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‘Black August’ by Marilyn Buck, whose passing is mourned

August 4, 2010

by Marilyn Buck

Marilyn Buck with her attorney and comrade, Soffiyah Elijah
Would you hang on a cliff’s edge
sword-sharp, slashing fingers
while jackboot screws stomp heels
on peeled-flesh bones
and laugh
“let go! die, damn you, die!”
could you hang on 20 years, 30 years?

20 years, 30 years and more
brave Black brothers buried
in US koncentration kamps
they hang on
Black light shining in torture chambers
Ruchell, Yogi, Sundiata, Sekou,
Warren, Chip, Seth, Herman, Jalil,
and more and more they resist: Black August

Nat Turner insurrection chief executed: Black August
Jonathan, George dead in battle’s light: Black August
Fred Hampton, Black Panthers, African Brotherhood murdered: Black August
Kuwasi Balagoon, Nuh Abdul Quyyam captured warriors dead: Black August
Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, Ida B. Wells
Queen Mother Moore – their last breaths drawn fighting death: Black August

Black August: watchword
for Black liberation for human liberation
sword to sever the shackles

light to lead children of every nation to safety
Black August remembrance
resist the amerikkan nightmare for life

Marilyn Buck wrote this poem for Black August 2000. She was released July 15, 2010, after 25 years as an anti-imperialist political prisoner. Then suddenly, only 19 days later, she was gone. Her comrade and fellow former political prisoner Linda Evans broke the sad news: “Our dear comrade Marilyn Buck made her transition yesterday (Aug. 3, 2010) at 1 p.m. EST peacefully and surrounded by friends.” Sister Marpessa Kupendua wrote: “Former political prisoner Marilyn Buck made her transition. Peace and blessings be upon her revolutionary soul! Let her passing motivate us to be on point for all those denied medical care within the walls. Serious illnesses ARE death sentences! Much respect to her struggle on our collective behalf and all those who loved her so strong in her final days!”

Marilyn Buck reads her poem Wild Poppies

For more of Marilyn’s poetry, visit

Marilyn Buck: Anti-imperialist political prisoner, poet

by Kazembe Balagun

Marilyn Buck was a former political prisoner and prisoner of war. Along with Mutulu Shakur, she was responsible for the liberation of Assata Shakur from prison in 1979. She later went underground. An article in Kersplebedeb goes on to state:

“In the ‘60s Marilyn participated in protests against racism and the Vietnam war. In 1967 she became part of Students for a Democratic Society. Marilyn became part of a radical filmmaking and propaganda collective, showing the films as an organizing aid at community meetings, high school groups, workers’ committees and in the streets. She also participated in international solidarity groups supporting the Vietnamese, Palestinians and the Iranian struggle against the Shah. She worked in solidarity with Native Americans, Mexicano and Black liberation struggles.

“As a direct result of all of this activity, she became a target of COINTELPRO. In 1973, she was arrested and convicted of buying two boxes of bullets. Accused of being a member of the BLA [Black Liberation Army], she was sentenced to 10 years, the longest sentence ever given for such an offense at the time. In 1977 she was granted a furlough and never returned, joining the revolutionary clandestine movement. In 1985 she was captured and faced four separate court trials. She was charged with conspiracy to support and free PP/POWs [political prisoners and prisoners of war] and to support the New Afrikan Independence struggle through expropriations. In 1988 she was indicted for conspiracy to protest and alter government policies through use of violence against government and military buildings and received an additional 10 years for conspiracy to bomb the Capitol.

“As Judy Greenspan explains:

‘Marilyn died today not in the hospital but at Soffiyah Elijah’s house, her close friend and attorney, with her friends around her. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. criminal injustice system killed Marilyn by denying her adequate medical care, careful diagnoses and timely treatment for her cancer. They allowed the uterine cancer to spread until it was inoperable. And they made her serve every single day of her sentence that they could for her “heinous crimes” of actively supporting the Black liberation struggle, aiding in the escape of comrade Assata Shakur, participating in military political actions against U.S. wars at home and abroad and remaining defiant and opposed to the U.S. imperialist racist system every day that she was inside the belly of the beast. Marilyn Buck, presente!’”

This story was originally posted at Kasama.

