Community sends abolitionist attorney Lynne Stewart home
A multi-ethnic audience of supporters attended two days of memorial services a couple of weeks ago to commemorate the life and legacy of “The People’s Lawyer,” Lynne Stewart. After a lengthy, courageous battle against cancer, she eventually succumbed to its debilitating effects at her Brooklyn home March 7, at age 77.
First, Friday, March 10, at Scotto’s Funeral Home in downtown Brooklyn (106 First Place), a host of her admirers, comrades from the legal arena, longtime friends, past clients and a few relatives reflected on Stewart’s tireless work with the poor, under-represented community she loved so dearly.
“Don’t mourn me, organize!” her husband Ralph Poynter recalled Lynne suggesting to him, as well as advocating to her supporters, upon her impending passing, as her health deteriorated during her last days. “She stood with the people and fought against the system.”
He said her cause of death was complications from cancer and a series of strokes she recently suffered.
During the services, “Sister Lynne” as she was affectionately called, was compared with the Argentinean rebel, Che Guevara, who assisted Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution, because both “were motivated by the love of the people,” and also for taking on the task of representing several clients that the mainstream media often considered to be “radicals and revolutionaries.” It was noted how Stewart often times provided her legal services based primarily on principles, and many times, for little or no pay.
Longtime friend Betty Davis reflected on Stewart’s last few weeks on this physical plateau. “It was hard seeing her like that, but she’s not suffering anymore,” Davis said. “She wants us to continue fighting for what’s right.”
At times, some have referred to Stewart as a modern-day female John Brown, after the 19th century Caucasian slave abolitionist, for daring to stand up against a racist system many say is slanted against people of color.
Shams de Barron recalled how significant Stewart was in helping his childhood friend earn a very unlikely acquittal in one of the city’s most notorious and high-profiled, criminal cases.
“[Attorney William] Kunstler gets the credit, but Lynne was very instrumental in Larry Davis beating the attempted-murder charges of six NYPD cops,” he explained, referring to the infamous Nov. 19, 1986, Bronx conflict that had the city on edge for several weeks. “She’s the one who went to the house where the shootout happened, noticed the door was still there with bullet holes, and that is how it was proved that the cops shot first. Larry is the only person in NYC’s history to shoot police and get off on grounds of self-defense.”
The following morning at St. Marks in the Bowery, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, her funeral was conducted as mourners paid their respects to one of society’s true unsung sheroes. Those in attendance chanted Stewart’s name as her casket was hoisted up in the air and carried from the church to a waiting hearse, at the funeral’s conclusion.
Stewart’s body was interred at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery later that afternoon.
Photo from: Susan M Reverby (thank you!)
From WBAI News – Four-minute audio clip (with long quotes from Ralph after Lynne’s passing): http://www.wbai.org/articles.php?article=3373
Just a few of the many tributes that have been pouring in on Facebook, email, and other venues:
I have known a hero in my lifetime, I have laughed with and cried with and shared the righteous rage with a hero. I got to hug a hero, stand at her wedding and find shelter in her home. See her babies grow up and eat pie with her. She casts no shadows, only light now. A woman who gave herself to struggle for decades. A heart, a strong and loving heart that beat so hard for so many, death cannot stop it. Her spirit goes to the reward for loving warriors, there is a significant part of her city, and the nation and beyond that, who feels this loss tonight. Oh captain, my captain.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE FOR THE PEOPLE
Tribute from Puerto Rican former political prisoner Dylcia Pagan
Lynne Stewart – My Comrade, Sister Warrior Woman
During the 20 years of my Revolutionary Sabbatical, there wasn’t a birthday of mine that Lynne forgot. To me it was always my personal New Year’s greeting from her.
I have shared many memories in my life with her. She was always there with unconditional love, support from her revolutionary heart and soul. She is truly a woman warrior because what took precedence in her life was struggle for human rights, Political Prisoners in all of the movements of true struggle. There was Lynne.
Her smile and eyes were always filled with determination striving for a victorious result. I am very fortunate to have had her in my life. The distance of time and place didn’t matter – I knew she was there.
Lynne, Hermana de Lucha!
Tribute to Lynne by Jeff Mackler, former West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee and Director of the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal (San Fran.)
A few minutes ago my dear friend and comrade, Ralph Poynter, called to say that his lifelong companion, Lynne Stewart, passed away. She was 77, of Irish origin, and a born fighter who unswervingly devoted herself to humanity’s cause.
Just a few weeks earlier Lynne pledged to meet me in NY in a couple of months, over dinner to be sure, when we would dance once again to demonstrate that her life still had some time to go… and for joy.
A few years earlier, when prospects looked bleak to win her freedom based on “compassionate release” Lynne insisted that she would prevail and that she would celebrate with us in San Francisco to the tunes of a brass band. Sure enough, a brass band did appear at Lynne’s welcome home San Francisco rally, and she and Ralph, surrounded by her loving friends, danced in the streets at 15th and Valencia. It was a victory well worth the effort, allowing Lynne a couple of more years to fight on against all that is evil in this barbarous capitalist world, and to smile at every inch we collectively gained as we fought back.
Lynne was always surrounded by family and loved ones, with children from her first marriage, and Ralph’s too, as well kids together, and grandkids – all filled with admiration for Grandma Lynne – all the recipient of Lynne’s warmth, dedication, mindfulness and love.
