Sister Helen & Leno

Leno with Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

In 1970 I began my journey to embrace nonviolence and all that it would mean to my life and work.

It is because of this change that I was better able to understand that I too would have to become vocal and public about my opposition to the Penalty of Death around the world and in the United States. I never imagined how difficult the work would be and how much I would be challenged emotionally and spiritually.

It is on this road to abolition that I met so many wonderful individuals who changed my life and opened up my mind to so many other possibilities. I wept salt drenched tears for so many who lost their lives in our country’s efforts to sweep these state sanctioned murders under the rug  as  a political rationality that perhaps would make our city streets safe.

I watched as many individuals were found innocent and were released. I watched as countries around the world were easily executing their citizens and yet at the same time many were abolishing the penalty of Death. I watched also the contradiction of our country’s politicos talking about human rights and chastising foreign governments while we easily imprison our citizens and often execute them.

Having worked for the Moratorium Campaign with Sister Helen Prejean, Amnesty International, and United Farm Workers of America I have found that I must continue to teach and preach non-violence.  Since 1985 I have found that I had a role to play in the abolition of the penalty of death and that I should not be silent.

Standing up for what is right and just is not always easy nor is it the most popular position to take. But our legacy in life must be that we were not silent about human rights abuse and that we were not afraid to tell the truth more than once.

It took me a while but I found my voice and role in this movement for abolition and I will never allow another killing in my name without protesting this horrific action.

I know that this dark chapter in our history will pass and that we will be vindicated. Know that in the end…we will win…and when we win more lives will be protected.

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