Cancer takes poet Marilyn Buck

by Mariann G. Wizard

Austin — Friends of long-time political prisoner, former Austinite and acclaimed poet Marilyn Buck, 62, were saddened by news of her death at the home of her attorney, Soffiyah Elijah, early Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Marilyn Buck
Buck was released from the federal prison medical center in Carswell, Texas, July 15, 2010, and was paroled to New York City.

Buck served 25 years of an 80-year prison sentence for politically motivated crimes undertaken in opposition to racial injustice and U.S. imperialism. As a prisoner, Marilyn, while moderating her ideas about methods, continued to stand tall for her beliefs.

A selfless advocate for others, especially in the arena of prison medical care, Marilyn was diagnosed late last year with a uterine sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer, too late for treatment to save her life.

While attending the University of Texas at Austin, Buck became involved in the civil rights and anti-war movements, and worked with SDS and the underground newspaper, The Rag. In the following years she became increasingly committed to and active in support of the Black liberation struggle in this country.

Buck is survived by three brothers; several cousins; her long-time counselor, Jill Soffiyah Elijah; and loving friends worldwide. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Louis Buck, who both pre-deceased her, were leading civil rights activists in Austin in the early 1960s.

According to sources close to Marilyn’s family, there will not be a funeral, but memorial gatherings will be scheduled in the future in New York City, in California’s Bay Area, and in Texas. Funds raised for her hoped-for transition to the free world that had not been dispersed at the time of her death will be used according to her wishes to assist other aging prisoners.

The size of the U.S. prison population guarantees that increasing numbers of those released after lengthy sentences will lack savings, health insurance or the network of friends from all walks of life that sustained Marilyn — and benefited from her generous, principled spirit — throughout her years behind bars.

Marilyn Buck was the recipient of funds raised at a June 25 community support event and benefit in Austin hosted by eight local groups, including NOKOA the observer and The Rag Blog, and supported by many businesses, artists, poets and compassionate individuals.

Youth Emergency Service, Inc., fiscal sponsor for the event, will continue to accept tax deductible contributions through PayPal at its website, or by check or money order, made out to YES, Inc., at P.O. Box 13549, Austin, TX 78711.

This story originally appeared at The Rag Blog.

9 thoughts on “‘Black August’ by Marilyn Buck, whose passing is mourned

  1. Sid Wilson

    As comrade and co-defendent Dr Mutulu Shakur wishes to convey to the family, to the many friends and countless comrade his profound condolences. In this hour of sorrow there is solace in knowing__Marilyn Buck the fallen revolutionary soldier will never die. Humanity's quest for truth and justice can not be incarcerated or asssainated, for as long as there is the injustice of oppression there will rise a Marilyn Buck to resist.. We the family and Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur mourn the traggic loss but in the African tradition celebrate this deeply committed life to freedom and justice on both sides of prison walls,__May she rest in eternal peace among the known and unknown freedom fighters. Her place of honor is assured. As she would have it , Aluta Continua!

  2. Ceegee

    Ms. Buck lived 29 years longer than Waverly Brown, Edward O'Grady & Peter Paige, the three men who were killed in the 1981 Brinks robbery , which Ms. Buck was involved in. Had she bothered to see any of these people as individuals and not "pigs", she might have found out that Waverly Brown was an African American policeman who in 1966 became the first African American policeman hired in Nyack, NY. She also might have found out that Nyack, NY is an amazingly integrated town and a very unique place. She might have found out that that regular working people of all races and backgrounds were employed at that mall, including Peter Paige, the Brinks guard who was gunned down in his truck, and that most worked for low wages to earn for their families.

    The logic in committing violent crimes such as robbery and murder in the name of combating oppression of minorities has always escaped me, and always will. There are far many dedicated people who have done much more in their lives to combat oppression, poverty and economic injustice through peaceful means that Ms. Buck ever did with her violent actions. All of the blogs and webpages that cast her as a political prisoner uniformly neglect to mention the three people that died on that day in 1981, just because they had the misfortune to show up to work when Ms. Buck and her cronies robbed that armored truck. Their families and loved ones have been suffering their loss for years as Ms. Buck continued to write poetry and be visited by loved ones and friends.

    1. bobf

      Actually, since there was apparently no convincing legal case against Ms. Buck to obtain a conviction within the New York State court system for any involvement in the politically-motivated 1981 Brink's incident, she and her co-defendants were tried within the federal court system, in a politically discriminatory way, because of their politics.

