Surprisingly, my script started coming to me quick and fast. I began just jotting down short pieces of my script as prompts. I then came across Shaka Sankofa’s case, and because it was so interesting, I thought why don’t I base my piece on his experiences, thus encouraging me to research into his case, the way he felt and whether he was guilty or not.
I am therefore going to produce my own interpretation of Sankofa’s final thoughts/words before he was put to death solely through the use of audio.
Shaka Sankofa – Executed June 22, 2000, Texas
Shaka Sankofa (born as Gary Lee Graham) was placed on death row at the age of 17 for the murder of Bobby Grant Lambert, a 53 year old from Houston, Texas. The murder took place on May 13, 1981 in a parking lot.
(Taken from: http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/graham648.htm)
From my online browsing, I can see that there are various viewpoints in regard to Sankofa’s case, some believe he was a cold blooded murderer who deserved to be killed, whereas others believed he did not kill Lambert and therefore took his side in attempting to save his life.
Although Sankofa had admitted in court that he went on a week long bender consisting of armed robberies, he did not confess to the murder of Lambert up until his day of execution. Personally, I believe that he did not do it. I am not saying that he is not a criminal, and that he does not deserve punishment, but how does the death penalty bring justice if the state are just going to kill a man who probably didn’t actually pull the trigger?
From the time of his sentencing, Sankofa began to show signs of criminal and political civil rights activism, changing his name to Shaka Sankofa in 1995 to represent his “African heritage and freedom”. Public figures and celebrities soon began to take interest in his case, and Sankofa began to protest his punishment, along with supporters. However, evidently these attempts were not good enough, and he was killed by lethal injection in June 2000, under the state of Texas.
Sankofa’s Background (Script Development)
Mother: Institutionalised with mental illness from when Sankofa was only young, she later died in 1988.
This left him to be brought up by his paternal Grandmother, who also suffered from mental illness, his alcoholic Father and his Stepmother. The combination of living circumstances allowed me to sympathise with Sankofa as the environment he grew up in seemed to just be a playground for crime and delinquency.
Instances of non-violent petty crime began at the age of 17, which is the same time he was sentenced to death. The fact that this decision had been made by a judge and jury when Sankofa was at such an early age is wrong in my opinion, and this is the viewpoint that I am going to take in my audio piece.
Supposedly there was one witness at the scene. The parking lot where the murder took place was very dark, and a lady described a tall black man. This could have been anyone, plus I’m sure a lot of white people who see a crime in a dark space would probably claim it to be a black person who committed it.
All of these factors have influenced my script, aiding my narrative through the use of ‘true events’ (or at least events which I believe to be true).
You can read Sankofa’s final statement here. I chose not to read this before I wrote my script as I wanted to come to my own conclusion based on the research I have done via articles, statements, documentaries and more.
My aim is to create my own interpretation of what actually happened through the knowledge I have gained from my research so far.
I will be carrying out research into studies which have taken place in this area, including why some inmates choose to eat, or not to eat. I want to know why Shaka Sankofa rejected his final meal.
Featured Image taken from: http://alchetron.com/Shaka-Sankofa-816148-W