Being on Death Row…



First in a series of three interviews with Minister Walanzo Shabaka, who is incarcerated under sentence of death in Oklahoma State Penitentiary

*NOTE: Minister Walanzo Shabaka was executed in the state of Oklahoma.

Q= Questioner Month: March

WS= Walanzo Shabaka Year 2000

Q: As Salaam Alaeykum. I hope this to be an enlightening three part series, mainly of questions posed by friends and associates who seek information as to what life is like on Death Row. Shall we begin?

WS: Wa Alaikum Salem. Indeed

Q: Firstly, perhaps you should briefly introduce yourself and state what you are in prison for.

WS: I am Walanzo Shabaka, a native of South Central Los Angeles, California, and a devout servant of God Almighty. I am in prison for allegedly killing a twenty six year old African American. It was alleged by those who prosecuted the case that I came to Oklahoma to establish a cocaine drug enterprise, and that it was my intention to take over the streets of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for the production and distribution of cocaine; and in this lied a conflict with a neighbouring drug dealer, whom I am accused of killing by way of four gun shot wounds to the torso with a handgun. This crime was prosecuted in June I990, the homicide occurred in May I989.

Q: This is, in fact, your first time in prison?

WS: Yes, and it is also a grim reminder of how the young Black male is perceived in the United States of America, perceived as one of little worth and a potential threat to the stability of the government when his ideas and politics are not consistent or in concord with the dominant society.

Q: Would you care to explain?

WS: Sure. In this country we see basic, major contradictions which exist between its populace and citizenry, one being that there is a profound variance in perception as to what defines a functional society, a community of people. On one hand we have a population that has historically and traditionally benefited from the labour of another people; and not to speak abstractedly, this is a sensitive subject, and the question deserves to be properly addressed in what limited time I have for this series. Please bear with me. Those who have been beneficiaries of slave labour have been Americans, and they have established criteria as to what is appropriate and what is inappropriate behaviour within the environmental context. And generally speaking, their sense of values has been well rooted in a disturbing white supremacist psychosis that has blinded them to the…

Q: Min. Shabaka, this tends to stray from the simplicity of this series.

WS: I want to show how this relates to my particular situation and how certain conclusions were drawn regarding the culture from which I’ve come, a culture which regulated vices, one of which was the manufacturing and distribution of narcotics (which is something I apologise for ever participating in). The way things happened for me, parallels will be drawn to show that what I have experienced is not an isolated phenomenon, but a profound pattern of conduct experienced by the Black and Chicano communities. I also want to deal with the psychological dynamics at play which better help one to understand the prejudices of those who functioned in the capacity of jurors and convicted me and sentenced me to DEATH. This ties in with my comment as how we’re perceived as having little worth. I say this because, I too am a living reality that in the eyes of the dominant society, I as a youth had no redeeming value as a human being. How did these people reach such a conclusion? This should be explored in order to expose the racism that pervaded my trial and subsequent conviction; not an indictment of all Americans but a look at the diversity of perceptions and the two contradictions: the communities of stability and those of instability, and how they have become what they are. This no doubt will place into context what I’d elaborate on regarding the myth of a person being tried by a jury of his peers, dealing specifically with my case. And giving a visual of how it too relates with others having similar experiences as me with the American Criminal Justice system, particularly those who are so-called African-Americans, and the Latino Americans. This is very important for anyone who seeks to accurately understand how Capital Punishment in America has been exercised; to see the historical relationship that Court sanctioned executions has had with the Black community.

Q: Walanzo, there will be an appropriate time to address these concerns.

WS: Fine. But do know that it is not my intention to turn the topic of Capital Punishment into a topic solely of race. Perhaps that is how it is being interpreted. There is no way that the issue of Capital Punishment in America can be discussed without reference to its patterns of abuse towards the African-Americans. However Capital Punishment is a system which purported to, but never has, deter serious crime. In theory it is to serve as the ultimate, legalised and established punishment having a severe deterring effect on defined crimes. Being that I am in prison for the first time, and I sentenced to be strapped to a table and injected with lethal chemicals to kill me, I no doubt have a need to question the fairness of the Death Penalty and examine its origin and primary function from a historical perspective, particularly in how it affects me and has affected the lives before mine of the innocent and guilty sentenced to Death in this country. And perhaps my knowledge and concerns will strengthen the viable stance of those opposed to Capital Punishment in the States as well as bringing to light certain misconceptions which might bring about a change in ones position of support for the Death Penalty, to that of dissent, disdain and disfavour. Credence has been given to court sanctioned executions as being virtually without flaw, not realising that it is imperfect and jeopardises the life of the convicted innocent, and “mentally disturbed”, for lack of better clinical terminology. There are many other reasons why the Death Penalty must be examined in the light of fairness and reasonability.

Q: It is unimaginable what it is like being on Death Row. You are passionate in articulating your reasons why Capital Punishment is questionable, but could you share with us on the “outside world” what life is like on Death Row?

WS: I cannot speak as a representative of Death Row, and I can only provide a general view of Death Row at Oklahoma State Penitentiary. But I think it safe in saying as a collective we share one common entity, and that is hope. Hope, not in an abstract sense, but hope that the value of our lives will be enriched by our experiences. Faced with the prospect of dying by lethal injection brings life full circle in how we view ourselves and the world around us, and how we are to function in it. Though limited by our incarceration to move around as we choose or partake in activities to our favour, we none the less have liberty to exercise our minds to strive toward melioration in self discipline, courage and meekness to the command of God Almighty. In this we find something that may have been absent or lacking prior to our imprisonment, and that is our humanity and our humility. I say this with caution because. I do not want to delude anyone into thinking that this is some kind of monastery or place of new found peace. There are certainly some very dangerous people here in this society we know as Death Row. I cannot vouch for any ones sanity apart from my own. There are others who do not see this place as I do, but see it as a dismal den of perpetual misery.

Q: Are the men of this Death Row united?

WS: Collectively speaking, no. However there are shades of unity particularly among the religious community.

Q: Does religion play a major role on Death Row?

WS: From my observations it seems to have a certain sense of purpose, even if not all men who profess their respective faiths live according to the tenets of their religions.

Q: Does religion help the men cope better with their situation?

WS: I definitely would like to think so. I honestly feel that the best investment a condemned person can make of his or her time while in confinement is in the area of establishing a correct relationship with the Lord Most High. For certainly it is inevitable that the majority of the Death Row population will either be executed or spend the remainder of their lives in prison, a bitter pill to swallow, but it is our reality. And without the solace and peace that comes from loving God Almighty, and submitting to His will as best we can, I see that dealing with the very real possibility of being executed or spending the rest of ones life behind bars daunting and really unbearable. God Almighty gives us strength, and without His love and guidance people on Death Row face an immense challenge to their will-power to overcome the circumstances that prison life inflicts on them. As well as establishing a relationship with God Almighty, prisoners should invest time in studying the law and its functions, familiarise themselves with cases relevant to their own, and as a minimum have a fundamental understanding of the process that appeals undergo within the judicial system at State and Federal level.

Q: Walanzo, you profess to be a Muslim Minister, what do you mean by this?