      Under international law, Ms. Buck and her defendants should actually have been granted either political prisoner or prisoner of war status and released earlier from prison by the U.S. government–in the same way that Irish, German and Italian political activists who were jailed in the 1970s and 1980s, after being charged with similar actions, were eventually treated as political prisoners/prisoners of war and and nearly all released by 2001.

      In 2003, one of the defendants in the initial New York state court system trial related to the 1981 Brink's case was finally paroled. So it's actually long overdue for an amnesty or pardon to finally be given to all of the remaining imprisoned defendants in this case, as we approach the 29th anniversary of their arrest and imprisonment in October 2010.

  3. Ceegee

    "Politically motivated 1981 Brink's incident"? – they robbed a bank to finance their operations. They killed in cold blood. She was intimately involved in the planning and execution. They were tried in Federal court because robbing a bank in this country is a Federal crime.

    Interesting how Kathy Boudin pled guilty, expressed remorse and spent her 22 year prison time quietly working towards the betterment of female inmates and AIDS patients, instituting several educational and social programs. Marilyn Buck continued to view herself as a political prisoner and, as far as I can find, never expressed remorse for her part in the murders. Your response does not even address the issues of murder, loss and community trauma that I referred to in my previous post.

    You might want to read an interesting article:

    Marilyn Buck's actions were not abstract and they did not occur in a vacuum. They affected many, many people. To blithely excuse or ignore her part in the taking of human lives only makes your cause even less credible.

    1. bobf

      Sounds like you're unfamiliar with the actual facts and the actual lack of legally permissible evidence in this case. Under international law, the U.S. government was legally required to treat the defendants as political prisoners or prisoners of war, in the same way that the South African government at that time was legally required to treat ANC activists involved in similar politically motivated actions as political prisoners or prisoners of war–not as "common criminals."

      Regarding the aspect of this case in which some defendants are tried in the New York State court system, some defendants are tried in the federal court system and defendants who have all served their time, paid their dues and been model prisoners while incarcerated are not all paroled equally at the same time: You might want to check out the expression of remorse from one of the U.S. political prisoners who has stll not been paroled which is posted at the following blog link:

      1. Cmore Clover

        A killer is a killer is a killer. Marilyn Buck was as much a political prisoner as she was a poet. One may attempt to rip the arms off of Lady Justice with antiseptic rhetoric or insipid poetry, but wrong is still wrong, and dead is still dead.

        1. bobf

          Most people in the United States and in other countries who have actually examined her case (and her poetry) have concluded that Marilyn Buck was both an award-winning poet and a legitimate U.S. political prisoner; and that the U.S. government is still violating the human rights of its many political prisoners, by refusing to announce an immediate, general amnesty for all U.S. political prisoners in 2010. For more information on how the civil liberties of some of the people arrested on October 20, 1981 in New York State were violated by local authorities, you might be interested in checking out the historical article posted at the following blog link:

  4. Ceegee

    How their rights were violated? You actually are serious in writing that? How about the right to live that she and her comrades took away from three men that day, and how about the rights of their families to have their fathers, husbands and loved ones? Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner who protested against a repressive regime that jailed its enemies for now reason. Marilyn Buck committed violent crimes and broke laws, while others who worked peacefully for real change in disadvantaged communities actually used their lives usefully. Buck and her comrades refused to participate in their defense. They refused to actually exercise the rights given to accused people in our society. She created her own situation with her misguided beliefs and violent actions. The first sentence in your response is ludicrous. Marilyn Buck was a deluded individual who wasted her life, when she could have really done something with it.

    1. bobf

      It's a human rights violation and a violation of the U.S. Constitution's bill of rights if an arrested citizen of the United States gets beaten or tortured by the arresting cops and denied access to lawyers. Your apparent notion that the U.S. legal system should be used to satisfy the desire of certain right-wing family members for "revenge"–even if it means violating international law, the bill of rights and the U.S. Constitution–seems like an anti-democratic, right-wing authoritarian notion. And this notion is rejected by most people who have examined what criteria should be used to insure that a society's sentencing and parole process protects all U.S. citizens equally against unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment" and unmerciful, draconian, politically discriminatory, draconian sentencing. Many ANC members also were jailed for actions similar to those engaged in by Marilyn Buck. In her federal trial, Marilyn Buck and her co-defendant actually did participate in their legal defense. See, for example, article she wrote about her legal case at following link:


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