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70 Mile March from Greensboro to Raleigh

To Free Kwame Cannon, seek justice for thousands of incarcerated African Americans, and to unite the struggles for social and economic justice 30 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Editor's note: The following text has been edited from the newsletter of the Greensboro Justice Fund and was written by The Committee to Free Kwame Cannon. Since the Prism must be produced in late March and material must be received by the middle of the month, we can hope to have a fuller report in upcoming months—and the follow-up, as many activists can tell you, can be more important than stories reporting organized events themselves.


On Wednesday, April 1st a group of committed people will leave Greensboro, NC, for a 70 mile march to Raleigh, the state's capital.

It will be North Carolina's version of Selma to Montgomery march. After stopping and rallying in several cities, the marchers will arrive in Raleigh on April 4, 1998, the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. People from all over the state and, hopefully, the nation, will converge in Raleigh on April 4th.

The march is part of a determined movement to unify the people of this city and state in a struggle to free us from the devastation of economic bondage, social fragmentation, and racial oppression.

The march is a call from the Black Community of Greensboro to justice loving people everywhere to band together for our collective freedom and survival.

The immediate goal of the march is to free Kwame Cannon, a young black man given two consecutive life sentences for six counts of non-violent burglary committed at the tender age of 17.

Kwame committed a crime and should be held accountable. However, his sentence was outrageous. This young man, Greensboro's child, has now been in jail for nearly twelve years. Over 5,000 letters have been written to Governor James Hunt requesting his release. An association representing over 100 clergy persons has asked the Governor to release him. The majority on the Greensboro City Council, including the mayor, has requested his release. A former state supreme court justice and congressman, as well as hundreds of people from all walks of life in Greensboro, have asked that this young man be released from the travesty of justice.

One of the persons (a victim), whose home was entered by Kwame, has personally pleaded with the Governor to release him. Even the district attorney and the Greensboro chief of police have, under pressure and with great reluctance, said they would not oppose the release of Kwame Cannon. Kwame has been a model prisoner.

In spite of all this and much more, Governor James Hunt has refused to allow this young man to come home to his family, his friends, and his city.

It is significant that Kwame is the son of Willena Cannon, one of the organizers of the 1979 march and rally against the Ku Klux Klan and for decent treatment and fair wages in the textile industry.

At the beginning of this march that a nine-car caravan, loaded with Klan and Nazi members and led by an informant to the Greensboro Police, brutally murdered five labor leaders, wounded 10 of the demonstrators, and terrorized the black community.

After two trials with all white juries for for which no one was found guilty, Kwame's mother was one of sixteen people who successfully sued the Klan, Nazis, and members of the Greensboro Police Department for wrongful death.

Less than a year after these Greensboro Police officers along with Klan and Nazi members were found liable for wrongful death, Kwame was given two consecutive life sentences, the harshest sentence for comparable crimes in the history of the state.

Kwame Cannon has now come to symbolize the plight of tens of thousands of young black men and women who are jailed and caged as animals, while tens of thousands of others are crushed by economic and social forces that they did not create nor understand.

The time has come for us to stand together and fight for the freedom of Kwame and a new future for our children, ourselves, and all people.

Governor Hunt has come to symbolize the disgusting hypocrisy of an immoral social order, which allows corporate America to plunder our natural resources, exploit our labor, ravage our communities, and manipulate people into fighting each other, while our youth and the poor are being scapegoated and criminalized.

It is not our purpose to demonize Governor Hunt. We are compelled, however, to speak the truth. Governor Hunt has unapologetically presided over legislating more and more criminal laws, while building more and more jails. He has skillfully developed deceptive language, which speaks of the common good and plays on the fears of people, even as he is engineering more repressive social and economic policies. The state's so-called welfare reform legislation is but the latest example. Governor Hunt symbolizes and indeed has become a successful representative of the powers.

The Greensboro To Raleigh March will demand

  • the Release of Kwame Cannon Now!
  • an end to racism and economic exploitation
  • to link to and draw together struggles for decent work with decent wages
  • quality education for our children
  • an end to criminalizing our youth and the poor

This movement is underscored by strong spiritual nurturing, which affirms the dignity, worth, and potential of all people. Poultry workers, K-Mart workers, textile workers, and laborers from all walks of life are beginning to join with the religious community, the student community, and the broad civil rights movement to work out a spedivid agenda to free our childrenl, establish social justice, and develop productive work with decent treatment and good wages. It is only through such a unified movement that we can successfully carry this fight forward and thereby reclaim our future.

We are excited!

  Contact Faith Community Church, 417 Arlington Street, Greensboro NC, 27406. Phone (336) 274-1145; fax (336) 274-8308. Statewide: April 4th Survival Coalition, (336) 370-4778; fax (336) 370-4103.  

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