by Jabari Scott
Meet a sista, comrade, soldier, warrior, guerrilla who exemplifies the meaning of revolution through the life that she lives, transforming from the day of her birth to this present day. Born with the slave name JoAnne Deborah Byron, after her emancipation from the shackles of capitalism she took on the name we’re most familiar with, Sista Assata Olugbala Shakur – Assata meaning “she who struggles,” Olugbala meaning “love for the people,” Shakur meaning “the thankful.”
Assata was raised by a small tribe of family members who instilled the toughness of surviving the racist South with a strong sense of personal dignity and respect. But because of how deep the claws of capitalism were gouged into the social fibers of the family tribe, the key to living a successful life was having your American piece of the pie or living the American dream, a dream that was and is only an illusion, a lure to keep you in a guided trance, sinking deeper into the trenches of capitalism. Thus it became young Asssata’s dream to live such a life.
So much so in her teens she began to rebel against the family tribe to experience life her way, out on her own. Our young naive sista immediately got engulfed into the fast street life and took to small, petty larceny crimes as means of survival. In no time our young brave sista began to master street survival tactics, and life out on the streets started to become easy and very dangerous at the same time.
This fast paced lifestyle was not the cup of tea that filled her. But it was a lifestyle she could count on to get by.
After her emancipation from the shackles of capitalism she took on the name we’re most familiar with, Sista Assata Olugbala Shakur – Assata meaning “she who struggles,” Olugbala meaning “love for the people,” Shakur meaning “the thankful.”
Assata’s early college years came at a time when struggle and the activity of Black consciousness and nationalism was on an upswing. The beat of Afrikan drums could be heard throughout the college campus and ghetto neighborhood, and talk of revolution began to be expressed in many ways.
Assata began to dive deeper into her Afrikan heritage and her identity as a New Afrikan woman surviving on the blood-soaked stolen soil of a forgotten people. Her love for her people began to be expressed in her words: “I love Black people. I don’t care what they are doing, but when Black people are struggling, that’s when they are most beautiful to me.”
Assata’s studies and intrigue guided her closer toward her revolutionary destiny. This is when Assata began to extract her old capitalist ways of thinking – replacing them with a more revolutionary way of thinking. As she shed more and more of her capitalistic ways, she became more and more revolutionary, and as she became more revolutionary, her destiny as a New Afrikan woman became clear to her and her responsibility to her people became a clear conscious thought and part of her daily activities.
Assata’s story of revolutionary change reads like many of our own. Assata is a strong Afrikan soldier who dared to take revolution on her own shoulders and carry it to its next transition, and her contributions, sacrifices and struggles will always be historic, a guiding light for those who dare to bear the torch, and our sista will always be a living martyr for the struggle.
Thus let us give tribute to our sista in arms by highlighting her contribution to the struggle we maintain today.
Power to all the people who don’t fear freedom!
In a spirit of love,
Send our brother some love and light: Aaron Jabari Scott, H-30536, CSP Cor 3A-2-143, P.O. Box 3461, Corcoran CA 93212.
Exiled Panther Assata Shakur feted at 70!
by the New Jersey Black Panther Party Commemoration Committee
On Sunday, July 16, a cross section of activists, artists and humanitarians came together to salute Assata Shakur, the long exiled Black Panther who resides in Cuba, to mark her 70th birthday. The gathering was called For the Love of Freedom: Assata Is Always Welcome Here, An Honoring of 70 Years of a Committed Life.
It was not the usual maligning of Shakur in connection with the bounty on her head that comes from the New Jersey State Police, the FBI and the law enforcement community. Instead, it was an evening of poetry, dance, song and testimony, appreciating the activist’s lifetime commitment to the struggle for human dignity.
On Sunday, July 16, a cross section of activists, artists and humanitarians came together to salute Assata Shakur, the long exiled Black Panther who resides in Cuba, to mark her 70th birthday.
Shakur was born on July 16, 1947, to a proud, independent Black family from Wilmington, North Carolina. At the turn of the 20th century, Wilmington was the site of a vicious ethnic cleansing attack that literally ran legions of African Americans from the town. Shakur’s grandparents dared to be landowning business persons against this violently segregated background. It is from this background that would emerge her own commitment and courage that she would take into the Black Panther Party as a college student.
