by Efren Paredes, Jr.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." —Nelson Mandela, 1994 Inaugural Speech
March 15, 2007 marked the beginning of my 18th year of wrongful imprisonment for a crime I did not commit. And while it is a sad day for my family, supporters, and me, it is also a good day in other ways.
One of the things I have chosen to do with my time while in prison is make the most of each moment. Rather than dwell on all the evils that have been perpetrated against me for no reason at all, I have channeled that energy into my continued growth and development, and helping others.
I have transformed the dark, deplorable milieu I have found myself in for nearly two decades into a radiant chamber of wisdom, and fostered the same in others. I have learned very valuable lessons about life and refused to succumb to the injustice that has held me captive. While I am physically captive, my mind and spirit will always be free by the grace of God.
The wisdom I have gained through this experience is enormous and expansive. It is this wisdom, my faith in God, and continued support of my family, friends, and individuals who have selflessly supported my campaign for justice, that have kept me moving forward and given me the strength to continue warding off the relentless effort to extinguish the light of hope that burns within me.
These individuals have been there for me in my darkest hours and offered their love and support throughout this very difficult experience. Without them the support that has been generated, and the progress that has been accomplished, could not have taken place. They are each my heroes and I am deeply appreciative of all that they do on my behalf.
So, rather than shine light on the unfortunate 18 years of my wrongful imprisonment, I want to take this opportunity to shine light on the people working to free me and salute them for their efforts that do not go unnoticed. Like every other situation I have transformed from darkness into light, I thought it was fitting to do it in this instance as well.
Our concerted efforts are going to produce justice. I am confident of this. And, with each passing day it becomes even more evident. But it also grows increasingly evident that the progress we witness isn't borne on its own. We reap what we sow, and the size of the harvest will be dependent on the labor that is exerted. Together we can make the harvest bountiful.
Please keep gathering signatures for the online petition for new trial available at http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/4Efren and please continue generating much needed support. We currently have nearly 160 electronic signatures for the petition and over 300 handwritten signatures. We are nearly halfway to our goal of 1,000 signatures.
Other recent positive developments that have manifested in recent weeks I would like to share with you are as follows:
1. An article was published in Workers World, a New York-based newspaper, about Elena Herrada's support of my campaign for justice. The writing called upon people to sign my online petition for new trial/commutation and was a great source of public relations for us. The article is available online at www.workers.org/2007/us/paredes-0222/.
2. Elena Herrada, Sherry Meyer, and another committee member, attended the 14th annual Dia de la Mujer (Day of the Woman) Conference held on February 24, 2007 at the Kellogg Hotel & Convention Center at Michigan State University. While at the conference they gathered over 200 signatures for my petition for new trial and commutation request. Elena spoke on stage before a large room full of people about our campaign during one of the lunch periods and made a strong plea urging people to get involved and support our cause.
3. Since the above event transpired Elena Herrada has gathered an additional 100 petition signatures. Elena continues to work hard on this campaign and plans to visit me again on Saturday, March 24 to discuss how to proceed next with the petition-drive. We will also discuss other strategies to increase our public relations work.
4. A very prominent nun, Sister Julie Vieira, has signed my petition for new trial/commutation and published a post on her blog about our petition campaign. Sister Vieira's blog, A Nun's Life, has gained international popularity on the Internet. A member of the religious order of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, works at Loyola Press in Chicago and blogs daily about religious life, politics, and other issues. Her blog is very popular and was recently featured in The Detroit Free Press because of all the wonderful things she has done. The post about me can be viewed on her blog at http://nuns2day.wordpress.com/2007/03/09/a-couple-requests-for-help/.
5. A web site named Noahide Reflections has also posted an article on its site recently urging people to support my campaign for justice and sign our petition for new trial/commutation. Additionally, they have included a link to our web site. The post about me on the Noahide Reflections web site can be viewed at http://noahide.typepad.com/noahide_reflections/2007/02/please_help_efr.html.
My blog continues to be updated weekly at http://4efren.blogspot.com/, there have been updates to my web site at http://www.4efren.com/, and there is now a Picasa photo album that is available for viewing that features photos of me before my arrest, during court proceedings, and recent photos taken during my incarceration. The latter can be viewed at http://picasaweb.google.com/4Efren. Please also visit my MySpace page at www.myspace.com/4Efren to see all the recent changes and additions of friends that have been made there as well.
Thank you for your continued support, and thank you for your strength and dedication to justice. I am a stronger person because of it.
With Warm Regards,