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A Vast Tapestry of Lies
By Bomani Shakur (AKA Keith LaMar),
March 3, 2007

On April 11, 2007, a somber scene will unfold at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville. For the past fourteen years, April 11 has commemorated the brutal prison uprising (1993) that claimed the lives of nine inmates and one correctional officer. Family, friends, and associates of the slain officer will come together. Prayers will be said, promises of renewal will be made, and memories (both good and bad) will be recounted to remind those present never to forget the past. And then a collective cry for revenge will be uttered against five men - prisoners, who, the audience will be told, are responsible for the tragic events that took the life of their friend and colleague, Officer Robert Vallandingham. I am one of those five men.

My name is Keith LaMar (AKA Bomani Shakur), and for the past fourteen years I have been languishing in solitary confinement, waiting to be killed. On or about April 11, 2007, my family, friends and associates will come together to speak out against the injustice that has been perpetrated by the state. Prayers will be said, promises of redemption will be said, and memories (mostly bad) will be recounted to remind those present never to give up the fight. And then a collective cry for justice will be uttered.

Indeed, there are two sides to every story, and unless both sides are equally heard and evaluated the truth cannot (will not) be known. Unfortunately, the truth in this matter has taken a backseat to politics, and what is being portrayed is a fully fabricated version of the facts. Harold Pinter, in his Nobel acceptance speech, spoke directly to this twisted sense of justice when he said: "The majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power... To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed."

What happened at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in 1993 was premeditated and designed, not by Muslim inmates, as is commonly supposed, but by public officials who needed justification to build a new ($60 million) supermax prison. In truth, the only reason the body count didn't rise to the level of a massacre is because Muslim and Aryan Brotherhood prisoners, working together, stopped it from escalating. And for their efforts they were put on death row. Likewise, when I refused to cooperate and campaigned for other prisoners to follow suit, I was singled out and prosecuted.

Fourteen years have come and gone, and with the passing of time the truth has emerged to paint a different picture than what was initially proffered. Prosecutors hid evidence, witnesses were threatened and bribed in some cases, admitted murderers were released on parole. Some of those "witnesses" are now talking, and what they have to say is being heard in a very meaningful way. In the meantime, five men are slated to be executed and need you, the public, to stand with us and demand justice.

Believe it or not, many of us knew Officer Vallandingham and believe that he didn't deserve to die. He was a decent man. Unfortunately, he came to work on a day that those in power decided to release the hounds. And the tragic thing about his death is that it wasn't personal; it could have happened to any of us. We were all used as pawns. As such, Officer Vallandingham will be acknowledged and prayers for his wife and children will be said, as they have been for the past fourteen years.

When an officer is killed, it's easy to get lured into an "us against them" mentality, especially when those who are being accused are already viewed as "criminals." By definition, a criminal is someone that commits a crime against society, and so it's only natural that those in society would band together and, when called upon, move to enforce the harshest penalty available. And for many the harshest penalty is capital punishment. The fact that those sentenced to death stand to lose their lives is ... well, it doesn't get any harsher than that. Or does it? I'm here to tell you that it does. For the past fourteen years, we (the so-called Lucasville Five) have been tortured.
Set apart from other death-row prisoners, we have been kept in almost total isolation, and everything imaginable has been done to make us "pay" for Officer Vallandingham's death. And yet, we have continued in our quest to find and reveal the truth. Our only request is that you hear it.

The most insidious thing about a lie, particularly a lie this vast, is that the longer the lie is told the more it is believed and the harder it becomes to overcome it. And sometimes a lie is a lie, but because the truth isn't known, it's easier to pretend that the people are more knowledgeable than they actually are. At one point, the whole world was said to be flat, not because this was actually so, but because those doing the pondering couldn't (and wouldn't) see it any other way. Consequently, a whole curriculum was built around a fundamental misrepresentation of facts: a lie. Luckily, there existed others who were more interested in truth than in power and prestige; because of them, the word is more accurately known and questions about our existence can be more accurately posed.

In his book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a prison uprising, Staughton Lynd set out to discover the truth about what actually took place and, along with recent revelations, has pieced together a more accurate picture. The facts speak for themselves. As such, we are not asking you to believe us over them; we're asking you to believe the truth over a fundamental misrepresentation of facts.

As I write this, I'm sitting inside the new ($60 million) supermax prison. The hot water doesn't work, plaster is falling off the walls... And four men[1] are waiting to be executed.

[1]. The fifth member of the Lucasville Five, George Skatzes, is housed in Mansfield, Ohio.

Bomani Shakur, # R 317-117
(AKA Keith LaMar)
BOX 1436
Youngstown, OH 44501

Bomani Shakur (a.k.a. Keith LaMar) was sentenced to death for his alleged leadership role in the brutal prison uprising of 1993, which occurred at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio. In his recently self-published book, Condemned, Bomani (which means "mighty soldier" in Swahili) argues for a general amnesty for all Lucasville prisoners,drawing from the outcome of the prison uprising at Attica during the 1970s as his model. "What happened there also happened at Lucasville," Bomani said during a 2006 interview with Prisonersolidarity, "and I believe the governor should take a 'serious look' at the similarities and proceed accordingly." Bomani Shakur is currently on death row at Ohio's super-maximum security prison in Youngstown, and is appealing his sentence. For more information about his case, read Staughton Lynd's book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising. (Temple University Press, 2004).

When writing to Bomani, please send him a pre-embossed stamped envelope so that he can promptly answer your letter. He is not permitted adhesive stamps, that is, regular stamps.


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