Marissa Alexander supporters seek songs dedicated to her

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The campaign to raise funds for Marissa Alexander’s retrial is in full swing, with a new social networking initiative encouraging supporters to dedicate songs to help keep media and public attention focused on her case.

The Free Marissa DJ project, which launched this week, invites the public to make a donation and post a link to a music video, a quote from their chosen song, or a video of themselves singing a song at the Free Marissa Now Facebook page.

“The idea is to use the universal language of music during Valentine’s week, when people typically express their love and appreciation not only in romantic relationships but all relationships,” said Sumayya Coleman, co-founder of Free Marissa Now.

“We want the campaign to connect with as many people as possible,” said Alisa Bierria, an associate director of the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley, who is actively involved in the campaign. “Art and music are one of the most heartfelt strategies to connect with people’s emotions.”

The project is just one initiative in a wider push to raise funds for Alexander’s legal defense, which will cost over $250,000. Though her lawyers are working pro bono, there are other costs associated with the retrial such as court fees, securing expert witnesses, travel costs, depositions and processing evidence.

“She needs grassroots funding to make sure she gets the best defense possible,” said Bierria. “If they won’t drop the case we want to make sure Alexander gets as trial that’s as fair as possible.”

It comes as the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign calls for a week of action, February 8th-16th, to draw attention to Alexander’s case, domestic violence and mass incarceration. Activists are encouraged to participate in sit-ins, attend demos or speak out to bring attention Alexander’s plight.

“Marissa’s case is significant because she’s a victim of domestic violence as well as injustice and systems abuse,“ said Coleman. “It also puts the spotlight on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.”

“The law is not upheld in the same way for everyone. Marissa was defending herself from a serial abusive husband and she’s been criminalized for defending herself.”

Alexander, an African-American mother of three, of Jacksonville, Florida, received a mandatory 20-year prison sentence for firing a warning shot into the ceiling against her allegedly abusive husband. The judge rejected a defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Last September, Alexander won her appeal, her guilty verdict was overturned, and she secured the right to a new trial that is now scheduled for July 28, 2014. She is currently under house arrest.

“Marissa’s case is important to every woman because it brings together the issues of domestic violence and women’s right to self-defense,” said Helen Gilbert of Free Marissa Now leader and a member of Radical Women. “If a woman can get 20 years for firing a warning shot that hurt no one, then no woman is safe.”

“It also shines a light on the race and sex stereotyping in the courts, and the problems of mass incarceration, mandatory minimum sentencing and ‘stand your ground.’ Black women’s lives are not given as much value. When they stand up to defend themselves, they’re seen as the aggressor.”

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti