Sister Helen Prejean to educate about the death penalty at Hobart and William Smith
January 24, 2000 GENEVA, NY — Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sister Helen Prejean will speak at Hobart and William Smith Colleges as the first lecture sponsored by the student club Refuse & Resist!, which recently was recognized as a campus chapter of the national organization. Sister Helen is the author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the U.S. (1993), which was on the New York Times best seller list for 31 weeks and which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Her book was made into a motion picture, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, has been translated into 10 languages, and is now being made into an opera by the San Francisco Opera Company, scheduled to premier in October, 2000.
Sister Helen, who has been called “The Angel of Death Row,” will discuss her opposition to the death penalty in a talk titled “Dead Man Walking: The Journey” at 8 p.m. on Monday, February 14, in Albright Auditorium on the Hobart and William Smith Campus. The event is free. Refuse & Resist's campus chapter invites the public to explore and learn about capital punishment.
Nicholas Howie, a Hobart sophomore from New York City and president of the Colleges' Refuse & Resist! chapter, hopes Sister Prejean's visit will inspire everyone who refuses to go along with today's national agenda of repression and cruelty, poverty, and punishment to speak up. “Rather than feeling isolated and helpless in the face of injustice, we see our political strength, energy, and creativity when we come together,” said Howie, quoting the organization's mission statement. Refuse & Resist! was formed in 1987 by artists, lawyers, activists, and others who saw an alarming trend in the U.S. toward greater state control and repression.
Sister Helen joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in 1957. She received the B.A. in English from St. Mary's Dominican College in New Orleans and the M.A. in religious education from St. Paul's University in Ottawa, Canada. In 1981, she worked at the St. Thomas Housing Project with poor inner-city residents, began counseling death row inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, and continues this ministry today. She has accompanied five men to execution. She also works with murder victims' families and founded a group in New Orleans called Survive. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 and 1999, and has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Sister Helen is honorary chairperson of Hands Off Cain, an international group based in Rome, Italy, working for abolition of the death penalty, a member of Amnesty International, and the U.S. National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
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