Siwatu-Salama Ra speaks out after being released from prison

Posted at 6:16 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 18:17:08-05

“When they said guilty, I couldn’t believe it,” said Siwatu Salama-Ra of the moment she learned she was going to prison.

She never imagined a jury would find her guilty of felonious assault for pointing an unloaded gun at a woman she says tried to hit her family with a car.

When you look at pictures she has, you see how Siwatu Salama-Ra sees herself.  

She is an accomplished activist who has worked as Co-Director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council.  She is a wife.  She is a mom.

The sentence took her away from her daughter while she was pregnant with her son.

“I had never been away from her, not even a day,” she said as tears flowed at the thought of the separation.

The reason she had the gun is heart-wrenching.  Ra says she heard about crimes around her in Detroit, but never was around guns.  

Then one day she was supposed to meet two friends for a meal in February 2012. 

Abreeya Brown and Ashley Conaway were dealing with anxiety about testifying about a shooting they witnessed.

“These were my very close friends. They were doing the right thing, and I remember the conversations around it, the stress around it, and we were planning to go out to dinner,” said Ra.

Something came up, and Ra couldn’t make it.

“Two of my very close friends were kidnapped at gunpoint on a day I was supposed to be with them.  They went missing for about three weeks, and then they came up in a shallow grave.

The man the two women were supposed to testify against was later convicted of murder, along with several others.

“I could have been that third person.”

To feel safe, Ra decided to get a gun and take gun safety classes.

“I took it very seriously.  I wanted to know all the rules.  During the class I asked so many questions,” said Ra.

She says the eight months she spent in prison were traumatic in ways she didn’t imagine.  She gave birth to her son while in prison shackled,  alone and locked away from her husband.

“To give birth in those circumstances is extremely inhumane,” said Ra.

“Siwatu did not have to have a baby in prison. It is a shame it took this long to get her out on bond while the Court of Appeals looks at it,” said Wade Fink, her attorney.

Fink says he is arguing that the use of an unloaded weapon is not deadly force and that the jury should not have been banned from hearing about the criminal history of the woman who accused her.

The woman Ra pointed the gun at was on probation at the time for an assault.  She claimed Ra pulled out the gun during a verbal altercation, not in response to any threat from her.  

Ra says this is about gun rights  and a person’s ability to defend themselves.

“I am not a dangerous person. I love my family, protecting them, protecting my mom, protecting my daughter is something I had to choose,” said Ra.