[Ppnews] Assata - Let 1960s black activist return home in freedom

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 16 10:42:49 EDT 2007

Article published Jul 16, 2007
Let 1960s black activist return home in freedom
By Barbara Ransby

Assata Shakur turns 60 years old today.

A onetime member of the Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army, 
Shakur is still a target for some and a symbol for others. And, after 
all her years in exile, she has still managed to inspire a new generation.

In 1969, frustrated by a society still tightly in the grips of 
racism, she joined the Black Panthers, a group fighting against 
police brutality and racism toward poor African-Americans in urban centers.

She was not alone. Individuals who are now college professors, 
journalists and even one U.S. congressman were also members of the 

In 1973, Shakur was arrested after a deadly shootout on the New 
Jersey Turnpike that left one of her close friends and a New Jersey 
state trooper dead. Shakur herself was seriously wounded. Insisting 
that she shot no one and despite forensic evidence showing that she 
neither handled nor fired a weapon, Shakur was convicted by an 
all-white jury and sent to prison.

In 1979, she escaped and turned up years later in Cuba, where she was 
granted political asylum and where she remains today.

Some might argue that a convicted felon is undeserving of the support 
and sympathy Assata Shakur has garnered across the country.

But there are two things to remember in her case. One is the times in 
which she came of age, and two is what we have learned about 
government surveillance, repression and corruption since her arrest 
and conviction more than 30 years ago.

The FBI secretly monitored activists - from the Rev. Martin Luther 
King Jr. to the anti-Vietnam War activists. Not only did the agency 
spy on protest groups but it also actively tried to undermine and 
disrupt these groups.

Under the rubric of a project entitled COINTELPRO 
(counter-intelligence program), the FBI engaged in a variety of 
activities to silence government critics.

The recent revelation of the CIA's so-called collection of "family 
jewels" - which document covert operations - add another layer to 
this history. Those documents reveal attempts to assassinate Cuban 
leader Fidel Castro and Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

Given the record of repression and government mischief, it is easier 
to believe Shakur's assertion that she, too, was framed. Still, U.S. 
officials are demanding that she be extradited to New Jersey from 
Cuba. And in 2005, the state of New Jersey issued a $1 million reward 
for information leading to her capture.

In response, a group of young women and artists in the United States 
launched the Hands Off Assata movement, which has also formed the 
Happy Birthday, Assata Campaign.

A roster of celebrity supporters have joined the cause - from rappers 
Common and Mos Def to poet Sonia Sanchez and former Essence magazine 
editor Susan Taylor.

"Viewed through the lens of U.S. law enforcement, Shakur is an 
escaped cop-killer," says actor/rapper Mos Def. "Viewed through the 
lens of many black people, including me, she is a wrongly convicted 
woman and a hero of epic proportions."

She is a woman with a bounty on her head who, as of now, cannot come 
home to those who love and admire her.

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