Here are some highlights of Marilyn Buck’s years of activism, imprisonment, and lifelong learning. For a more complete biography, be see: marilynbuck.com/about.html.
EARLY LIFE and ANTI-RACIST ACTIVISM
Marilyn was born in 1947 in Temple, Texas, to Virginia, a nurse, and Louis, an Episcopal minister. She had three younger brothers. During her early years her father was assigned to minister at a Black church in town. After the family’s move to Austin when she was a teenager, and as the civil rights movement intensified, she became involved in anti-racist activism.
Over the next decade, her activism was interwoven with Black liberation, the movement against the US war in Vietnam, radical media, and early stirrings of the resurgence of women’s liberation. She joined Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), edited their newspaper New Left Notes in Chicago, and helped lead the organization’s first workshop on women’s liberation. In 1968, Marilyn returned to the Bay Area to work with an alternative newspaper and Third World Newsreel. As the Black liberation struggle grew in power and determination, Marilyn’s political work focused increasingly on solidarity with that movement. In 1973, when Marilyn was 26, she was arrested for procuring firearms for the Black Liberation Army and sentenced to 10 years in prison for buying two boxes of legal ammunition with false ID. At the time, that was the longest sentence ever given for such an offense.
CLANDESTINITY AND CAPTURE
Despite being a model prisoner, Marilyn was repeatedly denied parole. After serving four years, Marilyn was granted a furlough from prison and did not return. She spent the next eight years underground, in clandestinity. She was recaptured in 1985. In addition to charges related to Assata Shakur’s escape, she was convicted of conspiracy to protest government policies through the use of violence against government property. Her total sentence was 80 years!
INCARCERATION AND TRANSITION
During her incarceration, Marilyn received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the New College of California and constantly wrote: poems, articles, letters, statements, interviews eventually receiving her Master’s of Fine Arts in Poetics and publishing scores of poems in journals and anthologies. She also worked with other prisoners to support women affected by the devastation of the HIV/AIDS crisis, was a loyal participant in the Poetry for the People workshops at FCI Dublin, which deeply influenced a new generation of poets and continued promoting solidarity with political prisoners and liberation struggles around the world. In 2008 Marilyn was granted a parole date of August 8, 2010 and then with less than twelve months left to serve, Marilyn was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive uterine cancer. Despite surgery and chemotherapy, treatment came too late to save her life. Thanks to the determined efforts of her longtime friend and attorney Soffiyah Elijah, Marilyn was granted an early release on July 15th, 2010. She passed peacefully at home in the company of loving friends on August 3, 2010.
Marilyn was awarded three prizes by the PEN Prison Writing Program, including first prize for poetry in 2001. Her poems can be found in many collections, in her chapbook, Rescue the Word, and in Inside Out: Selected Poems (City Lights). Her poems from this CD can be found on the poems page.