• Wrongful Conviction Day: Narrator Spotlight on Beverly Monroe of Surviving Justice


      Beverly Monroe is the epitome of southern gentility— gracious, warm, and impeccably mannered. With a degree in organic chemistry and three grown children, Beverly is difficult to picture as an inmate. And yet in 1992 she was wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to twenty-two years in prison.

      Her story appeared in the very first Voice of Witness book, Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated, published in 2005.

      Beverly was the victim of an overzealous state police agent, who was convinced she was responsible for the murder of her long-time partner.

      The agent fabricated a confession, and told me, “I can make you out to be the black widow spider of all time.”

      He said that all he had to do was pick up the telephone and by that afternoon it would all be in the papers. I’m a single mother with three kids in college. It’s like someone holding a gun to you and saying you have to do it, you have no other way to go…

      What do you do? So I signed it.

      Despite a lack of evidence, Beverly was convicted of first-degree murder.

      I went to the women’s prison…it was a dungeon-like place. It was cold. I was hungry…

      Then I was put in this basement. It was an absolute firetrap. A basement with chains on the exit doors, filled with cigarette smoke, and I was on the top bunk. I could reach the ceiling from my bunk. All the smoke collects up there.

      In the evenings we had to mop the floor. These women would take my turn so I could work on my case. And they would say—it was noisy as all get-out, unbelievable noise—“Be quiet, Miss Beverly is working on her case.” This will stick with me for the rest of my life.

      Today, Beverly continues to advocate for criminal justice reform, working with the Students for Innocence Project at William & Mary Law School and speaking at conferences and events across the country.

      Beverly’s story exemplifies the transformative power of a personal story: for the storyteller, for the reader, and—when amplified—for the world.

      Find Beverly’s full story in Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated and The Voice of Witness Reader.

      Teaching about wrongful conviction? Voice of Witness offers free curriculum to accompany Beverly’s story and others. Visit our lesson plans page to see if it’s a good fit for your classroom.


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    • Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month: A Narrator Shares His Hopes for What Activism and the Arts Will Do for His Hometown of Tehuacán

      Martín was raised in a family of activists in Tehuacán, Mexico. He has spent over twenty years working as a human rights advocate in the Mexican state of Puebla, and he has defended labor rights for over twelve years. According to Martín, the fight for rights among indigenous Mexicans shares a close affinity to the struggle for labor rights in Tehuacán’s numerous maquilas. For Martín, the power dynamic of the maquila echoes the centuries-old relationship between European colonizers and the native population of Mexico.

      Martín keeps busy between his activism and a rock band he’s led for years. Martín is the director of the Commission for Human and Labor Rights in Tehuacán Valley, and he has opened up his house as a meeting space ever since the commission’s office closed down due to financial difficulties. A victim of violence, death threats, and wrongful imprisonment—as well as the beneficiary of protective measures by international agencies—Martín says that his work defending human rights comes from the positive examples of his parents.


      I remember that before NAFTA was passed you’d rarely see people with electronics like Walkmans or other new gadgets of the time, because you couldn’t bring them in. If you did, it was usually contraband, but now it seems you see electronic devices everywhere. Everybody has the newest devices like iPads and tablets. With the passing of NAFTA I’ve seen how all the medium-sized cities of Mexico are becoming more and more Americanized. Cities are beginning to lose their identity. Walmarts, Burger Kings, and malls are everywhere.

      One aspiration I have is to create a cultural center that’s also a union headquarters, with an office and everything. We want to build a place where workers feel at ease, where they can gather to defend their rights and those of other workers. We want them to be able to inform themselves, have access to the Internet, read the newspaper, and analyze what’s going on in this country. We want the cultural center to be a space for conferences about labor rights.

      I work on reaching people through art, too. About four years ago I bought a drum kit and formed a band called Mixtitlan. Now I have a band called Necromancer. We play thrash metal but we have blues and stoner rock influences. We sing in Spanish because that was the idea, to play our own music in our own language and touch on social topics. The people who follow us work in the maquilas.

      I don’t know what the future holds for Tehuacán. It’s increasingly polluted and congested. The living standards are low. If the government doesn’t find another form of investment here, then Tehuacán will remain the same: a city with work but poorly paid workers. The children of the maquila workers from the boom in the 1990s are now the ones looking for work, and their exploitation is worse than it was for their parents. But we’ll keep fighting for the rights of workers as long as our bodies hold up.

      Find the rest of Martín’s story in the Voice of Witness book Invisible Hands: Voices from the Global Economy.


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    • Voice of Witness on KALW’s Your Call


      On Monday, August 24, Voice of Witness was featured on KALW’s Your Call, a call-in show hosted by Rose Aguilar that focuses on politics, culture, dialogue, and debate.

      Listeners had an opportunity to call in with questions for us. The conversation included both core Voice of Witness staff and one of our book editors:

      They discussed the importance of sharing diverse voices and documenting contemporary human rights struggles, and Cliff announced the launch of our new Sharing History Initiative.

      If you missed the show, you can listen to it here.

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    • Launching Today: The Voice of Witness Sharing History Initiative

      In celebration of ten years of amplifying unheard voices, we’ve launched the Sharing History Initiative.

      We are excited to announce that the Voice of Witness Education Program has just launched the Sharing History Initiative. This one-year national book placement program will place 1,500 copies of The Voice of Witness Reader into 50 schools and organizations all around the U.S. The initiative will provide educators, storytellers, and social justice advocates with free books, free curricula, and access to a nationwide learning community. 

      Apply Today!

      We are now accepting applications. The deadline is October 9, 2015. Learn more at voiceofwitness.org/sharing-history.

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    • Coming up: Voice of Witness Book Club at Green Apple Books on the Park


      The second installment of the Voice of Witness Book Club at Green Apple Books on the Park will feature a discussion around the new Voice of Witness Reader.

      Education Program Associate Claire Kiefer will be talking with Robin Levi (editor of Inside This Place Not Of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons), Michelle Capobres (Director of Academics at Aim High), and a Voice of Witness narrator about the necessity and power of listening to unheard voices.

      WHEN: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.

      WHERE: Green Apple Books on the Park
                     1231 9th Ave, San Francisco, California 94122 (Map)

      RSVP on Facebook and visit our upcoming events page.

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