Martina Correia, 1967-2011, champion of Troy Davis and justice for all

by Matthew Cardinale

Atlanta (APN) – Martina Correia, the sister of Troy Davis, who was his strongest advocate, has succumbed to breast cancer.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago and given six months to live at that time, but she fought to stay alive so that she could fight for her brother, Troy, to stay alive. The state of Georgia executed Davis a few weeks ago for a murder conviction based upon witness testimony, despite the recantation of seven out of nine of those witnesses.

“We were very blessed to know Martina and to work with her for more than 11 years,” Laura Moye, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign coordinator for Amnesty International USA, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“She was a true champion and hero for human rights in the U.S. and beyond. She changed all of us and she changed this world. We know her spirit is very strong and is going to continue to be a force for changing this world for the better,” Moye said.

“I was with Martina this week in the hospital, and she had a peaceful passing,” Moye said.

“We are inspired by her strength and by her courage. We are so grateful that she was a part of our cause and that we could be a part of her cause,” Moye said.

“Martina was the spark of the movement that built up around her brother. She was the person who championed his cause from the beginning and for many, many years she was a voice crying in the wilderness … Then people started to listen to her,” Moye said.

“With her leadership in the campaign, we always involved her in the decisions to build up an effective campaign,” Moye said.

“She inspired so many people to be involved in his struggle. She said it was really part of a larger struggle for human rights in this country,” Moye said.

“She got involved in Amnesty because she wanted to help her brother but she recognizes what was happening to her brother was happening to other people, she wanted to help other people. It was very much what they wanted – her and her brother,” Moye said.

“Martina Correia fought a 20-year-long battle for justice for her brother. She led an international campaign to save her brother’s life and prove his innocence. She was the voice for Troy and their family and led an international chorus in singing, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS,’” Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said in a statement prepared for APN.

“Martina balanced her struggle for her brother’s life and against the death penalty with fighting her own personal daily battle with breast cancer that threatened her life since 2002,” Totonchi said.

“She was not only a leader in the anti-death penalty community; she is also at the helm of the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer. She focused her work on prevention, education and cultural barriers to eradicate cancer in communities of color,” Totonchi said.

“Many times over the years I would be on a conference call with Martina only to find out midway through the call that she was simultaneously receiving chemotherapy while fully participating in our discussion,” Totonchi said.

“But with Martina, it was not only what work she did; it’s how she did it. Martina led this movement by demonstrating an unshakable commitment to ending the death penalty. She is unparalleled in her determination,” she said.

“Martina’s focus was always bigger than her brother’s case. Martina never lost sight of the lives and the families of all people in prison and on death rows. I remember during one of the times Troy had an execution warrant pending with just two weeks before he was set to be killed, Martina called me to check in about a mutual friend of ours who recently went back to prison. She wanted to know if his wife and kids were OK and what address could she send a grocery store gift card to help them out during this difficult time,” she said.

Martina never lost sight of the lives and the families of all people in prison and on death rows.

“This was just one of the many, many times I have felt so blessed to know and work with someone as extraordinary as Martina. She has informed and directed my work at the Southern Center for Human Rights for over 10 years. I could always rely on her to direct me to the issues that are most deeply impacting the lives of people in prison and their families, whether it was the exorbitant fees charged to people seeking medical attention inside the prisons to abuses by the corrections officers at visitation. And she kept these families and their struggles in her heart always. Every time she spoke to an audience about her brother’s case, she would invoke them,” she said.

“Martina’s hope and struggle should sustain and push us all to do more, to work harder, to take more risks, to keep our eyes on the prize and to work for justice and peace for our communities on both sides of the prison walls. In Martina’s name – and Troy’s and their mother Virginia’s, who passed earlier this year – we rededicate our lives to working every day to end this death penalty, in Georgia, across the nation and around the world,” she said.

Correia was a nurse and a veteran of the first U.S. invasion of Iraq.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, she was no longer able to work and was on disability, so she traveled the nation and indeed the world advocating for Troy Davis.

She also became an advocate for curing breast cancer.

Correia’s mother, Virginia Davis, died in April 2011, only months before Troy Davis was executed.

“I think the death penalty takes a terrible toll on all the families who are involved. It’s interesting to know Troy’s mother and sister died within months of his execution,” Moye said.

Correia is survived by one son, Antone De’Jaun Davis-Correia; two sisters, Kimberly and Ebony Davis; and one brother, Lester Davis.

Matthew Cardinale is news editor of The Atlanta Progressive News, where this story first appeared. He can be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Martina Correia: Her life was consumed by the fight to win justice

by Marlene Martin

Terribly sad news … I just learned a few moments ago that Martina Correia, the courageous sister of Troy Davis, died today. As many of you know, she was fighting breast cancer and had become very ill and weak in the last few months.

For all of you who were lucky enough to meet Martina, you met someone with incredible conviction and determination.

In one of my last conversations with Martina, she told me someone in France had emailed her to say they were sorry that despite all of their efforts and protests for Troy, they had failed.

Martina said: “I want people to know that we didn’t fail. As long as we keep hammering away at this thing, as long as we refuse to give up, we haven’t failed. We’ll be doing what Troy would have wanted us to do. Our efforts made an impact and we’ll continue to make an impact.”

“I want people to know that we didn’t fail. As long as we keep hammering away at this thing, as long as we refuse to give up, we haven’t failed. We’ll be doing what Troy would have wanted us to do.” – Martina Correia

That is always how she was. She refused to be defeated. She always looked to the positive; she always looked to ways we could mobilize to win.

I feel so proud and honored to have fought alongside Martina and Troy’s family. And I know many, many of you feel the same way.

This news came to me in a phone call from Mark Clements, someone who spent 28 years wrongfully incarcerated in Illinois. He said: “We will miss her. She was a warrior in this fight. To the best of our ability, we must continue this fight she started for Troy and for others.”

Her life was consumed by the fight to win justice for her brother and to raise the banner for abolition of the death penalty.

She was an inspiration to us all.

Now it will be up to us all to fight on in her memory and in Troy’s memory – and not to give up.

Marlene Martin, executive director of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, can be reached at marlene@nodeathpenalty.org.

Martina opposed LWOP

by Christine Hamel

Those of us who had the privilege of meeting Martina were truly blessed. She was the catalyst of the movement that spread worldwide to save the life of her brother, Troy Davis, even while she fought cancer to save her own life.

Recently I’ve heard Troy Davis’ case used as a justification for “life without possibility of parole.” In honor of her courage, leadership and hard work, I’d like to remind all of those that Martina was a long-time board member of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, an organization that opposes life without possibility of parole.

Martina stood up for her values, even when it might have been politically expedient to do otherwise.

Christine Hamel can be reached at babysoft777@hotmail.com.