To Honor Life: An Evening on the Death Penalty

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The Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Tennessee held their largest event of the semester, “To Honor Life: An Evening on the Death Penalty”. A huge crowed of students attended the event despite being able to watch the Lady Volunteers play a good basketball game. Although we were not joined by any other student organizations, three very different organizations proudly took part in our event. These include the following: Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Kenny Collins

People can come together no matter their political ideology for a very important issue. Yes, we held an event with a conservative group and the NAACP. At the event our members made sure to pass out the remaining YAL materials including Constitutions we had left. The event started with me introducing all the speakers and thanking them for being a part of the YAL sponsored event.

To set the tone of the evening we showed a short film displaying Tennesseans who have been directly impacted by the death penalty. Stacy Rector, the Executive Director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty spoke about the death penalty in Tennessee along with what she has been doing to bring awareness to the public. Dr. Rev. John Butler, the Knox County President of the NAACP spoke next about the racial disparities involved in the death penalty. The fact is more minorities are targeted by the death penalty. Marc Hyden, the National CCADP, delivered the conservative case against the death penalty. Hyden spoke about the growing number of conservatives who are changing their positions on the death penalty including Dr. Ron Paul.

Ray Krone, the nation’s 100th death row exonoree was the keynote speaker. Krone was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in the early 1990’sA decade of his life was stolen from him by the state of Arizona. During his three and a half day trial the prosecution brought in a so called “expert witness” that was paid 50,000 dollars by the state. Ray Krone’s speech was one of passion that left everyone speechless. The event concluded with all the speakers on a panel giving students the opportunity to ask questions. Students asked many questions, including the troubling cases of botched executions that have occurred this year. There is no question that this event left everyone who attended questioning capital punishment in the United States.

How did we manage to organize such a major event? Great events do not come together overnight! At the start of the semester I made a list of possible events to hold. An event on the death penalty was at the top of the list. At the 2014 Young Americans for Liberty National Convention, every attendee had the chance to meet and engage with all the sponsors. This is where I met Marc Hyden with CCADP. I reached out to Marc Hyden about the possibility of having an event at the University of Tennessee. During this time I was also in contact with Stacy Rector with TADP. Together the three of us had a conference call to discuss what we could do at the university.

After that the plan was in motion Preparing for and promoting the event We completing all the steps the university requires for an event this size. Knowing that our resources were limited I filled out an activism grant form to try and get funding for the event. I followed up by contacting my Regional Director Joshua Parrish who represents the Southeast. With his help I was able to secure funds. We used these funds for the promotion of the event. Color ink is not cheap! The chapter Vice President, Patrick Rader and I posted hundreds of flyers throughout campus and even at convenient stores in Knoxville. It is worth noting that we started doing all of this two months prior to the event. Posting flyers is not the only way to promote an event. Make sure that you request that your event is included on your University’s Events Calendar. This is a great way for people to find upcoming events. I also reached out to members of the community. Anyone and everyone that would give me the chance to speak about the event. Reaching out to the various departments on campus to help market the event is really helped. Departments such as Sociology sent out emails to all their students about our upcoming event.

For gaining media coverage press releases are great to send out to the media. You cannot get the media just by sending out press releases. They need to be sent out at least one to two weeks prior to the event followed with phone calls. Getting familiar with anyone at the local news outlets is a great benefit to have. Make sure to also call the day of the event to express how important the event is. Patrick Rader and I were on one of the two largest talk shows in Knoxville in October, the Rude Awakening, for the last hour of the show. We made sure to speak about the event on air. We had two of the three news stations in Knoxville competing to cover the story. Campus newspapers are another great way to earn media. Almost all universities have at least one newspaper. Check out our coverage by the University of Tennessee’s Daily Beacon about our event. This event along with all the events our chapter has hosted is to educate not only students but members of the community. Yo You can check out the rest of the pictures from this event here. Anyone interested in donating to our chapter can do so here

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