While a member of Houston ABC, I was able to participate in a support network for Sekou Kambui along with Denver ABC and Sekou’s friend, Jennifer. Through this process, Sekou and I became close friends. When he received parole, another Houston ABC member and I drove to Alabama to meet him in person and celebrate his release. Sekou had been locked up for so long that a lot of things felt new, even if he had experienced them before. We stopped for boiled peanuts, he cut open a nice juicy watermelon (and fed some to a stray cat), he laughed as I jumped on a trampoline, and we were able to enjoy a lovely dinner at a local park. At the end of our trip, we went to a breakfast diner and ordered an ice cream sundae. It was a beautiful experience and one that I will value for the rest of my life. Sekou became a mentor to me, and we spoke often about revolutionary struggle. We lost Sekou a few months ago–today would have been his 69th birthday. In light of this, I wanted to post the obituary that we wrote back in May to honor the memory of a man who sacrificed his life in the struggle for black liberation. ❤
William James Turk, better know as Sekou Cinque T.M. Kambui
September 6, 1948 – May 10, 2017
Sekou Kambui was a son, a brother, a friend, a freedom fighter, a comrade, a civil rights activist, a jailhouse lawyer, a U.S. political prisoner, and a formerly incarcerated political prisoner. He was a lover of freedom and life and community.
In a letter to Jennifer Murnan from behind the walls of the Bibb Correctional Facility in Alabama, dated September 8, 2013, Sekou wrote:
“I came from a family one side poverty stricken/the other enjoying the trimmings of middle class life. Born in Gadsden, AL because my mother didn’t want to give birth to me in Detroit, alone, so she returned to birth me with her family near by. I was started in training at an early age in the basement of my grandmother’s (father’s mother’s) home to become an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, beginning my day-view in Detroit Public Schools shortly after the decision out of the Supreme Court abolishing separate but equal (Jim Crow) practices, by helping integrate DPS, and later returned with H.S. Students/College Students for the Freedom Rides and sit-ins across the $outh. I traveled the Freedom Ride circuit across GA, MISS, TENN, ALA and LA. I was jailed, beaten, chased by German shepherds, KKK, & police. Later by State Troupers of Al Lingo. I grew up in the Civil rights Movement, and as I was tossed and turned by racist violence across the $outh, I became more and more attracted to the militancy of those around me — like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hammer, Roy Innis, etc. — until I became Sekou Kambui, my own man: a revolutionary, material for the BPP/BLA, RNA, CORE, SNCC, and such like.”
In 1975, Sekou was arrested, charged, and convicted of the murder of two white men: a KKK official and a billionaire oilman. He spend the next 38 years of his life in various Alabama state prisons. Throughout these decades, he never stopped fighting his conviction, which he always maintained was based on his political activism, as a black man fighting racism in the South, rather than any real evidence.
While behind bars, Sekou steadfastly continued his social activism. He initiated legal efforts around medical malpractice, over-crowding, and other abusive prison conditions. He formed and led a Social Consciousness Group which provided cultural and political education for fellow prisoners. His dedication to justice touched people wherever he went.
Shortly before his release, a supporter and friend of Sekou commented that she was in awe at how he was able to keep his spirits up in spite of everything he had been through. He responded “I do try to stay positive and optimistic, for over time within such places, one is challenged every moment not to let him/herself be overcome by the everyday stresses that attach themselves to the experience of long-term incarceration.” Sekou was finally granted parole in the summer of 2014. Upon his release, he began his new life in the town of Dothan, Alabama and continued to maintain a positive attitude. When experiencing difficult circumstances, he’d just say “It is what it is,” and find a way to make the best of the situation. Unfortunately, only weeks after his release, he was diagnosed with cancer. Despite his illness, Sekou was able to participate in a national tour with the Red Flame of Freedom, and attended the first national conference of the Formerly-Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples’ Movement. With the help of his loving friend Jennifer, as well as a new community of friends in Dothan, he bravely coped with his illness until his death on May 10, 2017.