Dreamsbinspired: Chasing Justice and finding love, hope and forgiveness through understanding in the darkest corner of the world
KERRY MAX COOK was called the most persecuted man in America. He was 20-years old when he was wrongly arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. He spent well over two decades on the worst death row in America – Texas.
But that is not his message and that is not what defines him: Kerry’s message of Dreamsbinspired is about faith in God, the power of forgiveness through understanding, finding our voice, pursuing dreams, compassion for everyone, and no matter what, never giving up.
Kerry Cook is the best-selling author of Chasing Justice, a Soros Open Society Institute Senior Justice Fellow, a media consultant, a law school presenter, a CLE instructor, and an expert on helping others to believe in their dream. Variables of Kerry’s message appear in over 30 books worldwide and he is a frequent contributor to several State and National publications.
My personal practice is…
Dreamsbinspired. It is a practice of faith in God, the power of forgiveness through understanding, finding our voice in each and every challenge, tolerance against intolerance, pursuing dreams, compassion for everyone, and no matter what, never giving up. This is Dreamsbinspired.
How did you discover your practice?
I discovered my practice on Texas death row.
For most of my adult life I lived in a cramped cell on Texas death row, a place that executes more people than anywhere else in America.
Stranded on the darkest side of the moon, abandoned by all of humanity, I lost the most precious elements in human life: my youth, love, protection, human dignity, my entire family, my freedom, and my voice. They took away all these things and more but they couldn’t take away me.
In my practice, it isn’t about what I lost, but about what I gained in my wrongful conviction and tour of duty on Texas death row. In my effable suffering I felt like I touched the face of God. I learned to love instead of hate, forgiveness through the understanding of others instead of judgments, intolerance and condemnation. I found my voice and used it to free myself from the worst, most prolific death penalty State in America.
Why do you practice?
During my 22 years on death row fighting against the corruption that was inherent in my wrongful conviction, I lost my entire family. My only brother was murdered, my father died of cancer, and my mother left me for dead due to her own illness. This gave me the deepest appreciation for life and everyone and everything within it. If my story had a moral, the moral would be, you never know what you have until it’s gone.
When audiences hear me enlighten them about the power of forgiveness through understanding and hear of all that I have lost and the depth of my suffering – – Human Rights Watch called me the most brutalized man in the history of the American prison system – – and ask how is it that I can regain my freedom and be devoid of anger, bitterness or resentment, I explain it. Human beings, whether in the work place, at home, personal relationships, in school, or against themselves hold grudges or bitterness towards others. The hardest to forgive can be ourselves. This resentment can be just as confining as being incarcerated behind prison bars because you are locked inside a prison within your own mind. Only you have the key to unlock this door and set yourself free.
I help audiences find their own key.
How frequently and for how long do you practice?
I practice as often as I can and for however long it takes.
What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how do you move through it?
Life. The only thing I could control on Texas death row was my attitude or how I chose to look at my situation. It is the same out here as I face a different set of everyday challenges, just not called death row.
What supports you in staying committed to your practice?
A never-ending desire to pay it forward because I feel so fortunate to have survived 22 years on Texas death row innocent when others didn’t.
In addition to this – -my incredible, wonderful, awe-inspiring wife, Sandy, and my amazing thirteen year old son, Kerry Justice Cook. We call him K.J.
What role does your practice play in your work?
Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.
The Navy SEALs. Ten years had gone by with countless loss of American lives while the exploitation of 911 continued without capture of Osama Bin Laden. Navy SEAL Team 6 clandestinely flew into Abbottabad, Pakistan and brought justice to the 3,000 who died in New York City, and all of those who sacrificed their lives in the hunt for Bin Laden.
A practice I’d like to explore is….
Teen interdiction to interrupt the recycling narrative. Let me explain.
The American death penalty has four chapters: (1) The act of murder, the trial and death sentence, then the affirmance of the conviction and death sentence on Direct Appeal. (2) State Habeas. (3) Federal Habeas. And finally (4) The execution of the offender.
What if we could interrupt the narrative before Chapter 1 ever occurred?
While I was on Texas death row 141 people were executed. I could write the biographies of all of those 141 of those executions. Nearly every single execution was an offender from a broken home. Now I am not trying to excuse or mitigate their crimes – – I believe in locking up violent offenders to protect society – – but consider this: 83 percent of those executed had exposure to the Juvenile criminal justice system.
I would like to head up a program I would call “Teen Interdiction” to get more involved in the lives of troubled kids and interrupt the narrative before there is a murder. There are so many of these type of programs, I know, but I know what is missing. I understand their broken home syndrome and why they are hopeless. I was once one of them.
Learn more about Kerry Max Cook at Chasing Justice.