Andre Latallade, also known as rapper Capital X, speaks at the Stanton Community Center about his walk from Trenton, N.J., to Austin, Texas, a 1,700-mile campaign to put an end to the death penalty. A former convict himself, a tattoo on his neck references Hebrews 13:3: “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
The shin splints he developed in Philadelphia weren't enough to stop him from reaching Annapolis last night.
Wearing a well-worn pair of white Air Jordans, 43-year-old Andre Latallade stopped at the Stanton Community Center, a layover in his 1,700-mile walk to abolish the death penalty.
Mr. Latallade, of Newark, N.J., started his trip on March 31 from the New Jersey State House, the last state to outlaw capital punishment. On May 25, he plans to reach Austin, Texas, a state that executes more convicts than any other. He will have to walk at least 40 miles a day to stay on schedule.
"There is a lot of killing in the world. If we can stop it at one place, then maybe it will bleed over to another," said Mr. Latallade, who flows between Bible verses, parts of international law and Johnny Cash's anthem to injustice, "Man in Black."
His visit comes as Maryland sits in death penalty limbo. The state Court of Appeals ruled that proper policies weren't followed when creating procedures to administer lethal injections. As such, lethal injections were put on hold until new protocols could be developed, protocols death penalty opponent Gov. Martin O'Malley has not created.
Mr. Latallade, also known as rapper Capital X, told a crowd of 150 in Annapolis last night that his stance against the death penalty was cemented during his own incarceration.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in the South Bronx and later as the only minority in his school in New Jersey, he started using drugs at 12, selling them at 14, dropped out of school at 16, and was in jail at 17.
He spent 25 years cycling in and out of prison. He's been free since 2001, after serving about five years on drug, weapons and aggravated assault charges.
But it wasn't until he had gone to college and faced discrimination during an internship with a record company that he became an activist.
His friend and collaborator in the music business, Timm Kostenko, said he saw a new intensity in Mr. Latallade when this happened. He started reading much more, taking detailed notes, learning everything he could about prisons and the justice system. It was his purpose, Mr. Kostenko said.
"It was a gradual awakening. It was a gradual transition. He said 'you know what? There's room for me here,' " Mr. Kostenko said.
Mr. Latallade said his stance has drawn attacks. Some people accuse him of engaging on a campaign to boost his entertainment career. One person said he would think differently if his grandmother was butchered "like a pig."
He says he sympathizes with victims' families. And there are criminals who deserve to live and die - naturally - behind bars. "I understand that when your family member is murdered it is a horrific experience. But what about a mother who looks at her son in a cage, waiting for him to be murdered?" he said.
Mr. Latallade's message was important for people of the Clay Street neighborhood around the Stanton Center to hear, said Zastrow Simms, who was there to watch "Pip & Zastrow" a documentary about himself and former Mayor Pip Moyer.
"I'm glad he's here because so many of our youngsters do things that lead to it. They need to know it's no joke," Mr. Simms said.
by Jushua Steward, Staff Writer - The Capital (published April 5, 2008)