WS: I am a representative of the Islamic Faith. My title as a Minister is apt, because I am a Minister to the truth of Islam as being the perfect way to understanding, or shall I say, better knowing God Almighty and to living by His commandments, in Islam, the Divine Shariah. I am a Minister to the authenticity of the Prophethood of Mohammed, Salla Allahu Aleih Wa Sallam. I am a Minister to the fact that there is no God save the One True God Almighty who is without partner or equal. I am a Minister to the correct faith of the Known Apostles of God as mentioned in the authentic Holy Scriptures of our Torah, Bible and Ayats of Al-Holy Qur’an, may Allah’s peace be upon them all. I am a Minister to the fact that the Holy Qur’an is the Final Revelation of God Almighty for all humanity and the Jinn. I am a Minister to Truth and the Unity of mankind. The title is befitting and simply distinguishes me from that of a layman who has some knowledge of God. I am not an Imam, and in my creed the only Imams recognised by God Almighty as legitimate are those ordained by God Himself. Our final Imams stem from the seed of the Seal of God’s Apostles, the Holy Prophet Mohammed, Salla Allahu Aleih Wa Sallam, we honourably and correctly refer to them as the Holy Ahlu-L-Bayt, peace be upon them. I am a Minister to this fact which is not held by the majority of Muslims.

Q: Being on Death Row, has Islam helped you deal with your situation?

WS: Being under sentence of Death is a mental strain. Hopes and aspirations, dreams and desires are usually shattered by being here. There is no system of parole for us and every day is a closer calling to being executed. Not only is there an everyday reminder that the State deliberately and purposefully wants to have me executed by lethal injection, but it is also a traumatic experience on the lives of our families and loved-ones. And the emotions and feelings they have for us filter over into how we maintain a sense of belonging and worth under the precarious set of circumstances we are subject to as Death Row subjects. Or it can bring about, for some, acute depression. Islam requires great discipline for it is easier to live of rebellion against God’s commandments than to humbly submit to His will. Islam has refined my intrinsic abilities to survive, it has helped me spiritually and mentally. It has given me a peace that I could not find or discover anywhere else. Islam has governed my life towards perfection. Having a correct relationship with God Almighty has helped me place my life into perspective, and it has helped me better communicate with my family and to have proper relationships with others in the human race. Islam has given me a profound appreciation for life and respect toward my trials and tribulations, as this temporal existence is a chain of tests, Islam shall help me to pass, Inshaa’ Allah ta ’aala.

Q: Does Death Row provide inmates with educational programmes?

WS: There are no educational programmes set up for us prisoners here. A person can pursue a furtherance of ones education by ordering books of his choice from publishing companies, book stores or receiving materials from legitimate organisations that provide educational services to prisoners. These avenues should be utilised, however it comes down to the individual person and how he sees fit to pulling prison time. Some men don’t feel a need for improving their level or quality of education; some have given up on the return to society and have settled with a belief that they’ll either be executed or have their sentence commuted to life in prison without parole, and don’t see any purpose in studying of any sort. Sadly it is this spirit of idleness and hopelessness that breeds perversions and a hunger toward unbeseeming conduct of men. This is in a general sense, because I’m not referring to any particular individuals here.

Q: Do the guards give you men a tough time?

WS: For the most part the guards assigned to this sector of Death Row are very professional in conduct and do not hassle us. Whereas there used to be officers who managed this sector of Death Row who despised we men sentenced to death. A few, no doubt were racists and could not disguise their dislike for us African prisoners. We had an incident several years back, and fifteen (I5) of the Special Emergency Response Team came to restore order to the unit. Many of them called out obscenities at us, and one in his rage called me “nigger” several times and from an upstairs rail spat in my face and the side of my mouth, also hitting the face of my comrade Imhotep Okiba Nuebuka (Richard Eugene Hammon). Of course, no disciplinary action was taken against the disgusting officer who committed this offence and who now serves as a lieutenant of the guards. I, on the other hand, was prosecuted by the make-shift Prison Court with my former cell partner/comrade Oconga Osuwo Omutu (Bennie Jones), and ended up doing disciplinary time for over 45 days. This is known as the June I6 I993 incident at H-Unit, there’s much more to this, but this is not the right forum to discuss it. Anyway there is a code of conduct among all prison populations when it comes to officers of this type, and in this code lies the very real potential for violence. The naive officers take it for granted that this is a twenty three (23) hour lock-down facility, but it is still a penitentiary. And there are some of us who do not or will not tolerate their infringing upon how we’ve grown to establish a sense of stability.

A while back dealing with a particular guard who was assigned to this sector of Death Row, it had reached a point where physical action was being discussed in order to alleviate the problem. Some guards and or prison staff members fail to realise that they determine how the community will respond to them. If they are decent and respectful to us, then there is no animosity or antagonism. In the event that the cell doors opened at once and a guard is literally trapped on the run adjacent to our cells, two things could happen: if the guard has been respectful to us, then he would probably be unscathed; if, on the other hand, the guard has been an agent provocateur, then it is very likely he would be beaten or killed. The intensity on the block is that great and that serious. An outsider will find this behaviour or attitude difficult to comprehend, and see it as one of the many contradictions of the prison society, environment, culture. Death Row is not a place where one can be at ease, and tranquility does not exist here.

Even for we men of God, we cannot lose focus of where we are and what potential threats lurk among us. This is why I train and condition myself to be able to survive in any prison environment. I know who I am and what damage I’m able to inflict upon those who would dare challenge my person, even if this required me losing my life or having to take a life. My self value cannot be compromised and I’d never become a slave to fear or cowardice. Being in prison is in itself surviving, but it is how you survive that matters. Do you just get by being a victim of convict pressures, a slave to sexual misguided energies of perverted men; a slave to paying protection fees to convicts or guards; a slave to humiliation and degradation? Or do you survive by being alert, focussed, prepared and capable of existing as a dignified human being who does not give into the barbarism of a prison subculture. Long ago I chose to be dignified and shall safeguard my dignity, protect it at whatever cost. Islam forbids a young healthy Muslim such as myself from being an inactive soldier, defender of the faith and of myself. I have integrity to defend and uphold.

Q: That’s interesting. What then motivates you to be positive and not give up?

WS: I do not belong here. I am a victim of a miscarriage of justice. The enemies of my life have deliberately manipulated the “system” to incarcerate me, and the drive towards killing me presses on relentlessly. The primary enemy is Robert H. Macy, the Oklahoma County Chief Prosecutor. He is well respected by right wing politicians in Oklahoma and abroad, and has been praised by the people of this state for his services to law enforcement. Perhaps there is genuine virtue underneath his coat of deception and if so, I’d like to speak with him personally in private. I want to see for myself if he is worthy of the admiration and applause given him, and to see if he is worthy of being a symbol of justice. I, as a man of substance who realises who I am as a consequential human being, can honestly say that I uphold no forms of anarchy, and have much respect for civil authority and can appreciate the position of a just Prosecutor. However, for now, Mr Macy remains an avowed enemy of mine, and the Courts, at his bidding, have maintained allegiance to his crime against me, my family and supporters by having me in prison.

It is frustrating being a poor man in prison, wrongly convicted and facing the needles of the execution party. I want to expose this man and others for the mishandling of the case I’m on. Sadly, there is a lack of Black community activism in Oklahoma, and this places me at a great disadvantage in my quest to bring attention to my situation. I must therefore do what I can myself to get released from my confinement and have my conviction overturned.

I am also perturbed to know that some people hate me because I am in prison, and it also disturbs me that people who do not know me are more inclined to believe the false characterisation Mr Macy has portrayed of me. He also persuaded a jury that I am better off executed than allowed to live. I had recently turned nineteen (19) years of age when he argued for the State that the jurors shouldn’t spare my life but sentence me to DEATH.

