Commentary

Friends, admirers remembering and honoring Darryl Hunt

Darryl HuntPeople all over North Carolina and, indeed, all over the world have been issuing statements of remembrance and appreciation for Darryl Hunt during the last 48 hours since Hunt, a gentle soul who crusaded for justice in our criminal system after having been denied it himself for almost 20 years, died this past weekend.

Here’s the Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP:

“Darryl was a wounded healer in the greatest sense. I can remember him often saying that he has forgiven those who put him in jail when they knew he was innocent, but he has not forgotten. For Darryl, it was a spiritual matter. He would say that he did not know how to ask others or God for forgiveness if he was not willing to forgive those who imprisoned him. He was not going to let them imprison him again with bitterness. And neither would he let them keep him from fighting for justice.

Darryl traveled the nation and the world with his witness that injustice does not have the last word. For a generation of activists, Darryl was hope incarnate. Justice was his calling. Courage and love was his answer. We pledge to you brother Darryl, that your spirit lives on in each of us. Those you touched will touch others and others as we keep our hands on the freedom plow. Let it be so. ”

And here’s Allen Johnson of Darryl’s hometown newspaper, the Winston-Salem Journal expressing amazement at the peace and grace Hunt displayed after seeing Hunt speak at North Carolina A&T:

“Hunt simply talked about what he had lived: the wrongful rape-and-murder conviction that put him behind bars for 19 years and could have cost him his life; his work to help free others who are wrongfully imprisoned; and his utter lack of bitterness about all that had been done to him in the name of the law.

Not toward a system that had sent him to prison in 1985 based on flimsy evidence and a flawed investigation.

Not toward the prosecutor in the case, whom he would see often during walks in downtown Winston-Salem.

Not toward people who still believed he had stabbed and raped Winston-Salem Sentinel copy editor Deborah Sykes in 1984, even after his innocence was proven in 2004.

And not toward the man who actually had committed the crime and confessed to it after DNA evidence had exonerated Hunt.”

And here’s Barry Saunders writing in Raleigh’s News & Observer on a similar note:

“Do you want to know what kind of spirit this cat had?

The Rev. Carlton Eversley, Hunt’s friend and chairman of the Darryl Hunt Project, told me that the day Hunt got out of prison the first thing he said was, ‘There are other Darryl Hunts in there.’

Odds are that not all of them will be as forgiving as Darryl if and when they get out because he was, as the Rev. Eversley said, ‘a remarkable human being.’

Ricki Stern, co-director of the award-winning documentary ‘The Trials of Darryl Hunt,’ also marveled at his spirit. ‘We spent a lot of time with him when he was released,’ she told me Monday. ‘He was a quiet, thoughtful person who, right when he was released from prison, was concerned about doing something for others. He really was an amazing guy … a kind, gentle person.’”

And yesterday, the ACLU of North Carolina, which had been planning to honor Hunt on April 2 for his work against the death penalty, issued this statement:

“Darryl Hunt, who became a crusader for criminal justice reform after serving 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, passed away in Winston-Salem this weekend. We are deeply saddened by this loss and send our thoughts and condolences to Darryl’s family, friends and others whose lives he touched deeply.

A tireless advocate for reforming our nation’s broken criminal justice system through his nonprofit organization, the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, Darryl was named the recipient of this year’s Paul Green Award, to be presented at our 2016 Liberty Awards, for his work to end the death penalty and educate the public about its injustice.

Please join us on Saturday, April 2, in Chapel Hill as we honor Darryl’s legacy and present his award posthumously, as well as celebrate the work of other civil liberties heroes.

2016 Liberty Awards Dinner: Protecting Democracy
Keynote Speaker: Dale Ho, ACLU Voting Rights Project Director
Saturday, April 2 at 5 p.m.
William and Ida Friday Center
100 Friday Center Drive, Chapel Hill, NC”

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