- Published: 13 September 2006 13 September 2006
In 1975 I was a young, naïve art student in New York City, who dreamed of changing the world. Much to the annoyance of some of my instructors, most of my energy went to political causes, rather than learning my craft. One cause that I was active in was the movement in support of Gary Tyler, marching and submitting photographs and articles to Workers Power. I can remember chanting, "We won't forget about you" or words to that effect. After a few years and many moves, I fell in love, married and drifted away from political involvement and forgot about Gary.
This past summer I began to digitize many black and photos taken during the 1970's and turned them into a screen saver. One of the photographs was taken at a Gary Tyler march in Newark. Each time it appeared on screen I would wonder, with a tinge of guilt, what ever happened to him. A google search revealed an old booklet for sale on eBay and some old news articles, but nothing else.
A month or so later, I picked up a copy of ISR at a newstand and found Joe Allen's article about Gary Tyler. Reading that he was still in prison sucked the life out of me. The old catholic guilt reared it's ugly head, convincing me that I had abandoned Gary and his cause for an easy life of my own. I emailed the magazine which put me in touch with Joe. I offered to put something about Gary on-line.
Most of that initial design was done sitting in my mothers living room, as she slept away the afternoons, dying of cancer. Somehow it seemed appropriate to be with mom as her life slipped away, trying in a small way to help give someone else his life back again.
One person who signed the on-line petition has put what Gary has missed during the past 32 years in a global perspective:
"The world has moved on over the last 30 years
Berlin Wall has crumbled
Peace has come to Northern Ireland
Cold War has ended
Apartheid in South African has gone
Freedom and Justice now flourishes in places that did not dare dream
Except for a prison cell in Lousiana.
Free Gary Tyler"
As I look back over the past 32 years of my life, while Gary has been incarcerated, I see that I have:
Graduated from college;
Moved half a dozen times;
Fathered two children, the oldest is in college as I was when this circle started, and the youngest is now older than Gary was when he was first arrested.
My entire adult life has happened since Gary was unjustly imprisoned. It is inconceivable to me what my life would be like had I spent those years in prison instead. No marriage, no children, unable to hold or hug my parents, friends never met. Gary's ability to maintain his dignity is a testament to his strength of character and a tribute to his parents.
I dream of the day when I can finally meet Gary Tyler, standing proud as a free man.