeat and pass those on to others. There is something good in everything, no matter how bad the situation. We have to choose to find it first, before we can learn from it.

I got active in fighting against the death penalty in the early 90’s, as a result of the Federal Death Penalty expansions of 1988’s “Drug Kingpin Statute” and then, the 1994 “Crime Bill Expansion” which I felt would result in targeting the underprivileged and minorities. Little did I know at that time, I would find my own child sitting on Alabama’s Death Row in the year 2001, convicted under Alabama’s ‘complicity’ law. Suspecting for years there were many innocent persons sitting on death row, I learned firsthand how some of these wrongful convictions were occurring. And, I can personally state it is a nightmare for everyone involved – not just the murder victim or accused, but the many ‘invisible’ victims who share that sentence of death.

“We can NEVER return the lost years of those wrongfully convicted.” Think about that for a moment, then think about this: error rates are as high as 68% in some areas. Which supporter of the Death Penalty wants to be the first to volunteer to draw those odds? While I cannot go into my son’s case, I can tell you as a result of that, I met other Death Row inmates on a personal level. That led me to developing/publishing one of their newsletters. The newsletter “Dark Faces of Justice” is written by the inmates on Alabama’s Death Row. “Wings of Hope” is the mother publication that inspired the newsletter.

Esther Brown

Esther Brown of the PHADP

When the Chairman of PHADP, Darrell Grayson [executed by State Sanctioned Murder on July 26, 2007, 6:35 PM] sent me the first package of article contents, he told me to contact a woman named Esther Brown. She would have a profound impact on my life, as I’m sure she does with everyone she meets. Esther Brown is the public voice and driving force behind “Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty”.

“Execute Justice not People” is the motto of  www.phadp.org and I couldn’t agree more. Esther Brown is a selfless, tireless person dedicated to educating anyone willing to listen, anyone willing to learn the real facts surrounding the Death Penalty. Most people are misinformed and unless personally affected, never know the reality of what the death penalty entails. You can learn more about Project Hope by visiting their website.

I have learned a lot about many of Alabama’s Death Row Inmates over the years – several since executed – and have my own opinions on the guilt and innocence of each. But, one of the most prominent lessons I have carried with me over the years would be “One moment in life cannot define the character of a person, anymore than we can judge the value of our own lives or future worth by any single act.” Are many of these people guilty? Sure. Are some of these people innocent? Absolutely! Either way points to the overwhelming, problematic failure of Capital Punishment; and both of which are affected by its failures.

Death row

Death row, Alabama

I would also like to say, that another prominent lesson I learned – even more important: there is no such thing as “Justice” when it involves the Death Penalty. There are flaws in every system that are numerous and involve too many passions. As humans we all have passion and emotion, that in itself creates biased implementation of the death penalty. And the death penalty requires infallibility which humans lack by nature.

The poem “On The Row” was inspired by my involvement with these very real people, many of whom sit “on the row” for crimes they did not commit. I am of firm belief that each one of us, has the power and obligation to stop the barbaric practice of Capital Punishment. We are the children of God, not God himself.

If after reading “On The Row” you have been moved emotionally, I ask that you get involved: Take action, start writing your legislators, demand this barbaric practice be stopped – once and for all. Thank you.

In my room of only eight by six
time slowly moves too fast
Smoking on my cancer sticks
reminiscing on my past.

Mama tried to tell me back then
the dangers of this life
Choose wisely in choosing friends
even wiser in a wife.

Be careful with the words you speak
and whom you might want cursed
Our motives we must learn to seek
weighing consequences first.

As I sit here savoring the taste
of my coffee brewed in tin
I think of my future with haste
and all of my past sin.

I watch the smoke rise from my lips
as it floats overhead
And as I try to come to grips
I pray I wake not dead.

One day the truth to be told the world
as the guilty might confess
All lies and secrets be unfurled
the facts finally egress.

Written/Copyrights Retained by: O’Della Wilson AKA Alhavakia
©February 13, 2005 All Rights Retained