Hands Off Assata Shakur!

The double-speak as described in the classic novel 1984 has already been throughly used here in the United States. We cal it the Defensehandsoffassata Department even though it has always been used for offense and has rarely defended anything. We call the agency in charge of deciding who destroys the environment, and how much they destroy it, the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now they’ve done it again by proclaiming that Assata Shakur, a long-time victim of Amerikkkan terrorism, Tupac’s aunt, and now a 65 year-old woman is a “terrorist.” Not only that, but she is the first woman to ever be put on the FBI list and the reward for her capture was raised from $1 million to $2 million. The words to Lowkey’s song “Terrorist” couldn’t fit any better…”they callin me a terrorist, like we don’t know who the terror is, insulting our intelligence, oh how these people judge.”

In New York the announcement sparked demonstrations and May 9th was officially declared “Hands Off Assata Shakur Day.” “We demand that the U.S. government totally rescind both its $2 million bounty and Most Wanted Terrorist designation on Assata Shakur, [aka] Joanne Chesimard, and that all efforts to secure her capture by armed bounty hunters, mercenaries and extradition tactics immediately cease,” said Black Panther Brother Shep in http://amsterdamnews.com. “We further demand that her political asylum and protection by the sovereign nation of Cuba be respected and that all U.S. law enforcement agents immediately end their own terrorism, harassment and defamation of Assata’s name, family, friends, comrades and supporters. Hands off Assata! She is innocent and she must remain free!” The crowd, chanted “Who’s the terrorist? Don’t tell no lie! The CIA and FBI,” in the Northeast corner of Harlem’s African Square (125th St. and Seventh Ave).

Common – A Song for Assata

Who is Assata Shakur?

In 1998, http://democracynow.org aired Shakur reading an open letter to Pope John Paul II during his trip to Cuba. She wrote the message after New Jersey state troopers sent the Pope a letter asking him to call for her extradition:

I understand that the New Jersey State Police have written to you and asked you to intervene and to help facilitate my extradition back to the United States. I believe that their request is unprecedented in history. Since they have refused to make their letter to you public, although they have not hesitated to publicize their request, I am completely uninformed as to the accusations they are making against me. Why, I wonder, do I warrant such attention? What do I represent that is such a threat?

Please let me take a moment to tell you about myself. My name is Assata Shakur and I was born and raised in the United States. I am a descendant of Africans who were kidnapped and brought to the Americas as slaves. I spent my early childhood in the racist segregated South. I later moved to the northern part of the country, where I realized that Black people were equally victimized by racism and oppression.

I grew up and became a political activist, participating in student struggles, the anti-war movement, and, most of all, in the movement for the liberation of African Americans in the United States. I later joined the Black Panther Party, an organization that was targeted by the COINTELPRO program, a program that was set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to eliminate all political opposition to the U.S. government’s policies, to destroy the Black Liberation Movement in the United States, to discredit activists and to eliminate potential leaders.

Under the COINTELPRO program, many political activists were harassed, imprisoned, murdered or otherwise neutralized. As a result of being targeted by COINTELPRO, I, like many other young people, was faced with the threat of prison, underground, exile or death. The FBI, with the help of local police agencies, systematically fed false accusations and fake news articles to the press accusing me and other activists of crimes we did not commit. Although in my case the charges were eventually dropped or I was eventually acquitted, the national and local police agencies created a situation where, based on their false accusations against me, any police officer could shoot me on sight. It was not until the Freedom of Information Act was passed in the mid-’70s that we began to see the scope of the United States government’s persecution of political activists.

At this point, I think that it is important to make one thing very clear. I have advocated and I still advocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the United States. I advocate self-determination for my people and for all oppressed inside the United States. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism, and the elimination of political repression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty.

To make a long story short, I was captured in New Jersey in 1973, after being shot with both arms held in the air, and then shot again from the back. I was left on the ground to die and when I did not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured. In 1977 I was convicted in a trial that can only be described as a legal lynching.

In 1979 I was able to escape with the aid of some of my fellow comrades. I saw this as a necessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knew that in the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraid that I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile as a political refugee.”

Why is this important?

From an interview by Minister of Information JR with M1 of Hip-Hop group dead prez featured at http://assatashakur.org:

JR: What is Assata Shakur’s importance to our cause?

M1: The U.S. government has again openly declared war against the poor and oppressed people of the world. Once again this declaration has assatacome in the form of this $1 million dollar bounty, which rests on the head of not only Assata Shakur but our movement, because the most important thing about the bounty that they placed on Assata Shakur, whom they call Joanne Chesimard, is that she represents the struggle inside our community that has not died. And they know very quickly the spark could re-inflame what is going on all around our community. So it is sending a message to the future revolutionaries, don’t become … because what we know will eventually happen. We retaliate against that kind of aggression against our people by saying, “Assata Shakur is welcome here.” And that idea that “Assata is welcome here” should be adopted by every hood, every Blood, every Crip, every Latin King, every old folks home, every school and every Boy Scout club. “Assata Shakur is welcome here” is the identity that the government is not welcomed in our lives and will not be tolerated when violating our basic rights of humanity.