Lynne was fond of saying, including to the New York Times reporter who interviewed her at her home a few weeks before her death, that she had no intention of leaving this earth quietly. Quoting Dillon Thomas she told The Times, whose reporter, followed the next day with a contemptuous hate piece recounting his corporate master’s ire for everything wonderful in Lynne life and struggles, that she had no intention of “going gently into that good night.”
That was Lynne’s credo, her detractors notwithstanding. Always the poet’s words in mind, Lynne insisted,
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Funds are urgently needed to cover final family expenses. Give generously comrades and friends. We are honoring Lynne’s gift to us all and to all who rage against injustice everywhere.
This morning I spoke with Lynne Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, at their home in Brooklyn, NY. We managed to do the call via video camera where Ralph and the family were surrounding Lynne, who had just had a second series of mini-strokes that rendered her unable to speak but able to hear what were perhaps my last words of love and solidarity. Lynne opened her eyes in acknowledgment, bravely trying to muster a smile.
Lynne’s cancer has now spread throughout her body, including her brain. Ralph explained that her days are numbered and she is unlikely to make it to her next scheduled medical appointment on March 16.
Lynne and I go back some 63 years, to 1954-58 when we were students at Jamaica High School in Queens, NY. We relished singing the Jamaica High school song together at many a solidarity meeting. Decades later, we taught school in NYC and were union activists in the late 1960’s when we opposed the 1968 racist school strike led by the AFT’s reactionary leader, Albert Shanker. In those days, young Lynne, now 77, was often seen unconventionally riding on the back of Ralph’s motorcycle, on her way to this or that protest.
Another several decades later, when Lynne faced frame-up charges of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism stemming from her issuing a press release on behalf of her client, the famous blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, we engaged once again to try to win her freedom. After a long legal battle, where I headed Lynne’s defense committee on the West Coast, Lynne was cruelly sentenced to ten years in a Texas prison, after vindictive federal prosecutors appealed a federal Court judge’s sentence of some 18 months. After serving three years in prison, we mounted a campaign that won the support of 70,000 social activists across the country. Lynne, cancer ridden, was finally granted “compassionate release” following her prison doctors’ diagnosis that she had less then a year to live. Lynne beat the odds and spent almost three years in freedom, continuing her lifelong commitment to defending all those victims of capitalist injustice.
Lynne was among Mumia Abu-Jamal’s most ardent supporters. Lynne’s court cases included some of the seminal Weatherrman cases in the 1970s as well as an amazing victory on behalf of Larry Davis, who defended himself against a multiple cop shooting invasion of his house where a number of the shoot-first police were killed.
Pilloried by the corporate media, who mocked her every success in the rigged criminal “justice” system, Lynne never bent to her accusers’ contempt for an attorney for those on the other side of the class line, as Lynne aptly described it, no matter how unpopular her client.
Lynne’s life was one of dedication to all the people’s causes. I valued her friendship, her humor, her sparkle and her hatred for all that is evil and yet love for all that is beautiful. Only Lynne began or ended her speeches by reading from one of the world’s great poets, whose universal appeal to what is best in all of us, rang true.
No doubt we will remember Lynne well when we in the Bay Area plan to memorialize her lifelong achievements.
Meanwhile, her family is in dire need of financial support as these last days painfully proceed and the months before. Here’s an appeal by Ralph and the family’s longterm friend, Betty Davis.
Please send your generous contribution as per the information at https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/financial-appeal-for-lynne-stewart-health-crisis
In solidarity and with the greatest admiration for a comrade and friend whose life set the bar high for all of us who cherish human freedom and dignity.
Rest in power.
Our beloved People’s Champion Lynne Stewart suffered a major stroke, the latest complication from the cancer that has now spread throughout her body and invaded her brain. She is resting comfortably at home, but can only speak sporadically. Her doctor has said she does not have much time left. Ralph and Sister Betty Davis are taking good care of her, as is her doctor-daughter Zenobia Brown.
Ralph welcomes emails ( CLICK HERE TO EMAIL RALPH ). Because of this emergency, Betty is launching an online fundraising campaign to assist with Lynne’s on-going personal needs.
Let’s all be there for this final journey. Such a heroic fighter – Lynne, we love you!
If you’d like to make a donation by check please make checks out to
“Lynne Stewart Organization” and mail to:
Lynne Stewart Organization,1070 Dean Street ,Brooklyn, NY 11216
Lynne will be at Burning Books on THURSDAY APRIL 28 at 7PM
420 Connecticut St, Buffalo, New York 14213
Come out and support this great event! RSVP on Facebook.
Parole Board Drags Its Feet on COMPAS
January 21, 2016
New York State and the entire country are engaged in a serious public conversation on the meaning of justice and how it is applied in our communities, courts and prisons. Issues of particular importance to the legal community enter into that discussion, including sentencing reform, mandatory minimums, wrongful convictions and the ways in which racism shapes the application of justice. As lawyers with many decades of experience representing people caught up in the criminal justice system, we welcome that conversation. Whether in the media, including the New York Law Journal, in courtrooms, or in legislatures, there is a growing recognition that our justice system has too often been unfair and its punishments vengeful and draconian.
From this conversation has emerged a national consensus that we have relied too much on incarceration to solve social problems and enhance public safety. The incarceration of huge numbers of people has not lowered our crime rate. It has, however, separated families, contributed to the impoverishment of entire communities, and returned literally millions of people to the community burdened with statutory and social obstacles to successful lives. Read the rest of this entry »