Friday, May 3, 2013

Assata Shakur: Hypocrisy on a list

One of the brothers she had a child with
The foulness they would feed her, hopin she's lose her seed
Held tight, knowing the fight would live through this seed
In need of a doctor, from her stomach she's bleed
Out of this situation a girl was conceived
Separated from her, left to mother the revolution
And lactated to attack hate
Cause federal and state was built for a black fate
Her emptiness was filled with beatings and court dates
They fabricated cases, hoping one would stick
And said she robbed places that didn't exist
In the midst of threats on her life and being caged with aryan whites
Through dark halls of hate she carried the light
I wonder what would happen if that woulda been me?
All of this shit so we could be free.
Yeah, I often wonder what would happen if that woulda been me?
All of this shit so we could be free, so dig it, people-
“Song for Assata,” Common

The FBI has added Assata Shakur to its Most Wanted Terrorist List one day after May Day. With the announcement the state of New Jersey added $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture.

Who is the black woman who appears on those wanted posters?  She’s the woman known for getting shot with her hands in the air.

It happened on May 2, 1973 at 12:45 a.m. Shakur, Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike in East Brunswick, NJ by State Trooper James Harper for driving with a broken tail light.

“Hold on – two black males, one female,” The recording of Trooper Harper played at the trials of both Acoli and Assata Shakur.

Zayd Shakur was driving the car.  Trooper Harper asked him for identification. After noticing a discrepancy he asked him to get out of the car. He began questioning him at the rear of the vehicle. 

It was at this point in the trial that accounts of the confrontation differ. During the ensuing shootout, Trooper Foerster, who was present for backup, was shot twice in the head with his own gun and killed.  Zayd Shakur was killed, and Assata Shakur and Trooper Harper were wounded.

With gunshots wounds in both arms and a shoulder, she surrendered after a shootout and being chased in the Pontiac LeMans they were driving. Police moved her to a hospital under heavy guard and was interrogated and arraigned from her hospital bed. 

Assata Shakur was a member of the Black Liberation Army, and had a number of previous run ins with the law. .

Shakur was convicted as an accomplice in the murders of Trooper Foerster and Zayd Shakur, possession of weapons, and attempted murder of Trooper Harper.

During her testimony, Shakur denied shooting either Harper or Foerster.  She also denied handling a weapon during the incident. She was cross-examined for close to two hours.

A key point of Shakur’s defense was medical testimony that demonstrated that she was shot with her hands up and that she would have been unable to fire a weapon.  The median nerve in her right arm was severed by the second bullet, making it impossible for her to pull a trigger.

Shakur was imprisoned in Yardville, NJ before being moved to Rikers Island.  Her daughter was conceived during her trial, and born on September 11, 1974 in the psychiatric ward at Elmhurts General Hospital in Queens.  In her autobiography, written from Cuba, Shakur claims she was beaten and restrained by female officers for refusing a medical exam from a prison doctor.
On March 31, 1978, Shakur was transferred to the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey. 

Angela Davis called her a political prisoner.  An international panel of seven jurists representing the United Nations Commission on Human Rights concluded in 1979 that her treatment was “totally unbefitting of a prisoner”. Their investigation that considered human rights abuses of political prisoners cited Shakur’s imprisonment as "one of the worst cases" of such abuses.

So she ran.  On November 2, 1979, she escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women when three members of the Black Liberation Army visiting her drew concealed weapons, seized two guards as hostages and stole a prison van.

She kept running.  Shakur fled to Cuba by 1984 and was granted political asylum. In 1985, she was reunited with her daughter.  In 1987, she published Assata: An Autobiography. 

In 1993, Shakur published a second book, Still Black, Still Strong, with Dhoruba bin Wahad and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Shakur refers to herself as a "20th century escaped slave”.

A documentary film about Shakur, Eyes of the Rainbow, written and directed by Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando, was released in 1997.  Hip-hop artist Common recorded a tribute to Shakur, “A Song for Assata,"on his album Like Water for Chocolate. Digable Planets, Public Enemy, and X-Clan have also recorded songs about Shakur.

So, what is implied in placing Shakur on the FBI’s Most Wanted List of Terrorist?  It takes a sad era in American history and white washes the rest of the story.  It hides a sad truth.  Yes, people like Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal represent an age of black radicalism.  All of that is true, but let’s not forget the reason for all that rage.

The police had guns and were quick to kill black folks for crossing the street.

Yes, she ran from all of that.  She ran because she was tired of the mistreatment.

Placing her on the Most Wanted Terrorist List is another example of how so many refuse to understand the deep burden that comes with the sad truth.

A blog for Assata


  1. Okay, you adequately compacted the Wikipedia file on Shakur, but conveniently left a number of things out.

    When a person is indicted 10 times for 7 geographically separate crimes, do we not suspect a little trouble in her soul? Granted, due to legal technicalities, she got off on most of these charges thanks to her lawyer, William Kunstler. But, of course, she's an angel only acting out of "black rage."

    She robs a guy in his hotel room, taking $250, and gets shot in the stomach with her own gun during the process, and the case gets dismissed? She ran with some violent people and expressed violence herself, but it was always "someone else" that pulled the various triggers. In the famous New Jersey trooper killing case, she did have a large cache of ammunition in her purse, and no one questioned that one of her passengers had automatic weapons that killed a trooper. Even if she didn't pull the trigger on that one, she continually put herself in bad situations with criminals. But, once again, she's an angel only acting out "black rage."

    One could go on an on with facts showing that Shakur was no saint, nor was she a force for black advancement - just violence. But we should forgive her today, because "black rage" made her be involved in all those cop and trooper shootings, robberies, etc.? Give me a break.

    Hope she enjoys her life in Cuba. Wish a number of dead policemen and state troopers could say the same.

    1. A,
      Your point is well taken. There's a tremendous amount of reporting on the life and trials of Assata Shukar. The point of my remarks relate to what is not being reported on the case - efforts to abort her child, reports from the UN, massive discrepancies in all of her trials. Is that to negate poetntial guilt? No. What is does is raise serious questions related to the judicial system. The ultimate questions surrounds why she is placed on the Most Wanted Terrorist list during the aftermath of Boston. She was no saint, but keep in ming the climate during this period in American history.