Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Assata Shakur: Black Radical and FBI's “Most Wanted”

 

Born JoAnne Deborah Byron on July 16, 1947, in New York City, Assata Shakur is the first woman to appear on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list. An activist in black radical groups such as the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, Shakur was convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in 1977, but supporters helped her escape prison and take refuge in Cuba.   

Shakur began to get into serious legal trouble during her involvement with the BLA. She faced charges related to bank robbery and an armed robbery in which she was shot. She also faced charges related to the murder of a drug dealer and the attempted murder of a policeman. Each time, the cases were thrown out or Shakur was not found guilty. But that would change.

On May 2, 1973, Shakur was in a car with two BLA members, Sundiata Acoli and her close friend Zayd Malik Shakur. State trooper James Harper stopped them on the New Jersey Turnpike. Another trooper, Werner Foerster, followed in a different patrol car. During the stop, gunfire was exchanged. Werner Foerster and Zayd Malik Shakur were killed, and Assata Shakur and Harper were wounded. Shakur was later charged with the murder of Foerster and spent several years incarcerated before her trial.

Shakur said she was terribly treated while imprisoned. She was placed in solitary confinement for more than a year in a men’s facility, tortured, and beaten, she wrote in her memoir. Her medical predicament was also an issue, as she became pregnant with the child of fellow inmate and BLA member Kamau Sadiki. In 1974, she gave birth to a daughter, Kakuya, behind bars.

While she was pregnant, Shakur’s murder trial was declared a mistrial for fear she would miscarry. But the trial was finally carried out in 1977. She was convicted of murder and several assault charges and sentenced to life in prison.

Her supporters claimed the trial was deeply unfair. They’ve argued that some jurors should have been removed, the defense team was bugged, documents were leaked to the New York City Police Department, and that evidence, such as the lack of gun residue on Shakur’s hands and injuries she sustained, should have exonerated her.

Two years after her murder conviction, BLA members and other activists posed as visitors to the prison and broke Shakur out. She lived underground for several years, eventually fleeing to Cuba in 1984. The nation’s then leader, Fidel Castro, granted her asylum. 

In the African American community, Shakur is regarded by many as a hero. As godmother to the late rapper Tupac Shakur, Shakur is a particular inspiration to hip-hop artists. She’s the subject of Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without a Pause,” Common’s “A Song for Assata,” and 2Pac’s "Words of Wisdom."  

See her full bio here  

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