When my brother Ronald Keith Allridge, was executed on June 8, 1995, it triggered a medley of emotions within me. Some I never even fully understood nor took the time to come to terms with.
Ronnie was special to me for many reasons, but he was special to many here within the Death Row because he was the first person that most of us knew who refused to willingly come out of the Death Watch Cell. He said that he wasn't going to walk to his death. And he didn't. He wanted the authorities to know that the taking of someone's life against their will is murder, no matter how you try to justify it. But not many noticed Ronnie's act of defiance.
Six years and two weeks to the day, a similar scene took place. But this time, the world was watching. This time, it was Gary ("G.G.") Graham, who came to be known as Shaka Sankofa.
I've listened to accounts on the radio and I've read accounts in the newspaper, and of course, I've lived in this environment with him. He fought when they came to take him from his regular cell and place him in a Death Watch Cell. They tricked him coming out of the visiting room, but he fought when they came to take him to the Walls Unit to await execution. He fought when they came to strap him to the gurney.
I listened to his spiritual Advisor, Minister Robert Muhammad on the radio the Sunday following G.G's execution. Minister Muhammad said that as G.G was strapped to the gurney, they had him not just strapped but handcuffed to the gurney. They had his head restrained with black velcro because apparently, even after they had subdued him with handcuffs, he still attempted to bite them.
It was said that a sheet covered his body and parts of the paper gown that they had him clothed in was visibly torn and raggedy, apparently also from the struggle. I can imagine that he fought as they physically pinned him down in further humiliation to strip him of his prison attire, donning him with a diaper so that as his body died and his bowels and kidneys released themselves, they wouldn't have the mess to clean up which would distort the image of their clean, sanitary and humane killing machine.
Shaka was a man that fought. He fought until he couldn't fight any more. He fought. He fought, not so much that his life be spared, but he fought for justice to be done in his instance. I can honestly say that I remember G.G. lastly as being a fighter.
But I had never had the pleasure of meeting Shaka Sankofa, the man that G.G. had become. It had been over 12 years since we had been around one another but I admired him from afar. I admired all the things that he did, not just for himself, but for everyone on Death Row. I admired him for the leadership role that he took upon himself when few others would. Not to be a star, but to bring attention and focus to this increasingly dire situation with the Texas Death Penalty.
As he lay there dying, he once again professed his innocence and then quickly turned his attention to us, those remaining. He urged that we continue the fight to see a moratorium put in place.
I have to tell you, I am so tired of sitting here watching people that I've come to know and love steadily being killed off one by one. Some deaths just affect you more. My brother's death, as I said, touched me in ways that I yet have to deal with. The execution of one of my best friends, Glen Mc Ginnis had a profound affect on me. Now G.G. It has to stop! Plain and simple.
My fight has mostly been about saving my life. That's because I believe you have to first help yourself before you can help someone else. And I will continue to do my individual projects even though it gets daunting at times. I think about G.G.'s case. This is a man who had strong claims of innocence. He had numerous political, abolitionist, social, religious, legal and media ties but was still executed by this merciless system. If that amount of backing and support couldn't save his life, then what possible chance do the rest of us have under the current system? The system has to change.
A moratorium will affect all of Death Row so I am asking for your help. At this point, I don't really know what I want to do but I know I'm going to do something. I want your help, your ideas and your support. All the other news in the newsletter seems so outdated now but I do hope you will enjoy it.
Get with me. We have to do something and now. More will probably have been executed by the time you read this. This is indeed, a "State of Emergency".