Life and Freedom for Shaka Sankofa
(Gary Graham)

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Revolutionary Worker #1058, June 11, 2000

Shaka Sankofa has spent more than half of his 36 years on death row. At age 17, Shaka (then known as Gary Graham) was wrongfully convicted for the murder of a white man in Houston. On May 1, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case and Shaka now faces a June 22 execution date.

Supporters are urgently fighting to save Shaka's life. On May 26, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rubin "Hurricane" Carter--who was unjustly framed up and imprisoned for 19 years--spoke on the Capitol steps in Washington DC to demand a new trial for Shaka Sankofa. Amnesty International USA has released an "emergency bulletin" on Sankofa's case, which talks about evidence pointing to Shaka's innocence and states that Shaka's death sentence "is illegal under international law which bans the death penalty for crimes committed by under-18-year-old." The International Action Center is organizing for "Emergency Days of Resistance" from June 16-19 and there are plans to protest at the the June 15-17 Texas State Republic Convention in Houston.

Shaka's lawyers are filing for clemency and The Gary Graham/Shaka Sankofa Coalition for Justice is calling on people to flood Texas Governor George W. Bush and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles with e-mails, phone calls, letters, and faxes demanding clemency. (Information about this and other protest actions for Shaka Sankofa can be found online at

The following statement about Shaka Sankofa was written by political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal:


At the tender age of seventeen a youth named Gary Graham was faced with a terrifying reality. The state of Texas and Harris County district attorney picked him as another expendable black life form; a black youth to feed to the death machine. In a case of murder, where neither fingerprints nor ballistics nor any credible evidence points to any notion of guilt, Gary Graham faces a legal murder.

Over half his life spent in hellish and harsh Texas death cells, Gary Graham has grown into the man now known as Shaka Sankofa, a young man who is deeply conscious of his individual and collective self and of his place in history.

If there is a crime for which Bloody Texas seeks his death it is this: it is a crime in a racist nation for a black youth to be conscious and thinking in political and collective terms. For Shaka Sankofa innocence is not enough. The state and federal judiciary have, it is true, provided oceans of process, but not an iota of justice. His life, and the life of thousands of young men and women like him were expendable at birth not just at trial. Why should it be otherwise before the lily white and wealthy appeals courts?

The Sankofa case presents a challenge to all of us, not just those of us who steadfastly oppose the death penalty, but for those of us who say we believe in fundamental fairness and basic human rights. Under the terms of international human rights pacts (to which the United States is a party) the execution of a person who is a juvenile when the alleged crime occurred is a violation of international law. But the American Empire sneers at international law.

It is necessary to mobilize unsparing protests and stiff resistance to the death machine to bring about what should be our obvious goal: the life and freedom of Shaka Sankofa.

Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal

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