The Guardian July 12, 2000


The killing of Shaka Sankofa
"He died a hero"

On June 22, at 8:49pm, the Government of Texas executed Gary Graham, who 
had changed his name to Shaka Sankofa (after the famous African leader 
Shaka Zulu) during his 19 years on death row. He had been sentenced to 
death for a crime he allegedly committed when he was 17.

He came from a poor black family. His mother suffered from mental illness 
and his father was an alcoholic. Sankofa dropped out of school unable to 
fully read or write and turned to crime in order to support himself.

He was a petty thief and at times violent. In 1981, Shaka was charged with 
the murder of a man named Bobby Lambert, a known drug runner and police 
informer.

Shaka had been arrested for a crime spree that included some robberies and 
an unproven allegation of rape. While in jail he was arraigned for the 
murder of Lambert and convicted after a travesty of a trial.

The Sankofa case was riddled with doubts, inconsistencies and 
discrepancies. Six out of seven eyewitnesses claimed Shaka was not the 
gunman and described a man physically different to Shaka. Their evidence 
was not called.

There was no material evidence presented against Shaka. His state appointed 
lawyer was incompetent and disinterested.

During his long stretch on death row (almost as long as the average "life" 
sentence), wrought with physical and mental abuse by prison officials, 
Shaka learned how to read from the texts of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King 
and Huey P Newton.

In due course he became a political leader and spokesman fighting for 
prison reform while seeking his own freedom.

He was not popular with the Right Republican regime of presidential 
candidate George W Bush Jr in Texas and ultimately became the 135th person 
to be put to death there since Bush became Governor.

Sankofa resisted his execution on the grounds of innocence but was forcibly 
handcuffed to a hospital trolley and taken into the death chamber. He died 
while dictating his final statement as the lethal injection killed him.

Shaka's last statement

Here is his last statement (shortened for reasons of space):

I would like to say that I did not kill Bobby Lambert. That I'm an innocent 
black man that is being murdered.

This is a lynching that is happening in America tonight. There's 
overwhelming and compelling evidence of my defence that has never been 
heard in any court of America.

What is happening here is an outrage for any civilised country. I thank all 
of the people that have rallied to my cause, that've been standing in 
support of me.

I say to Mr Lambert's family, I did not kill Bobby Lambert. You are 
pursuing the execution of an innocent man.

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of ya'll. We must continue to 
move forward and do everything we can to outlaw legal lynching in America.

We must continue to stay strong all around the world, and people must come 
together to stop the systematic killing of poor and innocent black people.

We must continue to stand together in unity and to demand a moratorium on 
all executions. We must not let this murder/lynching be forgotten tonight, 
my brothers.

We must take it to the nation. We must keep our faith. We must go forward. 
We recognise that many leaders have died. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, 
and others who stood up for what was right.

They stood up for what was just. We must, you must brothers; that's why I 
have called you today. You must carry on that tradition.

Lynching

They're going to keep on lynching us for the next 100 years, if you do not 
carry on that tradition, and that period of resistance. We will prevail. We 
may lose this battle, but we will win the war.

This death, this lynching will be avenged. It will be avenged, it must be 
avenged. The people must avenge this murder.

So my brothers, all of ya'll, stay strong, continue to move forward. Know 
that I love all of you. I love the people. I love all of you for your 
blessing, strength, for your courage, for your dignity, the way you have 
come here tonight, and the way you have protested and kept this nation 
together.

Slavery couldn't stop us. Lynching couldn't stop us in the south. This 
lynching will not stop us tonight. We will go forward. Our destiny in this 
country is freedom and liberation. We will gain our freedom and liberation 
by any means necessary. By any means necessary, we keep marching forward 

I died fighting for what I believe in. I died fighting for what was just 
and what was right. I did not kill Bobby Lambert, and the truth is going to 
come out. It will be brought out ...

I want you to take this thing off into international court, Mr Robert 
Mohammed and all ya'll ... and file a law suit. Get all the video tapes of 
all the beatings.

They have beat me up in the back. They have beat me up at the unit over 
there. Get all the video tapes supporting that law suit....

And let the world see what is really happening here behind closed doors. 
Let the world see the barbarity and injustice of what is really happening 
here. You must make it exposed  this injustice  to the world.

You must continue to demand a moratorium on all executions. We must move 
forward Minister Robert Mohammed ...

Reverend Jesse Jackson and I know that this murder, this lynching will not 
be forgotten. I love you, too, my brother. This is genocide in America. 
This is what happens to black men when they stand up and protest for what 
is right and just. We refuse to compromise, we refuse to surrender the 
dignity for what we know is right.

But we will move on. We have been strong in the past. We will continue to 
be strong as a people.

You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot stop the revolution. The 
revolution will go on. The people will carry the revolution on.

You are the people that must carry that revolution on, in order to liberate 
our children from this genocide and for what is happening here in America 
tonight, what has happened for the last 100 or so years in America.

We shall overcome

This is part of the genocide, this is part of the African [unintelligible], 
that we as black people have endured in America. But we shall overcome, we 
will continue with this.

To my sons, to my daughters, all of you: I love all of you. You have been 
wonderful. Keep your heads up. Keep moving forward. Keep united. Maintain 
the love and unity in the community.

And know that victory is assured. Victory for the people will be assured. 
We will gain our freedom and liberation in this country. We will gain it 
and we will do it by any means necessary. We will keep marching.

March on black people. Keep your heads high. March on. All ya'll leaders. 
March on. Push forward people. And know that what ya'll are doing is right. 
What ya'll are doing is just.

They know I'm innocent. They've got the facts to prove it. They know I'm 
innocent. But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would 
be to publicly admit their guilt. This is something these racist people 
will never do.

You must take this endeavor forward. You must stay strong. You must 
continue to hold your heads up, and to be there.

We will keep marching. Keep marching black people, black power. Keep 
marching black people, black power. Keep marching black people. Keep 
marching black people.

They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight...

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