When the Black Panther Party was faced with the dangerous distinction of being labelled the “greatest threat to the internal security” of the country by the FBI, and when New York chapters of the party came under particular attack after surviving the NY 21 case, a case where 21 Panthers, officers and rank and file members were put on trial for bogus conspiracy charges to commit terrorist acts, charges that would have landed them in prison for the rest of their lives, Shakur and a number of other Panthers opted to go underground and create the Black Liberation Army to continue their fight.
On May 2, 1973, Shakur was shot and critically injured in an incident on the New Jersey Turnpike that would capture international attention. It is often referred to as the ‘Turnpike Incident,” an apparent racial profiling stop by a NJ State Trooper. The incident left Shakur critically wounded, Zayd Shakur, the apparent driver, dead and Trooper Werner Foerster dead.
At her trial, forensic evidence clearly established that Shakur was shot with her hands up and that the trooper who made the stop, James Harper, by his own admission, started the shooting and fled the scene. Yet Shakur and her co-defendant, Sundiata Acoli, now 80 and still incarcerated, were each given sentences of life plus 30 years, after being convicted for the murder of Trooper Foerster.
On Nov. 2, 1979, Shakur was liberated from what was then the Clinton Correctional Facility in one of the most incredible moments in the history of the Black Liberation Movement after enduring threats on her life while in prison. She was since given exile in Cuba. She currently has a $2 million bounty for her capture and was put on the FBI’s Domestic Terrorist List retroactively several years ago.
Meanwhile, supporters of Shakur and many others in the human rights community believe that cases like hers should be reopened in the context of a Truth And Reconciliation Commission that takes on how racism drove police violence and repression during that period, a framework comparable to what emerged in South Africa on their road to dismantling Apartheid.
Supporters of Shakur and many others in the human rights community believe that cases like hers should be reopened in the context of a Truth And Reconciliation Commission that takes on how racism drove police violence and repression during that period.
In 1987, Shakur penned a moving memoir of her life story, “Assata: An Autobiography.” She has lent her voice to other humanitarian efforts and to the support many other of her comrades from the Black Panther Party who are still in prison as a result of the now well-known COINTELPRO operations that were empanelled to destroy the party and other important Black leaders.
She is the subject of a moving film, “Eyes of the Rainbow,” by critically acclaimed Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando Ocasio. While murderously maligned by mainstream press and racist and opportunist politicians, she is considered a miraculous surviving link to the Underground Railroad legacy of her ancestors.
“Assata was not even an officer or a leader in the party, and yet there was this obsession with going after her, or rather with going after rank and file members of the party, as intensely as they were going after its leadership. What happened to her is a prime example of the length that the government was willing to go to destroy the party,” said Zayid Muhammad, a longtime supporter of Shakur and a principal organizer of the gathering.
“The fact that she survived her incredible ordeal and was able to secure some semblance of freedom, albeit exiled, is a testimony to the spiritual will of our people to survive the worse expressions of oppression and to be free,” he concluded.
Millions for Prisoners Human Rights: Why we march
Assata Shakur, exiled in Cuba, who is on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist list, wrote of a brief encounter she had in prison that explains why the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March is being held in Washington, D.C., San Jose, Calif., and other U.S. cities on Aug. 19, 2017. In “Assata: An Autobiography,” she wrote of asking a prison guard:
“Don’t you know that slavery was outlawed?
“’No,’ the guard said, ‘you’re wrong. Slavery was outlawed with the exception of prisons. Slavery is legal in prisons.’
“I looked it up and sure enough, she was right. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution says:
“’Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.’
“Well, that explained a lot of things. That explained why jails and prisons all over the country are filled to the brim with Black and Third World people, why so many Black people can’t find a job on the streets and are forced to survive the best way they know how. Once you’re in prison, there are plenty of jobs, and, if you don’t want to work, they beat you up and throw you in a hole.
“If every state had to pay workers to do the jobs prisoners are forced to do, the salaries would amount to billions … Prisons are a profitable business. They are a way of legally perpetuating slavery. In every state more and more prisons are being built and even more are on the drawing board. Who are they for? They certainly aren’t planning to put white people in them. Prisons are part of this government’s genocidal war against Black and Third World people.”
This was broadcast March 28, 2016, by Democracy Now!