Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Hasan Shakur: A Maroon on Death Row

Hasan Shakur: A Maroon on Death Row


By Walidah Imarisha
San Francisco Independent Media Center - Truthout
Wednesday 30 August 2006

"Whether they murder me or not on Friday, I'm telling you, watch what Ima do, the ancestors are gonna be proud." Hasan Shakur uttered these powerful words a few days before he is scheduled to be executed in Texas, Thursday August 31st.

I am sitting in my rented Chevy Equinox outside of the Polunsky Unit, in Livingston, Texas. It's the middle of farm country; there are stables right next door to the prison, within pissing distance of the electrified fence and concertina wire. I wonder if they belong to the prison. How much of this farmland is the prisons? The inmates wear all white here. It is ghostly figures I see pushing wheelbarrows, carrying rakes through a manicured lawn with flower boxes shaped like the star of Texas. This place reminds me so much of the California state prison my adopted brother Kakamia is in, the town, the hotel I'm staying at, the prison itself, that I walked into the visiting room expected to see my afro-haloed hermano. But I guess maybe all prison towns start to look the same.

The processing is the fastest I've ever been through going to a prison. I have had to wait hours before to be cleared. I do not know if it is this prison, or the fact that I'm visiting at off times, or the fact that I am visiting someone who has an execution date set. Set for Thursday. Days are bleeding away, the 29th is just a breath away from the 31st.

Hasan Shakur, aka Derrick Frazier, aka #999284, is dressed all in white as well. Visiting is only through glass, and Hasan sits in a cage, the telephone pressed to his ear. He is as big as I figured he would be. He stands up to go to the bathroom, sticking his hands through the slot so they can put the handcuffs on him, and he towers over the three guards around him.

But what doesn't come through in the photos on his web site is his baby face. 29 years old now, with a face of a 15-year-old. He barely made it to 29, wasn't supposed to make it. His life reads like a text book case of black ghetto life ("I always felt more comfortable in the ghetto, you know?" he says, eyes clear as spring water.): dad gone, addicted beloved mother gone, didn't graduate high school, slanging and banging and hardening his face to survive, and here he sits, for 9 years, on Texas' death row, dressed in baptismal white. He was reborn here, held not by heavenly loving hands but by night sticks and pepper spray. Not gently laid back to be quietly submerged, but head pushed into toilets, and balls crushed under boots. Hasan Shakur born out of Derrick Frazier, not through water but a hail of bullets and billy clubs, child of George Jackson and Angela Davis, Mumia and Sundiata and all the political prisoners. Grandchild of Nat Turner and great great grandson of Seminoles and maroon colonies and quilombos. He takes his heritage serious as a heart attack, induced by a pound of poison shoved into your veins by the state.

The visiting room is busy today. Yesterday was family day, with his aunt and grandmother coming in to see him, making a three hour drive both ways. Today is supporter day. Hasan's wife and support coordinator Debbie came from Canada a few days ago. Ray from the New York-based group the Welfare Poets came, and me from Philly. Only two people are allowed in the visiting room for him at one time, so we keep trading off, two hours in, two hours out, a game of death room musical chairs.

I met Hasan six years ago when I helped to found the Human Rights Coalition, a prisoner family organizing group. It was the brainchild and heartchild of Russell "Maroon" Shoats, a Pennsylvania political prisoner, former Black Panther/Black Liberation Army member who has served almost 20 years straight in solitary confinement, never touching another human being except for his captors. Hasan is also Maroon's heartchild, his adopted son. "This," Maroon wrote, "this brotha is our future, with his lion's strength and determination." Hasan wears a bracelet embroidered "MAROON" around his wrist that twists and turns as he writes and organizes groups and organizations, concerts and newsletters, campaigns and strategy planning from a cell the size of a bathroom that has the held breath of murder in it. Hasan started a chapter of HRC in Texas and serves on our advisory council. He has given invaluable insight to our planning and visioning for the organization, and he keeps us grounded. "Wa Wa, I'm a workhorse," he says with a half smile, "and I'm going to push everyone around me, if I see someone leaning back, Ima crack that whip." He says I should be proud of him, because he got six hours of sleep the night before, double his usual dose, which I often nag him about. "Yeah but how many did you get the night before?" I ask, laughing.

Debbie comes back in and says the affidavits will be filed in court today. The hope is that these affidavits will win a stay of execution for Hasan. There is also hope of perhaps getting a stay of execution from the governor, and an international letter writing campaign has been in effect since the date was handed down several weeks ago. Hasan was convicted of killing a white woman and her son in Refugio, Texas. There is a lack of physical evidence to tie Hasan to the scene. In fact, the main piece of evidence against him is a forced confession the police illicited from him, a 19-year-old black young man, while in their custody, after a promise that he would only get 30 years for it. He was found guilty by an almost all-white jury, some of whom had contact with the victim's family during the trial. He had an incompetent lawyer who was later suspended, and a questionable indictment that outlined several different theories about the murders. I said to Hasan that some people, even black folks, still believe in the inherent goodness of the system, that there are some glitches but once those get cleared up, it will be back on track. He snorted and said, "That's where we go wrong, believing that simple shit. The system is on track ... it's on track to ride over us."

But there is still reason for hope. Hasan had an execution date scheduled for April 27, the day before his 29th birthday. Three days before, the courts gave him a stay. The prison shut down his visiting the minute the paperwork was filed, so I didn't get to see him on that trip. This is our first time meeting face to face, even though we have organized and worked together for years. Also, another brotha was released from death row last week; a new trial won him a different sentence, and since he'd already spent 20 years on the row, they let him go. Debbie said, "Of course they got tight restrictions on him, he can do nothing, can't use the computer, can't leave the house, can't drink ... but shit, at least he's home."

But this is Texas, after all, and hope does not grow well in this soil. When it manages to take root, it is promptly stomped back down. "Our people don't prepare for the future, you know?" Hasan says, scowling. The shatterproof glass between us reflects the light from the vending machines behind the cages, and it looks like Pepsi is written sliding down Hasan's face like tears, cracked right down the middle. "It took us damn near thirty years to recover after we lost Malcolm. We have to set it up so that things will continue even if they take us out, cause you know that's what they're going to do. Wa Wa, just wait, just wait until you see some of the things I'm going to do. Watch what I'm going to do," he says, smile showing the nine-year-old face I saw on the internet, little 80s afro and solemn eyes. "Whether they murder me or not on Friday, I'm telling you, watch what Ima do, the ancestors are gonna be proud."

*************

* http://www.hasanshakur.com
* Office of Texas Governor Perry: phone: (512) 463-1782 / fax: (512) 463-1849

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news