Assata Shakur - Influential Black Leaders
On May 2, 2013, the FBI placed Assata Shakur, now living in Cuba, on its Most Wanted Terrorists list, which has included the likes of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Quaeda figures, some of whom were executed by drones. This was the day after the State Department was due to release its list of terrorist countries from which Cuba was widely expected to be removed, as even the Miami Herald reported. Release of that list has been postponed and the State Department has asserted Cuba will remain on it, handing a victory to the exiled Cuban plantocracy and the half century campaign to restore their rule over Cuba. This has also been experienced as an assault on African Americans -- see the trending use of the Twitter tag #HandsOffAssata, with many links that people are putting up.
Assata Shakur has been living in Cuba since 1986, after escaping from prison where she was serving a life sentence imposed in a highly disputed trial. Assata was a Black Panther then a Black Liberation Army (BLA) leader in the early '70s, so she was a target of the FBI's COINTELPRO. Assata was captured in a shoot-out resulting from resistance to yet another "driving while black" police action in 1973 on the New Jersey State Turnpike. This time a State Trooper was killed. Zayd Shakur, traveling in the car with Assata, was also killed.
The third person in the car, Sundiata Acoli, is still serving time over 30 years later and has recently been denied parole for another 20 years. According to one of Sundiata' attorney, Joan P. Gibbs, "Assata, at the time of her arrest, was 'wanted' on federal and state charges in New York, all of which juries subsequently found her not guilty of or were dismissed." As was later proved through medical forensics, Assata was wounded at the time of her capture by a cowardly shot from the rear, while she had her hands up. This fact is frequently the subject of lies by law enforcement as is the fact that she was given a paraffin test, which failed to reveal any gunpowder residue, meaning it would have been hard for her to have fired a gun. While recovering from her wounds, she was tortured at the hands of the State Police Nazis (no hyperbole here, they were WWII Nazis brought to America). She was convicted by an all white jury in 1977 and sentenced to life in prison. Before her daring escape from prison in 1979, Assata Shakur served a total of six years behind bars where she would also give birth to her daughter Kakuya.
The following passage is excerpted from Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur and was originally delivered by Assata Shakur as part of her opening statement while acting as co-counsel in her own defense for charges stemming from the New Jersey Turnpike incident:
"The idea of the Black Liberation Army emerged from conditions in Black communities: conditions of poverty, indecent housing, massive unemployment, poor medical care, and inferior education. The idea came about because Black people are not free or equal in this country. Because ninety percent of the men and women in this country's prisons are Black and Third World. Because ten-year-old children are shot down in our streets. Because dope has saturated our communities, preying on the disillusionment and frustrations of our children. The concept of the BLA arose because of the political, social, and economic oppression of Black people in this country. And where there is oppression, there will be resistance. The BLA is part of that resistance movement. The Black Liberation Army stands for freedom and justice for all people. "
Assata: Exile since 1979
On May 2 1973, Black Panther activist Assata Olugbala Shakur (fsn) Joanne Deborah Chesimard, was pulled over by the New Jersey State Police, shot twice and then charged with murder of a police officer. Assata spent six and a half years in prison under brutal circumstances before escaping out of the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey in 1979 and moving to Cuba.
Assata: In her own words
My name is Assata ("she who struggles") Olugbala ( "for the people" ) Shakur ("the thankful one"), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government's policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program. because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.