Remain Free: A Memoir
On this day, four years ago, Georgia executed my friend, my mentor, my uncle, Troy Davis. I believe he was innocent. Today I’m officially releasing Remain Free, so the world doesn’t forget who he was or the truth of what really happened.
I wish you all could’ve met him. My greatest hope with Remain Free is that, through the hundreds of recorded conversations, letters, and in-person visits that make up this book, Troy’s voice shines through and you get a sense of who he really was.
Today I visited Troy’s grave. I had decided ahead of time that, instead of a party or some kind of flashy event, Remain Free’s “launch” would be me leaving him a copy on his grave in Savannah. My mother was concerned–what’ll happen to the book? Would it get damaged by the rain? What if someone with bad intentions got a hold of it? I was firm that I wanted to leave the book there, and let whatever would happen, happen. It was my way of showing Troy that I didn’t forget about him, and that his struggle was important enough to bring thousands of people together to bring this very object left on his grave into existence.
She then said, “I hope this book falls into the hands of the right person, someone who is destined to read this book.”
A few minutes later, a man approached us as we stood at the grave. He was in his fifties or sixties, black, several inches shorter than me. He wore a blue hat to protect his face from the harsh Savannah sun that had emerged from the rain clouds. His name was Leonard and he worked for the cemetery. We told him why we were there. His eyes widened. “You knew Troy Davis?” he asked incredulously. He was a Savannah native and familiar with the case, but was eager to learn more about Troy, about how he changed our lives.
My mother continued to talk to him while I opened the copy of Remain Free I brought with me and started writing a message to Troy. When I finished, the man said, “I’ll leave you two alone to meditate on Troy’s grave. But please, let me give you my email address. I want to follow this story. I want to learn more about Troy.” He walked away, and I realized that he was exactly what my mother had asked for, just minutes earlier. I picked up the book, and the I Am Troy Davis wristband, and walked toward the cemetery office and handed both objects to him. There was a mixture of gratitude and excitement in his voice when I gave it to him. He never told us why he walked across the entire cemetery to talk to us…just that he was glad he did. Maybe he was destined to be the one who read Troy’s copy.
I wasn’t planning on sharing the note I wrote for Troy in that book, but I realized that, in a sense, we’ve all taken this journey together. You all put your faith in me when I was a teenager with a dream and an overambitious timeline. The least I could do is return that trust by sharing what I wrote to Troy in the front cover of the book:
It’s hard to believe four years have passed. I wish you were still here to see what kind of man I’ve become. I’ve been a bit lost since you’ve been gone. I haven’t lived up to my full potential. I could’ve used your guidance during these years. I hope that, despite my failures, you’d still be proud of me. I wrote the book, just like you said I should. This book brought hundreds of people together to make it possible—people who’ve never met you, many of whom have never met me. They all came together because they believed this story—our story—was something worth telling, something worth sharing.
I promise that as long as I’m alive, people won’t forget your story. I promise I won’t stop fighting until the death penalty is ended in the United States. I promise I’ll fight to live up to my full potential, to make the world a better place and to save the other Troy Davises out there. It’s been four years since I’ve written a letter. Here is my longest letter to you, for you.
Your adopted nephew,
The last time I was here I was filled with sadness, but today I’m filled with gratitude. Thanks for making Remain Free possible.