I will be twenty-nine (29) years of age on April 12 2000 lnshaa’ Allah ta’aala, and I was five (5) months into my eighteenth birthday when I was arrested in Los Angeles, California on September 7 1989 in relation to this case I have been convicted of. So what am I to think of Mr Macy? You know, I have intentions on producing materials that will explore in depth the spurious case against me. It will be more detailed than the web-page entitled, THE CONDEMNED, INNOCENT, which was on the internet by way of the concerned Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty (CCADP). If I allowed the diabolic Macy and his assault on my life to dictate how I function in prison, I would not have embraced Islam and I would be consumed by anger and hatred towards him and those who participated in getting me on Death Row. But I refuse to allow their cowardice, hypocrisy and failure to be truthful and just to burden me. I counter their imprint on my life by being honest and caring, by being a living contradiction to the sinister person they have portrayed me as. I have no room to harbour hatred, it is too heavy of an emotion to baggage under these circumstances. I cannot give up!

I have a determined spirit that knows no self-defeat. I love Allah Almighty, I love the Holy Qur’an., I love the Holy Prophet of Islam, Salla Allahu Aleih wa Sallam; I love Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, Aleihi As Salaam; I love the Believers and servants of God Almighty; I love my precious family; I love the three closest friends I have in the world; I love humanity too much to submit to inactivity and silence regarding my confinement. There are some who work with me who do not realise the necessity of being persistent and adamant in seeking involvement of communities towards helping me. Yes it is ultimately the Court of Law that will make a final decision as to the disposition of my Appeals, but if they are to make a wrong decision, the society at large should know about it. And actions should be taken against those involved in the process of killing me, in the hope that no other innocent person would suffer the same injustice as I have.

Q: Do you fear death?

WS: Not at all. I fear only God Almighty, for it is He that has the Supreme Authority to judge me in the final analysis of my existence. It is before Him that I shall stand after the Resurrection Day for the Day of Judgement. I have asked the Lord to render mercy on me, to forgive me for all my sins, crimes and transgressions. I have faith in Him and that He has forgiven me. And, of course, if my earthly existence is to be terminated while in prison, so be it. I shall definitely not have liked it, but I’ll be at peace as it is the passage from this world into the next. Everyone shall taste death.

I will be comforted, Inshaa’ Allah, by the Angels of God. I look forward to meeting the Apostles of God, and seeing the Messiah-Jesus, Muhammad and the Holy Ahlu-L-Bayt, Allah’s peace be upon them all. I can honestly say that I’ ve never feared dying. Even while outside of prison I had no fear of death or that of when I would die or be killed. I recall on the occasions I had been gun-shot a few people would ask if I thought of dying, and I would say each time that we all have to die sooner or later and when it is my time I’ ll just be gone. Of course back then I was a lost soul, but my point is death is a part of life and I acknowledge this and don’t fear its coming.

Q: OSP is in the practice of executing its inmates. Has this had any impact on the men at

WS: H-Unit houses Death Row, South West 3 & 4 side, and South East 8 Death Row side and a few Death Row prisoners on Disciplinary Segregation at South East 7 side. The remaining H-Unit side i.e. North West & North East, I am unaware how executions effect their community, if at all. I can only speak of what I know of H- Unit, South West side. The effect of an execution depends on the person executed and the relationships he had established with the men inside here, and to some extent with the guards as well. It also depends on how the executed person conducted himself. Not all executions carry the same impact on this community.

There are simply some men who are more significant to us than others, and who over the years we were able to develop a working friendship with, and affinity had been established. It is with these that Death Row inmates feel the sting of an execution most severely from a psychological point of view. It is the look into the eyes of the walking dead, seeing a once vibrant and healthy person now deal with the reality of being put to death in a few days which brings about our grief. It is not for me to express how other men feel or how they deal with this situation. But I’ve seen in their eyes a sadness and hurt which I find difficult to describe. The seven (7) day execution holding cell is four (4) cell-doors down from where I’m residing, and I have the chance to briefly speak with the man to be executed as I head to the shower or for bodily strip search for yard recreation time.

The men I have come to know over the years, those who have taken that last walk to the High Maximum Security cell have all seemed to have lost the need to talk. They have been reduced to a few murmurs, the exceptions being Brother Michael Roberts, Sean Sellars, Brother Bobby Ross and Brother Cornel Cooks. Sean Sellars and Michael Roberts maintained their decorum. As we speak, the last execution to be carried out was on February 10, 2000. OSP killed Michael Roberts, also known as TACK. His death has no doubt brought a great void to Death Row. He was one of the most enthusiastic and humorous men on the Unit. We were cell partners back in parts of 1990 and 1991. He was a good person to know. I have fond memories of him. And it still grieves me that the so-called “State” killed him.

People in society who hunger for the execution of we men, who have lost their loved ones by the actions of another, often claim that as long as we are alive there can be no closure and they cannot rest. I see in them a fiery hate and it turns them into evil, blood-thirsty hounds! I wish to offend no-one, and I’ve tried to sympathise with their loss and be sensitive towards their feelings in this regard. But some of the victims families are outrageous, and usually the make-up of this lynch-mob type are American. Some profess to be Christian, but allow the hatred and bitterness to blind them to the fact that this person that they want to be killed is also a human being, not some abstract object. The person they want to be killed is a live breathing person of the human family, who, if guilty, has to live with the fact that they’ve taken the life of another human being, and as such, has the curse of society cast upon him and brought shame to his family. And he knows he could never give the victims family back that which he has taken away from them. Even by being as remorseful and regretful as possible for his crime, the family and friends of the victim will hate him and pray his soul to Hell. I find this to be shameful and disgusting. It makes capital punishment an instrument for revenge and not a means of carrying out a reasonable and responsible punishment, as it is alleged. I have no criticism of any victims’ families that believe capital punishment is appropriate. In their eyes the death penalty is reasonable and should not be abolished. They are entitled to hold such beliefs, but I question what is the premise of such a belief and what is the benefit to humanity? The Death Penalty is the ultimate punishment and the victims’ families no doubt have just cause to support it from their point of view. But what is the significance of capital punishment?

How is this contradiction encouraged where on one hand, the society condemns murder, but on the other hand it condones murder in the name of justice? Who in turn kills the executioner for his so-called legal act of murder? I am sensitive to the loss of human life. And the families of the victims whose murderer is on this Death Row, I try to see from their viewpoint when they advocate the execution of the condemned one. And I honestly sympathise with them. But those who exemplify rage and hate towards the condemned, and are antagonistic to the condemned ones families, loved ones and supporters, I cannot bring myself to sympathise with them. I guess, for me, it resurrects the images of the nefarious history Capital Punishment has had against we Africans in America. And how we’ve historically been the victims of white aggressions and Colonialist Justice. The settlers would scream and demand the courts for our deaths, but would excuse the crimes of their own kind when it was committed against us.

Even today these Americans disfavour discussing these sensitive and provocative issues in how it continues to relate to crime and punishment in this country. Of course this behaviour now extends beyond a particular race in how these emotions and sentiments are played out. I do intend to explore this subject at a later date, Inshaa’ Allah.
Q: When a person is being executed do you have a moment of silence in their honour?

WS: No. We do just the opposite. We give a 16 bang salute on the door to the man being led to be slaughtered. Executions usually begin around 12:05 a.m., and all of us on South West 3 side kick, beat and bang on the cell doors from around 11.45p.m.. We have the understanding that there will be no more peaceful midnight lynchings. Brother Yero Muriu (Paris Powell) used to beat the plexiglass on the cell door sixteen times after a person was executed, and yell out their name followed by “Rest in Peace”. From that I began the ritual of valediction of incessant justified noise, but also informing the other men that this is something we should all put into practice. We began on December 2 1999.

The State is killing a man from this community, and we want them to hear our disgust toward what they’re doing. We want them to be nervous and be cautious, and feel the explosive energy behind these metal doors. We want them to hear we are bidding the executed “farewell”. We do not cry out obscenities, we call out the victim of the execution’s name, then the proverbial war drums begin. The canard of OSP to those inquiring about the banging said that it was unrelated to the xecution. The Unit Manager said some of the guys being executed said the banging was disrespectful, but I do not believe that to be so. Some of the men told me personally they wanted o hear and feel that energy, the reverberating and pulsating sound of his community sounding off in righteous protest to the killing. And it also serves as a symbol of solidarity.