More from Assata’s letter:

“The New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officials say they want to see me brought to “justice.” But I would like to know what they mean by “justice.” Is torture justice? I was kept in solitary confinement for more than two years, mostly in men’s prisons. Is that justice? My lawyers were threatened with imprisonment and imprisoned. Is that justice? I was tried by an all-white jury, without even the pretext of impartiality, and then sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years. Is that justice?

Let me emphasize that justice for me is not the issue I am addressing here; it is justice for my people that is at stake. When my people receive justice, I am sure that I will receive it, too. I know that Your Holiness will reach your own conclusions, but I feel compelled to present the circumstances surrounding the application of so-called “justice” in New Jersey. I am not the first or the last person to be victimized by the New Jersey system of “justice.” The New Jersey State Police are infamous for their racism and brutality. Many legal actions have been filed against them and just recently, in a class action legal proceeding, the New Jersey State Police were found guilty of having an, quote, “officially sanctioned, de facto policy of targeting minorities for investigation and arrest,” unquote.

Although New Jersey’s population is more than 78 percent white, more than 75 percent of the prison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos. Eighty percent of women in New Jersey prisons are women of color. There are 15 people on death row in the state and seven of them are Black. A 1987 study found that New Jersey prosecutors sought the death penalty in 50 percent of cases involving a Black defendant and a white victim, but only 28 percent of cases involving a Black defendant and a Black victim.

Unfortunately, the situation in New Jersey is not unique, but reflects the racism that permeates the entire country. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. There are more than 1.7 million people in U.S. prisons. This number does not include the more than 500,000 people in city and county jails, nor does it include the alarming number of children in juvenile institutions. The vast majority of those behind bars are people of color and virtually all of those behind bars are poor. The result of this reality is devastating. One third of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are either in prison or under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system.

Prisons are big business in the United States, and the building, running, and supplying of prisons has become the fastest growing industry in the country. Factories are being moved into the prisons and prisoners are being forced to work for slave wages. This super-exploitation of human beings has meant the institutionalization of a new form of slavery. Those who cannot find work on the streets are forced to work in prison.

Not only are the prisons used as instruments of economic exploitation, they also serve as instruments of political repression. There are more than 100 political prisoners in the United States. They are African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Native Americans, Asians, and progressive white people who oppose the policies of the United States government. Many of those targeted by the COINTELPRO program have been in prison since the early 1970s.

Although the situation in the prisons is an indication of human rights violations inside the United States, there are other, more deadly indicators.

There are currently 3,365 people now on death row, and more than 50 percent of those awaiting death are people of color. Black people make up only 13 percent of the population, but we make up 41.01 percent of persons who have received the death penalty. The number of state assassinations has increased drastically. In 1997 alone, 71 people were executed.

A special rapporteur appointed by the United Nations organization found serious human rights violations in the United States, especially those related to the death penalty. According to his findings, people who were mentally ill were sentenced to death, people with severe mental and learning disabilities, as well as minors under 18. Serious racial bias was found on the part of judges and prosecutors. Specifically mentioned in the report was the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the only political prisoner on death row, who was sentenced to death because of his political beliefs and because of his work as a journalist, exposing police brutality in the city of Philadelphia.

I believe that some people spell God with one “O” while others spell it with two. What we call God is unimportant, as long as we do God’s work. There are those who want to see God’s wrath fall on the oppressed and not on the oppressors. I believe that the time has ended when slavery, colonialism, and oppression can be carried out in the name of religion. It was in the dungeons of prison that I felt the presence of God up close, and it has been my belief in God, and in the goodness of human beings that has helped me to survive. I am not ashamed of having been in prison, and I am certainly not ashamed of having been a political prisoner. I believe that Jesus was a political prisoner who was executed because he fought against the evils of the Roman Empire, because he fought against the greed of the money changers in the temple, because he fought against the sins and injustices of his time. As a true child of God, Jesus spoke up for the poor, for the meek, for the sick, and the oppressed. The early Christians were thrown into lions’ dens. I will try and follow the example of so many who have stood up in the face of overwhelming oppression.

I am not writing to ask you to intercede on my behalf. I ask nothing for myself. I only ask you to examine the social reality of the United States and to speak out against the human rights violations that are taking place.

On this day, the birthday of Martin Luther King, I am reminded of all those who gave their lives for freedom. Most of the people who live on this planet are still not free. I ask only that you continue to work and pray to end oppression and political repression. It is my heartfelt belief that all the people on this earth deserve justice: social justice, political justice, and economic justice. I believe it is the only way we will ever achieve peace and prosperity on this earth. I hope that you enjoy your visit to Cuba. This is not a country that is rich in material wealth, but it is a country that is rich in human wealth, spiritual wealth and moral wealth.”

Respectfully yours,

Assata Shakur

Havana, Cuba

Advertisements


Categories: National News, Political History, Racism, Women's Issues

Tags:

1 reply

  1. Hey! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy
    reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with
    the same subjects? Thanks a ton!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: