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In Recognition of 'Women's History': Assata Shakur

By AbdudDharr Abdullah (Reprinted by permission)*

Presented by Omni Virtual University

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 the "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists."

"The poison and pollution of capitalist cities is choking. The cities have removed us from our strengths, from our roots, from our traditions. They have alienated us from each other and made us fear each other. They have given us dope and television as a culture.

The women of my grandmother's generation in my hometown trained their daughters for womanhood. They were determined that their children should survive and they were committed to a better future. Their daughters had to learn how to get their lessons, how to survive, how to be strong. They taught them to give respect and to demand respect. They taught their daughters to take care, to take charge, and to take responsibility.

I think about my sisters in the movement. Most of us rejected the white (sic) women's movement. We knew that our experiences as black (sic) women were completely different from those of our sisters in the white(sic) women's movement. It is imperative to our struggle that we build a strong black(sic) women's movement. It is imperative that we, as Black women, talk about the experiences that shaped us; that we assess our strengths and weaknesses and define our own history. It is imperative that we discuss positive ways to teach and socialize our children. Women can never be free in a country that is not free. We can never be liberated in a country where the institutions that control our lives are oppressive…

Under the guidance of Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer and all of our fore-Mothers, let us rebuild a sense of community. Let us rebuild the culture of giving and carry on the tradition of fierce determination to move on closer to freedom…"

“…I am not so concerned about myself… I am more concerned about the growing poverty, the growing despair that is rife in America. I am more concerned about our younger generations, who represent our future.”

The New Abolitionists (Neo) Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings By: Joy James

Assata Shakur: In Exile since 1979

Assata Shakur is an African-American activist who was a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army between 1971 and 1973. Assata worked​ through the BPP and the BLA to fight racial, social, and economic oppression, but became the target of the U.S. government’s counter-revolutionary COINTELPRO program. This program used a wide range of tactics, including framing, false imprisonments and assassinations of leaders, to disrupt the radical movement.

On May 2, 1973, Black Panther activist Assata OlugbalaShakur(fsn)[1],

Joanne Deborah Chesimard, was pulled over by the New Jersey State Police, shot twice and then charged with:the 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.

Between 1973 and 1977, in New York and New Jersey, Shakur was indicted ten times, resulting in seven separate criminal trials. Shakur’s charges ranged from bank robberies; attempted murder of two police officers; and eight other felonies related to the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Of these trials, three resulted in acquittals; one in a hung jury; one in a change of venue; one resulted in a mistrial due to her pregnancy; and one in a conviction. Three indictments were dismissed without trial. Shakur escaped prison and fled to Cuba after her conviction for the death of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.

On May 2, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that they had raised the bounty on Shakur’s head to $2 million and placed her on its “Most Wanted Terrorists” list, making her the first woman to be so designated and effectively criminalizing the Black freedom struggle of that era.

For people wondering if Shakur was guilty, the Huffington Post reported that at the trial, three neurologists would testify that the first gunshot shattered her clavicle and the second shattered the median nerve in her right hand. That testimony proved that she was sitting with her hands raised when she was fired on by police.

According to Wikipedia, further testimony proved that no gun residue was found on either of her hands, nor were her fingerprints found on any of the weapons located at the scene. Nevertheless, Shakur was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison.

[1] fsn- former slave name

Reprinted from: "In Recognition of -'Women's History Month' ". Editor's emphases

Recommended Readings

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Assata, by Assata Shakur

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