Not all men participate in this activity, in fact the 4 side of South West hadn’t taken part in any of our rituals the previous three executions prior to Tack’s, but now there are a couple of men over, there with us, such as Yero Muriu, Torres and Pennington; and Tack felt them strong as well. If I am to be executed, I would like for the men to kick the doors down, disrupt the execution as much as possible and let the devils in human form feel the love held for me and the anger toward my being put to death. I may not hear them as I will probably be rendered unconscious by the guards. I do not think it possible to freely hand myself over to be executed, this being so, they will have to subdue me. Let me show them the fully equipped and untamed Tiger!

Q: Would you seek clemency from the Clemency Board?

WS: Those are pitiful human beings, mere puppets of the Governor. They are incapable of having compassion and mercy. They are the enemies of clemency and those poor souls will never have the sadistic pleasure of seeing me beg them for mercy. Who are they? I have no respect for them and my life is worth more than all theirs combined!

The functions they carry out sicken me to the pits of my stomach. They represent the same system of oppression and injustice that has thus far been successful in keeping me under the sentence of death. An innocent person on Death Row will never bear witness to the lie that there is justice in this country, when he has to be executed. I say prove to me that there is justice for the wrongfully convicted, GIVE ME MY FREEDOM! Until then, I dare not be persuaded toward believing otherwise. And with this statement of fact having been said, I end this interview.


Second in a series of three interviews with Minister Walanzo Shabaka, who is incarcerated under sentence of death in Oklahoma State Penitentiary

Q = Questioner

WS = Walanzo Shabaka

Q: As Salaam Alaeykum. It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to converse with you again. We hope this second part of the series will be as enlightening as the first. No doubt you are a spell-binder and this series has long been awaited. Shall we commence?

WS: Wa Alaikurn Salam. Yes

Q: From your first interview we’ve learned of your beliefs and opinions regarding Capital Punishment; your convictions within the Islamic faith; your concerns towards victims families and those opposed to or in support of Capital Punishment; your observations of how religion relates to men on Death Row; your small amount of sharing of information regarding why you are in prison. And a few other issues. We would like to know why there seems to be a lack of activism in Oklahoma toward exposing the numerous injustices inflicted upon the condemned. This is the impression we’ve gathered from information and materials we’ve read and from information you’ve provided us with.

WS: I feel the question should be more in the area of injustices committed en route to being convicted and sentenced to death. Here I could generalise in articulating on the matter, and also be specific in sharing experiences within the framework of injustices inflicted on me, consequently landing me on Death Row.

Q: Could this shed light on the lack of activism in Oklahoma regarding the injustices?

WS: The “injustices” committed in order to get a person to Death Row need to be exposed. Of course each case is different, but there has become a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct that has pervaded many trials. Prosecutors arguing into evidence elements of crime not even committed, or that don’t fit within the context of how they theorise the crime to have been done. Example and case in point, the Prosecutor of the case I’m convicted of alleged that the victim “begged for his life” and that he was “murdered execution style”, and that he died from “choking on his own blood”. Not one of the so-called witnesses testified to any of these claims presented to the jury. And such betrayal of truth was unchallenged by my sad legal counsel. The jurors, not knowing the true circumstances leading to the murder, nor facts regarding the crime, no doubt accept the Prosecutors saying as the truth. The analytical mind would question how such statements -could be accepted in court when there is no basis to substantiate them. But the courts allow this blatant deceit and makes no effort to regulate the conduct of these prosecutors. How could he make those claims when they were not part of anyone’s testimony? Where did he get the information? Why does he do it? Simple, he inflames the jury, he incites their emotion to hate the person accused, he manipulates their sense of judgement and exploits their ignorance of the facts of the crime. Shame on those enemies of Truth!

There is no opposition to this by any group professing to be activists with attachments to men in prison, for many are unaware of the transitions from the preliminary hearings, to that of jury trial, to that of conviction then to sentencing. They got involved after the injury to justice has been activated. By this time, the Prosecutor is “safe” and his filth will be covered by the courts. It all seems to be a ploy from beginning to end where our attorneys never gain ground or balance within the judicial system to attempt to remedy the matter by request for either a new trial or for re-sentencing via bequest from the presiding judge of an evidentiary hearing. Justice in its truest sense, can only be theoretical in America.


Q: There seems to be some disagreement as to how this question is to be addressed. To save time, let’s move on.

WS: Fine by me. There will be times of disagreements. No problem

Q: In your case there is no physical evidence which links you to the crime committed. And two of the states main eye witnesses, in fact key witnesses, gave testimony which anyone would find disturbing as one clears you and the other indicts you. How do you see this?

WS: Alarining! I say this because each were called as State witnesses. And issues of credibility regarding the female witness, Ms Johnson have not been challenged. This young woman claimed to have seen me once in her entire life for no more than sixty seconds. She alleged that I was holding a pistol in my hand near my pants waist band area while talking to the victim or approaching her car; she made numerous contradictions within her accounts of events leading to the murder. Most importantly is the fact she claims to have seen me once for no longer than sixty seconds, and then says on the night of the murder she saw me argue with the victim and shoot him. She acknowledged it was a very dark night and the streets had no street lights on, and that she had been drinking beer that night. She gave a clothing description of the perpetrator which differed greatly from other witnesses who described the perpetrators clothing. Some witnesses said they couldn’t say for certain that it was me in the clothing des ‘ cribed. The second key State witness gave a detailed account of activity from approximately 8 a.m. until the time of the murder, including that he and the perpetrator and the victim sold drugs in dope houses throughout the day. He even named the person who sold the perpetrator a’357 magnum, he even described the perpetrators conduct, and this witness, Mr Snyder, clearly stated that I was NOT the person who killed his best- friend of over ten years. This was all testified at my preliminary hearing. My sell-out, pitiful of a human being legal counsel, Mr Chris Box, an enemy of truth, purposely deviated from his line of questioning of this State witness during my jury trial. He intentionally failed to ask the questions regarding the perpetrator that had been asked at the preliminary hearing. The jurors, therefore, had been denied crucial testimony of a witness who clearly established on court record as a witness of the prosecution that I was not the killer. I also later found out that my attorney was once a deputy prosecuting attorney under the tutelage of Mr Macy, the zealot who prosecuted the case. Mr Box was a cohort of Mr Macy.

Q: And the statements of these two witnesses are part of the court record?

WS: Yes. And I find it disturbing that a person can be convicted of such a serious crime where no concrete evidence exists to support a conviction, but the courts see it as a legitimate conviction. It all hammers home to me the myth of there being genuine justice in America. There have been cases argued in State Court raising relatively similar issues as mine on appeal, and these have been granted relief, either a modification of sentence, or being remanded to court for re-sentencing or for a new trial. Whereas I remain on Death Row, having my issues denied by the same court. These courts are inconsistent in how they apply case law to certain cases before them on appeal. Two people may have identical issues relating to a specific area in their case where the law theoretically demands reversal of conviction or sentence; one case may receive reversal of conviction or sentence whereas the other is affirmed and denied petitioning the court on the same issues for appeal. This is how I see it as a layman.

Q: It is definitely unfair, Min Shabaka.

WS: Indeed it is. And sadly, the government has no interest in correcting the atrocities committed within the American Judiciary, particularly at state level. This is not to say there are no discrepancies at Federal level in the way that the laws relate to Capital Appeals. Certainly there are, and blatant contradictions within established case law exist, yielding unfair rulings. It is the subject which frustrates me most.


