Losing has never been an option to me.
What has happened to me can easily happen to any poor person.
Zolo Agona Azania, 2005
Who is Zolo Agona Azania?
by Owusu Yaki Yakubu
The imprisonment rate for African-American people in the U.S. is six times higher than for white people. Even though Black people make up less than 13% of the population, they comprise over 50% of the people in prison and 42% of those awaiting execution. A Black person is four times more likely to receive the death penalty than a white person with a similar background who is convicted for a similar crime, and a Black person who kills a white person is 11 times more likely to get the death penalty than if the victim were Black or the perpetrator were white. The key decision maker with the discretion to seek the death penalty are the county District Attorneys, 98%, nation-wide, are white men. The indisputable racist nature of the criminal justice system and the death penalty, precludes a fair trial for any person of color facing a capital case.
The death penalty also violates international human rights law. Other than the U.S., all the industrialized nations of the world have abolished the death penalty. This near unanimous consensus is reflected in multi-national agreements with which all governments should be obligated to comply. The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights; and the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights adopted by the Organization of American States in 1990, each call for the total abolition of the death penalty.
In addition to those human rights declarations, the imposition of the death penalty against Zolo Agona Azania, is a further contravention of international law. As one who was part of the New Afrikan liberation and independence struggle he is entitled to the protections of the “Laws of War” codified in the Geneva Convention and the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions, which prohibit the imposition of the death penalty upon members of liberation movements fighting against racism and for self-determination.
Who Is Zolo Agona Azania?
Zolo Azania is one of the numerous African-Americans who await execution as a result of a racist criminal justice system. Moreover he is a politically conscious activist, who at the time of his arrest and capture in 1981, was actively involved in the movement for the self-determination of African-American people. The fact that he defined himself as a New Afrikan and was committed to the liberation and independence of Black people within the borders of the U.S., directly influenced the way the police, the prosecution, and the Indiana courts denied him a fair trial and fanned the flames of prejudice to obtain the death penalty.
Zolo was sentenced to death after his conviction for a 1981 bank robbery and the killing of a Gary Indiana police officer who was fatally wounded in an exchange of gun fire with three men who fled from the bank. Zolo was not arrested at the bank, but miles away walking unarmed down the street. The prosecution intimidated witnesses, suppressed favorable evidence, presented false eye-witness and expert testimony, and denied him the right to speak or present motions in his own behalf.
The two other men charged and convicted with Zolo received sentences of 60 years, but because of Zolo’s political history and beliefs, and in order to permanently silence his militant voice for liberation, the State ignored the rules of evidence and fair trial to obtain the death penalty from an all-white jury. The State suppressed a gunshot residue report showing no residue on Zolo’s hands as well as other favorable scientific evidence, suborned perjury by telling a critical witness who was unable to make an identification to identify Zolo, and falsely and sensationally accused him of firing the fatal bullet, “execution-style.” The trial, which was moved from Lake County (Gary, Indiana), which has a substantial Black population, to Allen County (Fort Wayne) with a small Black populace, was tried amid media and law enforcement hysteria. Armed police surrounded the courthouse, and uniformed police ringed the walls and front gallery inside of the courtroom.
Who is Zolo Agona Azania?
Anyone having read the pamphlets written by Zolo, (e.g.. Who Is the New Afrikan?), or having read any of the articles he’s written for publications in the U.S., India, Cuba, and Africa, may be tempted to say that Zolo is a writer — but that’s not entirely true.
Anyone having seen Zolo’s oil paintings, which have been exhibited in galleries across the U.S. or any of his artwork which have appeared as illustrations in books written by others, may believe that Zolo is a visual artist — but that’s also not entirely correct.
Zolo uses the written and visual art as instruments of political struggle — not merely to call attention to himself, but to raise the political awareness of his people, and to draw the attention of the world to their fight for self-determination and independence from U.S. control and domination.
During his trial, Zolo declared himself a Conscious Citizen of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) — the name adopted by activists for the historic “black nation” held in colonial bondage by the U.S. In the appeal of his conviction, Zolo petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court to recognize his protected status as an anti-colonial combatant, citing resolutions of the United Nations’ General Assembly and the Geneva Convention. Zolo, like all those fighting for self-determination, from Puerto Rico to East Timor, should not have been treated as a criminal, but given a protected political status.
The use of the death penalty to execute a freedom fighter violates every basic principle afforded anti-colonial combatants under international human rights law.
The Indiana courts ignored these pleas and followed the fallacious policy of the U.S. government, which denies the political status of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, choosing to criminalize their acts. This policy is designed to delegitimize the struggles of oppressed peoples, and to prevent recognition of their political right to protected status in the eyes of their people and the international community.
Who is Zolo Agona Azania?
Some people may think that Zolo is a “nationalist,” because he is a Conscious Citizen of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA). Zolo is not a “nationalist” as that term is commonly (and incorrectly) used in the U.S. By definition, all Conscious New Afrikans are “revolutionary nationalists,” i.e., non-racists, anti-sexists, anti-capitalists, socialists, and internationalists. As Zolo has stated, “i firmly support any cause that works in earnest with poor people regardless of race or religion, in their struggle against hunger, disease, exploitation and poverty. We need economic self-reliance, local community control and development free of corruption.”
Those who know Zolo are broadening their campaign to force the State of Indiana to comply with international law and the U.S. constitution, to immediately cease all efforts to execute this New Afrikan fighter, and to afford him political status.
Hope Breathing Life: Postcards for Liberation
From Zolo’s tribute to the struggle of Emmett Tilll’s family to his depiction of the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the paintings collected in this book are a testament of his indomitable spirit and revolutionary New Afrikan politics.
This was a project that could not have come about without the wonderful work by the people in the No Death Penalty for Zolo Committee in Chicago. They did a wonderful job of selecting sixteen examples of Zolo’s artwork, and laying them out as postcards.
Please check out this book, order copies for yourelf, for the progressive bookstore of distro in your town, for your friends and comrades! Proceeds from the sale of this book are being used to support Zolo’s fight for his life.
To order, or for more information (including snapshots of the postcards), visit Leftwingbooks.net
Money and Power, Hook or Crook
Writings by Zolo Agona Azania addressing the psychological and moral distortions of capitalism, and the need for a moral socialist alternative. Includes artwork by the author, and an introduction by recently paroled political prisoner Owusu Yaki Yakubu.
published in 2004
$3.50 US / $5.25 Cdn
Read a review of this pamphlet by J. Sakai: Two Teachers Out Of Prison
Documents and Updates Regarding Zolo’s Case
- Indianapolis Star Editorial (February 19th 2005): Still No Justice After 23 Years
- March 11th 2005 Update from Zolo
- May 4th 2005 article from Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: State’s high court bars death penalty in 1981 Gary police killing
- For a more detailed look at the “case” behind this attempted murder, see the article Star Chamber Racism.
- See also No More Death Panelty Trials for Zolo Agona Azania!
- On the subject of Jury Rigging – see “Jury Rigging Laid Bare” from Harpers Magazine
And a collection of posts from Sketchy Thoughts detailing Zolo’s successful struggle against the death penalty:
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Watch Video of Arguments that Lead to Zolo’s Death Penalty Being Vacated!
Both this video and also the video of the June 2006 hearing – where the State appealed to have Zolo’s victory reversed – is available on the National Lawyers’ Guild website