After 18 years, Steve Dear will hang up his hat as executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty (PFADP). When Steve started at PFADP, it was a statewide organization in North Carolina with just a few hundred determined supporters, mostly in the Raleigh-Durham area. Under Steve’s leadership, PFADP has grown to a national organization that has mobilized thousands of religious leaders in support of death penalty repeal campaigns around the country.
Steve’s tenure at the helm of the organization is coming to a close, though he’s staying on part-time to help PFADP prepare for its next phase. Even so, Steve isn’t slowing down. Late last month, he spoke to the original Moral Monday gathering about North Carolina’s efforts to increase secrecy around executions. “Today we can begin a new century without the death penalty,” he said, “one that promises to be not one of retributive justice but one of restorative justice, one that really protects the people.”
Steve was one of the first state repeal organizers in the country to sign on to EJUSA’s Moratorium Now! campaign well over a decade ago. He led the country in obtaining moratorium resolutions from local groups, faith groups, and city and county councils. In 2003, members of the North Carolina legislature read the impressive list of endorsers on the floor of the Senate as they voted to suspend executions in the state.
Almost every member of the EJUSA staff has a unique, fond memory of a time shared or a valuable lesson learned working with Steve. Here are just a few of those memories:
Executive Director Shari Silberstein:
“Steve was one of the first people I met as a young new organizer in the death penalty repeal movement. He was legendary at EJUSA because of his trailblazing work organizing for a moratorium on executions in North Carolina. When North Carolina’s Senate became the first southern legislative chamber to vote for a moratorium, Steve invited me down to help build momentum towards a vote in the House. I met him in Raleigh, and he told me we were going to canvass for moratorium resolutions among local businesses in some of the rural, western counties. I figured he’d sit with me for a while and walk me through the process, calm my nerves, and give me a little training. Nope. He gave me a script and a map and wished me good luck. I’ll never forgot Steve’s faith in me that day. I felt like I ‘grew up’ as an organizer during my incredible journey through the small towns of his state.
“Today a number of state death penalty repeal campaigns have professional, strategic, state-level organizations with staff and resources. But 15 years ago, that was still just a dream. Steve did it, and he set the bar for the rest of our movement.”
National Organizer Heather Beaudoin:
“I had the sincere pleasure of getting to know Steve when he organized the incredible Kairos Conference several years ago in Atlanta. He put together an inspirational group of faith leaders, and it ended up being a life- and career-changing experience for me. Then I got to work with him when several of us from the movement spoke at the Wild Goose Festival. I loved breaking new ground with Steve and reaching new audiences. It’s something I will never forget. I am forever grateful for Steve’s leadership, his contributions to this movement, and most of all, his passion.”
Director of Campaigns and Strategy Laura Porter:
“I first started working in the movement in 2003. From the beginning I heard about the amazing work that was done in North Carolina with expanding the conversation about the problems with the death penalty with an incredibly wide swath of people. What I learned was that Steve Dear was the master of that outreach. I had not yet met Steve but studied his success and started to see how I could try to begin doing what he was doing in my home state of New York. I would tell my fellow New Yorkers if the work is being done so well in North Carolina, we could do it too. When I finally met Steve in person, he of course majorly played down his success, but I knew he was the standard to aspire to.”
Thank you, Steve. We will miss you!
Photo credit: Steve Dear at Moral Monday rally in North Carolina, NC People of Faith Against the Death Penalty’s Facebook Page