Q: Some people feel criminals have too much access to the courts and often at times abuse the Appeal process.

WS: People have the right to feel as they may, but their standpoint is out of ignorance. They have no idea how restrictive the system is, and how difficult it is to legitimately place a genuine grievance before the court. They fail to realise that America as a nation hates its prisoners and thinks of us as the filth and scum of the world. They only recognise our socalled constitutional rights,. as limited as they are, because they want to protect the illusory perception that the Great Fathers of the nation want “Justice” and “Equality” within the Judicial System to be applicable to the free and imprisoned alike, each dually having access to utilise it. They do not see so-called “criminals” as human beings, but as creatures of disgust, not worthy to be taken seriously. And in this we find much disfavour toward helping the men and women in prison who are actually innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. The enemies to our existence say that “all people in prison claim to be innocent”, and as such they have become insensitive toward the pleas of those who are not supposed to be in prison. The society is shameful in this respect and only shows concern for the imprisoned when it is one of their own, i.e. a family member, close friend, lover etc.

Q: Is this not hypocritical?

WS: Yes it is. It’s like the Oklahoma Attorney General, Drew Edmonson not pressing an issue on the Sarah Edmonson crime of shooting and killing an unarmed person in a robbery captured on video tape. Certainly he would do all in his power to prevent a Bill of Particulars being filed on her (his niece), or the Prosecutor seeking a life without parole conviction on her. But if it had been an ordinary Dick or Jane, and caught on tape as well, the person would be on Death Row or spending the remainder of his or her life behind the filthy bars of a prison. And if Drew was asked about it, that monster would support the maximum punishment administered. Yes it is very hypocritical indeed. But that is the way the power balance game is played in America. And this is why no-one in a sane frame of mind will ever love this bastard nation when it places its lies before the world as being the prevailer of Justice and the Champion of Democracy! I’m curious just as to how Drew’s niece escaped receiving a severe sentence for her crime. When a little white girl like that commits such a horrific crime, her innocence is thrown on television as a misguided person who was forced by circumstance to do wrong. She then is portrayed as a victim of social degeneracy and easy prey to peer pressure. A poor little black girl is seen as a hoodlum and threat to the hard-working citizens and can’t be trusted to live outside of confinement for committing such a monstrous crime, the most cruel of crimes in America, murder of an innocent, unarmed store cashier. It hurts me as a man to see this racist, legalised brutality in effect, and no-one seems to care. There shall be no real Justice in this world until the return of our beloved Messiah Jesus Christ and the reappearance of our Holy Imam Mahdi, upon each be peace. Until then, I pray God’s curse be upon the enemies of His command and the enforcers of the vicious political machinery that oils and turns the wheels of legalised genocide of we Blacks and non-whites; and destroys the lives of our poor white brothers and sisters who also suffer at the hands of tyrant law makers who continue to chew us up and spit us out within their structured systems, masked as bearing of justice.

Q: Does this cause you to question your own mortality?

WS: I see the direction my appeal is heading. I cannot fool myself into believing my enemies to be fair at this life and death chess game in which they have me as an unmatched, unarmed participant. I have no sense of dread hanging over me, but no doubt my days here on Death Row are nearing their conclusion. I will more than likely be executed. This is not a sign of resignation to the struggle I’m engaged in, nor my abdication as a soldier seeking relief from my confinement. It is an admission that my appeals lifeline is bleak. I have many enemy forces to contend with, and few allies on whom I can rely. The devils in human form control the battlefield on which I am being slowly dented to death. I have no faith in the Criminal Justice System. My eyes shed tears only to Allah for the pain my loss will cause my family and loved ones and those who have come to admire me and embrace me as a friend. With this being said, do not think that I have given up. I’m still alive and as such, surprises do happen. I may well get off Death Row. We shall see.

Q: Wow! Such a statement has caught me off guard. You seem so lively and full of wisdom and deserving to live outside the wretched confines of prison. And to minutely entertain the idea or thought of you being executed brings great sadness to my heart.

WS: We cannot afford to be deluded. We cannot live in a fantasy world. We must recognise that my being here will not last long. And it is the intention of those responsible for getting me here to have me executed. This is what I face daily, the prospect of being killed by intravenous chemical injections. These sick souls want to legally lynch me. In their sadistic eyes, I’d simply be one less “nigger” to deal with in their Judicial system. It may sound harsh, but this is the cruel world in which we are barely surviving, and this is what is at stake for me: Life or Death.

Q: With that being said, I admit it is difficult getting this discussion back on course. Might I ask, is this all in light of the recent execution of your cell-partner?

WS: No. It is my being aware of the-historical relationship that American Justice has had with we Africans in general, and in particular how Capital Punishment has been administered to us. The execution of my cell partner is a classic example of how the Justice System feeds on the destruction of Black youth. My cell-partner was executed at the age of 29, less than one month from his 30th Birthday, for a crime he committed at the age of seventeen. There was no outcry from society when it came to his execution. No-one mentioned this being his first offence, and that he was only 17 years of age when he foolishly gave in to the temptations prompted by an older female, a young white woman who manipulated his young mind into reading conclusions that her husband was deserving death for his physical and mental abuses inflicted upon her. She was white and my cell partner was Black. The jury was white. As Oklahoma is a Klansmen state, it is no secret that if it had been possible, they would have strung him by rope from a tree – not for the murder he committed, but for having sexual relations with a white woman. She too received the death penalty, and this is because in the eyes of the “nigger-haters”, she was a traitor to her race, thus deserving the ultimate legalised punishment. Sadly in these days and times, we cannot escape the impact racial hatred and bigotry has had on the lives of people in America. Some may say that the case of Tembo, my cell partner, was not one of race. But I guarantee you they have no understanding of psychology nor the psycho-dynamic factors within the racists mind set. And a person who says that America is not racist to its rotten core, is one who chooses not to see reality for what it shamefully is in this country. Here recently in Mississippi, the state of my family to a great extent, a young Black man was lynched for having intimate relations with a white female. Of course, those unhooded men in suits and ties will play down the history of Mississippi’s whites in killing and supporting of lynching Black men who sleep with white women. These agents of deception want us to believe that the young man committed suicide. The hearts of the Black race continues to bleed. We die slowly, but we’re dying.

Q: Hearing this seems to be tapping in to a more personal side of Minister Shabaka. These concerns definitely bother you.

WS: Irrespective of race, injustices should disturb the mind of any people who have concern for the welfare and well-being of our fellow man. My disgust and outrage would be no different if it were Africans in power, abusing it by subjecting the whites to brutalities in a physical sense by our police, or within the legal system. The abuses would still be condemned. To no extent should injustices be tolerated. I wouldn’t turn a blind eye to a crime committed against a non-Black person by a member of my race, just because we are of the same colour. God forbids oppressions and injustices. Of course, we Africans in America are not in a position of power and if we were I doubt we would inflict upon the settlers similar abuses as they’ve imposed and enforced and exacted upon us. True there would probably be some casualties, for some of our Africans would want to avenge the valued lives of our race killed by settlers. The venting of rage would be against the settlers of today. This is a fear of white Americans and the reason why Africans are to remain under colonial rule, subject to the laws of Americans in how it regulates our activities. Black people in this country are no fools, neither are our white friends who feel alienated because they do not uphold the sick beliefs that we Africans are the beasts of burden. And we know that the courts are of the same make-up as those who have historically been lynching us.

Q: On Death Row, do the men discuss these sensitive issues among one another?

