Join us for free Community Outreach Program featuring Shujaa Graham.
Shujaa Graham was born in Louisiana and grew up on a plantation in the segregated South of the 1950s. After moving to Southern California, Shujaa experienced the Watts Riots and police occupation of his community. In and out of trouble, he spent much of his adolescence in juvenile institutions, and when he turned 18 he was sent to Soledad Prison. Mentored by the leadership of the Black Prison Movement, Shujaa came of age, taught himself to read and write, and studied history and world affairs. He became a leader of the growing movement within the California prison system as the Black Panther Party expanded in that community.
Shujaa was framed for the 1973 murder of a prison guard at the Deuel Vocational Institute in Stockton, California, and was sent to San Quentin’s death row. The California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in 1979, yet it wasn’t until 1981 that he was found innocent and released from prison. Rather than being protected by the United States’ criminal justice system, Shujaa often points out that he won his freedom and affirmed his innocence “in spite of the system.”
Shujaa lives Maryland, with his partner, Phyllis Prentice, and both are active in efforts to abolish the capital punishment. Shujaa lectures on the death penalty, the criminal justice system, racism, and gang violence to audiences around the world. Not surprisingly, one of Shujaa’s favorite audiences is American youth. “I’m filled with ideals for a better future,” he says. “I may never enjoy the fruits of this labor, but our children will.”