WS: There are a few of us who hold discussions on topics such as Race and Politics in America. And both Black and White -alike should seek the information which helps us understand the politics of Capital Punishment. We must know that we are not here in prison solely by law, but rather by the enemy of our existence, the Prosecutor. A person must bear in mind that the Death Penalty is sought solely at the discretion of the Prosecuting Attorney. The case I am on did not have to be prosecuted as a Capital offence. In fact there was a murder case far more severe than mine, tried before my trial, where two gang members had killed a person and shot another. Mr Macy’s office didn’t seek the death penalty against them. These two persons were the same age as me. I’m not suggesting the Death Penalty should have been sought against them. I oppose this American Capital Punishment. My point is, what made their offence less than what I was accused of, convicted of and sentenced to death? The Prosecutor said my conviction would serve as a deterrent to drug dealers and gang bangers coming to Oklahoma with intention of committing murder. There was a politically charged atmosphere to get me convicted and executed.

Q: Hopefully we can explore this in our next discussion. We shall conclude this shortly.

WS: It is a pleasure to share what little of myself that I can with you all. These are difficult times for us. The Death machine is in full motion and it is having an effect on the morale of men here, guards and prisoners alike. It is not norinal, nor natural to be in the company of casual killing of human beings. There is no relief in sight regarding the influx of cases denied and execution dates set and carried out. This isn’t something we could adjust to. And we shouldn’t endeavour to do so. The modem day barbarians are filled with pleasure in having OSP carry out numerous executions, they are jubilant for every murder carried out successfully. The evil hearts of these sad persons have now become addicted to implementing court sanctioned executions, they thirst for a body to be placed on to the Death table. And they cry and complain when an execution cannot be exercised. What horror we see is the beauty they employ. Has the world gone mad? Perhaps it is just here in Oklahoma. Time will reveal what we know not. My struggle continues. And as the spirit and fire of Comrade George Jackson has touched us, I too shall never be counted among the broken hearted.

Until I am free to converse again. Allah’s peace be with us. The struggle continues until victory is won. ALLAHU-AKBAR! ALLAHU-AKBARI As Salaamu. Alaikum!


Third in a series of three interviews with Minister Walanzo Shabaka, who is incarcerated under sentence of death in Oklahoma State Penitentiary

Q = Questioner Month: November

WS = Walanzo Shabaka Year: 2000

Q: As Salaam Alaeykum. Min Shabaka, we once again have the fortune to converse with you.

 As always it is a delight to speak with you and an opportunity to have a glimpse into the life of a man on Death Row, a man we equally feel does not deserve to be there. We pray God’s blessings on you, friend, and know that you’ll continue to persevere along the path which is straight.

WS: Wa Alaikum Salaam. The prayers are appreciated. And inshaa’ Allah I shall forever remain loyal to this Mazhab.

Q: In our previous discussion from a few months back, we learned of how you perceive certain injustices within the American Judicial System, and how it relates to you men and women in prison’, your lack of faith in the Criminal Justice System; your views on how limited the courts are to those incarcerated; your opinion of how your appeals are heading; and your belief that racism still plays a major role in American society. With these views having been expressed, we would like to know, contrary to your opinion that you’ll be executed, that if you’re granted relief from prison one day, would you be a liability or an asset to your community? I ask this not to offend you, but because it is an important question. We see too many men return to society after being outstanding inmates in prison and appearing to have reformed themselves into a positive person only for them to return to a life of crime after their release. Our concern is, would you be the same?

WS: First, allow me to apologise for giving the impression I would be executed. That is not a statement of fact that you are referring to. What I meant was there is a strong probability that I’ll be executed if my Appeals continue to be fruitless. I have no idea how this experience will conclude. There is no doubt, however, that the so-called “state” would love to carry out an execution on me. Now as to a release from prison, let me start by saying it is wrong of us to form opinions of persons in prison and the prospect of them returning to society based on the failures of those who didn’t or couldn’t make the most of their freedom from incarceration.

Generalisations at times can develop into prejudices and unfounded stereotypes. We don’t know the particular circumstances any person was confronted with on release from prison that compelled them to commit a crime or jeopardise the stability of a community. Each case must be examined on its basis of facts. Some people return to a society that is a cesspool of degeneracy and violence; they have no other place to return to. How do they make best of their release when confronted by numerous forces that beckon them to a lifestyle, perhaps of survival, but within a Judicial context, considered criminal?

This is not to make excuses for violating established laws and social decorum of stabilised communities, but simply to say lets take this into consideration. Was the person in prison provided an outlet to develop marketable skills? Certainly this is necessary if a person intends to establish a firm and legal basis for financial security. Was the person returning to a community that warmly embraced convicted felons? Then there is also the issue of crime, and what they were imprisoned for (or allegedly for). You see this covers a wide spectrum of scenarios. And this is why it is highly important to deal with facts of specific cases and not generalise.

If I was out of prison, had never been in any further trouble with law enforcement agencies, never broke any laws, and an armed person breaks into my marital home intent on inflicting harm on my wife and children, what rights would I have to protect my family? If I managed to secure a weapon owned by my wife and shot and killed the intruder as he was about to shoot me, in the eyes of the law I would be guilty of murder. The law would claim for one thing that as a former felon I was forbidden to be in possession of or in proximity to a fire-arm, and that therefore I was in violation of my parole. In this scenario I shot a man who was going to harm us, yet I would be ridiculed and no defence explanation would suffice. Everything I could say would be otiose. The fact is that I would have been in the right to have protected my family, but in the laws eyes I have forfeited that right. My human value in their eyes would have diminished as a result of my incarceration. This same disposition is taken against men and women who return to society from imprisonment.

Q: OK, I see the picture you’re painting. But let’s deal with you. Would you be an asset or liability to society? And may I say you’re correct, we shouldn’t generalise.

WS: Oh, my mistake. I misheard the question. You’re saying liability? I thought you were asking about their committing crimes on return to society.

Q: Yes, liability.

WS: Let me say in conclusion to my first statement that I do not believe that people on parole, scheme of ways to break the law. I feel it is important for a society to have a concern for the community and should work to help better the life of the person released from prison. If the person is a sex offender, no doubt he should be monitored for a while as case studies show that these types of offenders are more prone to commit further sexual assaults on women and children. I single them out, for their crimes are distinct from others and lean more towards being a psychological disorder. There are some good people in prison who are very deserving of parole. But there are others who are best, perhaps, kept behind bars. Indeed prisons are necessary. But they should not be a place for breeding moral degeneracy and anti-social behaviour. Prisons should place greater investment in developing the human mind to function better in an industrial and so-called civilised society. The Government has the means to provide all Correctional Facilities with educational programmes and avenues to cultivate whatever marketable skills they had prior to imprisonment. And let me say this, I do not want to appear contradictory by singling out sex offenders, as it might suggest that I’ve stereotyped them all. Let’s just chalk it up by saying we should use discretion when dealing with them upon their return to society. Some perhaps will never again commit the shameful crimes of violating a woman or child sexually, or other perversions.

Q: Min. Shabaka, are you dodging my question?

WS: No ma’am. And in fact it was an important one as you’ve mentioned. Now to accurately answer your question it will be wise of me to compare Walanzo Shabaka of now with Walanzo Robinson who was placed in confinement at the age of eighteen (I8). The man I’ve become would be a valued asset to his community based upon the following reasons:

1) I have a profound concern for the safety and welfare of my fellow human beings and with this concern I would be sensitive toward their needs. I would feel a drive to be at peace with my community with the emphasis being on helping those that I can with what I have, when I can, as well as possible.

2) I am a man of Taqwa and have a responsibility of upholding the integrity of Islam., showing that we are not the antithesis to peace, stability, harmony and goodwill. We love God and this must reflect in how we relate to God’s creatures. This relationship places the Muslim in a unique position, we are not to dominate anyone, but to be the administrators of Justice. And this being so, my neighbours would know I can in no way uphold anarchism or crime, and that I would not pose a threat to them or nor their property. As a true Muslim they’d see that I represent the best expression of Justice on earth and in no way have room to confuse us with Muslims who have strayed far from the pure religion Islam,,

3) I would seek to be an active participant in any grass roots programmes that have realistic goals towards being a benefit to our community. I’d attend community meetings and establish relationships with our state elected district officials, and I’d attempt to have a better understanding of how the local Police Department relate to our community; we’d realise their responsibility to us and our duty to them. Corrupt cops will never be tolerated and should be exposed, as they blemish what little Justice exists. That is law enforcement does keep blatant crimes in check and are the agents to protect people in society even though this is not always reflective of them, as we clearly see in the media of police abuse of authority over common folk, 4) I am older, wiser and more mature in my thinking than I was as a young person coming to prison, and take my life seriously. I’d have this quality filter over to how I’d conduct myself within my community. I am focussed, not reckless, and would want a healthy environment where I could raise children, mine and those of my neighbours. And this can only be done with my input in conjunction with others striving to have a safe environment.

Inshaa’ Allah in a few months I’ll be thirty (30) years of age. For me life is not about fun and games, and my serious mindness would not allow me to make compromises that would jeopardise what we as a community would strive for. I am a man of moral integrity, and no-one would have to worry about me being a social hazard or criminal influence on the youth. I do not drink alcohol, would not drink alcohol or smoke drugs or take them otherwise. I am against adultery and fornication therefore I pose no threat to our women. I would definitely seek the companionship of a goodly woman. You would not hear of me frequenting movie theatres, night clubs, pornography shops, house parties or meetings with mischief makers. Whereas the youthful Walanzo Robinson had not developed in areas of placing significance on the establishing or maintaining of a stable community.

My wisdom in life experiences of important matters to do with the welfare of human life and means necessary to suit them was underdeveloped. A youthful mind is easily deceived and won over by the glitter or temptations in life in areas that are truly not beneficial to us, they may have temporal affects toward feeding our desires and passions, but in the context of having value to life, it is absent. Too much candy, no matter how sweet, can never prove good to your health. No candy at all will serve you just fine in maintaining strong teeth. But the youthful mind wants the sweetness of life no matter the consequences on our health. I do not desire the sweetness in life. The young me didn’t have a true sense of responsibility to the community in its management and upkeep from becoming degraded. I am now a man, not a boy, and as such life has greater value and meaning to me. I would be an asset to my community, irrespective of what any opposition would say or suggest regarding my person. My life is not a con game. I’m not looking to get over on ones emotions. I live for Allah, not what people think of me. I say this because my opponents would claim this is simply “jail house” conversion talk that has no roots in sincerity. Praise be to Allah for what you see in Walanzo Shabaka is what you get, no more, no less. I front for no-one, including myself. I shall continue to live as a Realist and will die as such.

Q: Impressive response. And it’s safe to say you would not live a life of crime.

WS: No. No. Nothing is said just to be impressive. I do not toy around with words nor seek to be an emotional lollypop, your tone of voice carries that suggestion.

Q: Excuse me. I meant no offence. I just think that was a sincere assertion on the matter. And it wasn’t used to flatter. I do think the lollypop remark was a bit sarcastic.

WS: Forgive me. Perhaps prison life has dulled my senses.

Q: No, you’re fine. And forgiveness granted. I can imagine that prison life can make you a little edgy, or certain things can aggravate you.

WS: Actually I took the comment the wrong way. Let’s leave it at that. No harm done. No feelings abused. We’re still friends. I simply thought you were making a suggestion that I needed to say more about, a life of crime. Let’s just move on.

Q: Min Shabaka, I’ll respect that. Well, I guess some people would like to know is it difficult living in prison, are there concerns and worries that men face behind bars?

WS: Our life is what we make it. But the prison itself as a body of people can sometimes impede on the ideal lifestyle we’d like to exemplify. Prison is sadly a place where the worst of society can be lord of prison madness. Some prisoners are diabolic. Then there are others who are mentally balanced and good hearted. A person must be of sound mind and have courage to live a structured life behind bars. This is still a universally accepted truth, “the weak are raped and violated, the strong stand tall through it all.” This is worse than Animalism. The human being can be the best expression of love and hope or of hate and destruction. Some men love to beat other men, physically. Some are confrontational and look to exploit a person’s weakness and they look to challenge a good-hearted person. Others test young persons to see if they can become an instrument for misguided sexual energies. And some men don’t know how to deal with this evilness and as such, they are perceived as weak. They then become vulnerable to the sexually depraved. This may sound ridiculous. But I question any man who has never been in prison, how would you respond to this scenario? You are new to prison, you’ re issued with prison clothes but first you must take a shower in the communal shower area. You undress and a man says “you are a cute sugar muffin. How ‘bout you let me squeeze those buns.” At that moment, if you fail to respond with violence or verbally correct the predator, you have forfeited your right to manliness. Prison has a distorted concept of what constitutes manhood. Then the predator approaches you and says, “you look like an old girl-friend of mine. Boy, I sure missed that pretty young thing until I found you GIRL.” Do you see how this leads up to a sad violation of ones dignity? Some men crack under simple words. But such simple words carry a ton of sinister motives. This play of words can be used to extort a person out of his money, or canteen or property. We look down on homosexuality, but the man who does the penetrating sees himself as a “man”, not a homosexual. It is wild. And the universal greetings to a newcomer in prison is “welcome to the jungle, it is all about do or die. There is no mommy and no daddy to protect you here.” What I find so disturbing is that man can stoop so low and justify his sickness and in fact turn it into an acceptable act within the prison culture. Now I am not suggesting this is the prevailing spirit of despotism in prisons, but it is one exercised by men who can’t keep their sexual energies under control and who like the affection of other males. It is sickening! Also might I say this is not the overall reflection of the prison society. There are well balanced and disciplined men here and in all prisons, men who are soldiers that are distinguished from the common criminal. The benchmark of a soldier is that he surpasses those villains who thrive on being brutal; some prisoners are violent, others brutal, others dangerous. A soldier incorporates all those traits but keeps them under control and therefore he is par-excellent DEADLY! No jive, no fancy stuff, you step to him you either kill him or you die. Prison life has these dynamics, and we have to acknowledge this.

Q: Do you consider yourself a soldier in this respect?

WS: For a Muslim there is to be no influence for us other than Islam. I am a soldier not by chance of being in prison, but because of my love for life. When one opposes me and seeks to inflict harm on my person, my mind set shifts and I then see this person or persons as an enemy to my family, to my friends, to my loved ones, to Islam and every Muslim on earth and elsewhere we give praise to Allah, because he seeks to harm that which we love. I cannot freely allow that and my fight then becomes one of survival and it is my duty at that point to inflict as much pain and damage on their person as possible; break bones; knock out teeth; rip out testicles; gouge out eyeballs, become the embodiment of ALL-OUT-WAR! Here there is one rule: no surrender. In this sense even we God loving men kill our adversary. If a person thinks this is harsh or cruel, they best be glad they are not in prison.

Q: It has to be a scary place. I hate to imagine how women are perceived.

WS: For some men, a woman without protection is like maple syrup to a young bear. They’d no doubt devastate her. This is extremely sad as it reflects how prison can desensitise a person to the point of not acknowledging a woman as a human being. For we men who know our worth and value the sanctity of women, a woman could be in our midst and experience no assault on her person. I think it is a strain on the mind to lust after women while being in prison for an indefinite period of time. The mind should be exercised on productive things. I can’t say how women are generally perceived. But there is no doubt, a great many of the men in prison will view them solely as an object for release of sexual tensions. They have no concern for her feelings, nor for her being a live, thinking person. They detach the human make-up and reduce her to their level of imagination, executing exotic sexual acts upon her. I’ve heard men openly express their filthy fantasies about women, and towards female guards. Fortunately there are no females working on our Unit. Those women shouldn’t be victims of strange eyes molesting their bodies.

Q:. Does this carry over to how they see women on television?

WS: I can’t say with certainty how they see them. Women on television are abstract to us. I’ve heard men express their likes toward certain women shown on television. Some men watch soap shows and claim a strange affinity to some of the female characters. I cannot comprehend this warped form of thinking. It is a tragic mismanagement of the mind. And I’m not being overtly critical.

Q: You’re a man, of course with high morals, but one would think you’d likewise crave the companionship of a woman.

WS: That’s natural. But the craving would be for a real woman, not some imaginary relationship. Not for some soap woman. It’s about control. To successfully overcome that drive for the warmth of a female companion we must realise, under these circumstances it is not viable and there can be no substitution. We must control our thoughts and protect it from certain imagery. When I see a pretty woman on television my mind doesn’t compute her as an object of sex, nor does she register as someone I would like to have as my own.

For example, if I see a physically attractive woman, say like Gail Devers the track and field athlete, I acknowledge her physique as pleasing to my eyes, but I know absolutely nothing about the woman. And this keeps into perspective, not all what you see is what you think. I assume she is a chaste person and a humbled Christian person. Here establishes a line of respect, but it forms no conclusions based upon facts. She then simply comes across as a person. Life for me must go on without entertaining thoughts of women on television or elsewhere. My ideal companion would preferably be a Shi-ite woman. There can be no room to exercise a complete relationship with a Shi-ite woman under these circumstances, and as long as I’m in prison one may never come about. It is of course unnatural for man to be without a soul mate. However I can deal with it. My life struggle is on greater focal points than being limited to craving the warmth and comfort of a lady.

Q: People outside of prison forget there are issues you all must confront. We have this belief that you all are just in prison pulling time, but we forget y’all have issues that affect all human beings. And we overlook the fact that men are different in prison than how we see them out here. You are all in a more electrifying environment that has rules which must be taken seriously, your very lives depend on it. I fully understand the role organised violence has to play in prison if one intends to survive when confronted by a foe or circumstances which leave no room for reasoning with a person bent on harming you.

WS: Then you’ll agree that sometimes violence is appropriate, it is necessary depending on the circumstances.

Q: Yes. But up until this point I wouldn’t have thought so. I clearly see in the prison context how it can be used positively by protecting oneself, or negatively by initiating harm to someone. You were very graphic in sharing with us this reality, and this is needed in order to bring home the seriousness of your situation and what prison life presents to a person here. I admire your strength. Earlier you brought up the issue of Islam being your influence. We are on the eve of the Muslim fast Ramadam, that is it commences later this month. Does this bring special meaning to you?

WS: Yes. It is a time for introspection and a renewing of oneself, a time for seeking the blessings from God, a time for cleaning and purifying our mind and spirit. It is for me a time to be at Salaam with Muslims the world over, knowing the faithful ones are at fast and in devotion to our Lord. I hope this to be my best Ramadam so far observed while in prison, inshaa’ Allah. I’ll also be praying for the victory of the Palestinian people over our avowed enemies who continue to blind Mr Arrafat with their smoke cloud called peace.

Q: Min. Shabaka, do you support the Middle East peace process between the Muslims and the Jews? Surely the fighting needs to end?

WS: Those Zionists are enemies of Islam. The so-called Israelis are foreigners in Palestine, they are colonial power backed by U.S. imperialism. Those so-called Jews don’t want Salaam with Muslims, they only want to uproot them from their homeland and establish an Israeli state. The Jews are killing hundreds of Muslims every year. The Muslims are the victims of Israeli aggression, and we should no longer tolerate it. Muslims should unite to once and for all rid ourselves of this blood sucking leech. I have no respect for what the Israelis are attempting to implement in Palestine and Jerusalem. The handful of peaceful Jews will never be the voice over those who hate Muslims. No I do not support the bogus peace process and it will never come to life. The Muslims love Allah and seek to have genuine peace and stability under an Islamic government. We cannot compromise our faith and allow Jews to govern our affairs or be co-partner in how we manage an Islamic state.

Q: I respect this aspect of Islam. Muslims have a sense of Kinship with their Brothers and Sisters in faith who may have never met before. This issue on what’s taking shape in Israel would require more time than we have. But I find it interesting that you say Muslims want genuine peace and they love God. I think people over here are insensitive towards Muslim beliefs and since they feel they are of an illegitimate belief system, they cannot be speaking of love to the Creator God Almighty. Does this disturb you?

WS: Most images of Muslims shown on television are distortions of what we are and what we represent. The media wants the world to believe we are slave traders out to capture Christians, and this comes from them perceiving the Sudanese Government’s practice of torturing Christians and enslaving them as Islamic. It is un-Islamic! Those Muslims who partake in the destruction of the Christians and killing of Bedouin Muslims who help free them, are enemies to Islam and must be viewed as such. We who love Allah know that God has said we’re best evolved as leaders for mankind. Let Allah’s truth prevail and man be a liar. Certainly what is happening in Sudan contradicts what Muslims have from our Lord, the perfect Religion and in it we know how to treat our friends and even our enemies. The media wants the world to see us as terrorists. When we fight for Justice and our right to practice our way of life, we are called fanatics, and when we take up arms against enemies of Islam we’re called terrorists. People do not see that all we want is to live as good Muslims and enjoy the company of fellow believers while having a solid Islamic Government that we can be proud of. We prefer peace over violence. We prefer love over hate. This is Islam, but we will fight those that fight against us. Even in all the sorrow for we Muslims, I give God praise for Islam shall eventually triumph over all religions of the world. Praise be to Allah!

Q: We’ve covered a mixture of topics and this exchange of conversation wasn’t as in depth as previous held ones, but none the less it is always a delight to speak with you. We appreciate the opportunity to learn from you and get a perspective on prison life and on your situation. I think you are deserving of a safe return to society. We need men like you. You’ll remain in our hearts and prayers. Min. Shabaka, you must continue to trust in Allah and be an example of what a good Muslim is. In closing, know that we’ve all learned a great deal from this dialogue and we would hope that others can at least appreciate this. And we know that this forum could have been used to further your cause in spreading the word about your faulty imprisonment. We have confidence that you will have success in your appeals, and that you will continue to be a service to those seeking to be involved in your case. God bless you and I leave you in all due respect, with the love of Jesus Christ. You are free to conclude.

WS: I’m grateful for the exchange of conversation. I hope that what little has been shared will bear witness there are some of us who are in prison that care for what is taking place around the world, and that we are not misusing our time in prison. We care for our communities and would very much like to return to them. We seek to be at peace with our society, not at war. We want to create an environment for healthy homes and safety for our children. Life is not a playground for us, and there is nothing nice at all about being in prison. We want our humanity to be acknowledged and we’d like to work with those willing to work with us in building a better future for human beings. My struggle continues until victory is won.


Minister Shabaka is a former Sunni Muslim, Ahlu-’S-Sunna Wa’L-Jamaa, embracing the Islamic faith in 1991. He is now a devout Muslim Minister, a Shi-ite Muslim, of the Shiah Ithna Asheris. He is the author of “The Selective Prison Writings from the Diary of Minister Walanzo Shabaka”. Minister Shabaka is deserving our prayers, concerns and support. Let us stand boldly in support of saving this young man’s life. Thank you. F.A.S.O.M.S. (Friends and Supporters of Minister Shabaka)

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