Assata Shakur in Her Own Words|HANDS OFF ASSATA !!!
RBG| HANDS OFF ASSATA 1 | P a g eIn Her Own Words
RBG| HANDS OFF ASSATA 2 | P a g eAssata Shakur in Her Own Words“In 1998, Democracy Now! aired Shakurreading an open letter to Pope John Paul IIduring his trip to Cuba”| PlayThe FBI added Assata Shakur to its Most Wanted Terrorist List today. In addition, the state ofNew Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture.Shakur becomes the first woman ever to make the list and only the second domestic terrorist tobe added to the list.Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, was a member of the Black Panther Party andBlack Liberation Army. She was convicted in the May 2, 1973 killing of a New Jersey policeofficer during a shoot-out that left one of her fellow activists dead. She was shot twice by policeduring the incident. In 1979, she managed to escape from jail. Shakur fled to Cuba where shereceived political asylum. She once wrote, "I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of
RBG| HANDS OFF ASSATA 3 | P a g egovernment persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression,racism and violence that dominate the U.S. government’s policy towards people of color."In 1998, Democracy Now! aired Shakur reading an open letter to Pope John Paul II duringhis trip to Cuba. She wrote the message after New Jersey state troopers sent the Pope aletter asking him to call for her extradition.I hope this letter finds you in good health, in good disposition, and enveloped with the spirit ofgoodness. I must confess that it had never occurred to me before to write you, and I find myselfoverwhelmed and moved to have this opportunity.Although circumstances have compelled me to reach out to you, I am glad to have this occasionto try and cross the boundaries that would otherwise tend to separate us.I understand that the New Jersey State Police have written to you and asked you to intervene andto help facilitate my extradition back to the United States. I believe that their request isunprecedented in history. Since they have refused to make their letter to you public, althoughthey have not hesitated to publicize their request, I am completely uninformed as to theaccusations they are making against me. Why, I wonder, do I warrant such attention? What do Irepresent that is such a threat?Please let me take a moment to tell you about myself. My name is Assata Shakur and I was bornand raised in the United States. I am a descendant of Africans who were kidnapped and broughtto the Americas as slaves. I spent my early childhood in the racist segregated South. I latermoved to the northern part of the country, where I realized that Black people were equallyvictimized by racism and oppression.I grew up and became a political activist, participating in student struggles, the anti-warmovement, and, most of all, in the movement for the liberation of African Americans in theUnited States. I later joined the Black Panther Party, an organization that was targeted by theCOINTELPRO program, a program that was set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation toeliminate all political opposition to the U.S. government’s policies, to destroy the BlackLiberation Movement in the United States, to discredit activists and to eliminate potentialleaders.Under the COINTELPRO program, many political activists were harassed, imprisoned,murdered or otherwise neutralized. As a result of being targeted by COINTELPRO, I, like manyother 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 articlesto the press accusing me and other activists of crimes we did not commit. Although in my casethe charges were eventually dropped or I was eventually acquitted, the national and local policeagencies created a situation where, based on their false accusations against me, any police officercould 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 governments persecution of politicalactivists.
RBG| HANDS OFF ASSATA 4 | P a g eAt this point, I think that it is important to make one thing very clear. I have advocated and I stilladvocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the UnitedStates. I advocate self-determination for my people and for all oppressed inside the UnitedStates. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradicationof 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 botharms held in the air, and then shot again from the back. I was left on the ground to die and when Idid not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured. In 1977 I wasconvicted 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 anecessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knewthat in the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraidthat I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile asa political refugee.The New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officials say they want to see mebrought to "justice." But I would like to know what they mean by "justice." Is torture justice? Iwas kept in solitary confinement for more than two years, mostly in men’s prisons. Is thatjustice? My lawyers were threatened with imprisonment and imprisoned. Is that justice? I wastried by an all-white jury, without even the pretext of impartiality, and then sentenced to life inprison 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 mypeople that is at stake. When my people receive justice, I am sure that I will receive it, too. Iknow that Your Holiness will reach your own conclusions, but I feel compelled to present thecircumstances surrounding the application of so-called "justice" in New Jersey. I am not the firstor the last person to be victimized by the New Jersey system of "justice." The New Jersey StatePolice are infamous for their racism and brutality. Many legal actions have been filed againstthem and just recently, in a class action legal proceeding, the New Jersey State Police were foundguilty of having an, quote, "officially sanctioned, de facto policy of targeting minorities forinvestigation and arrest," unquote.Although New Jersey’s population is more than 78 percent white, more than 75 percent of theprison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos. Eighty percent of women in New Jerseyprisons are women of color. There are 15 people on death row in the state and seven of them areBlack. A 1987 study found that New Jersey prosecutors sought the death penalty in 50 percent ofcases involving a Black defendant and a white victim, but only 28 percent of cases involving aBlack defendant and a Black victim.Unfortunately, the situation in New Jersey is not unique, but reflects the racism that permeatesthe entire country. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. There aremore than 1.7 million people in U.S. prisons. This number does not include the more than500,000 people in city and county jails, nor does it include the alarming number of children injuvenile institutions. The vast majority of those behind bars are people of color and virtually all
RBG| HANDS OFF ASSATA 5 | P a g eof those behind bars are poor. The result of this reality is devastating. One third of Black menbetween the ages of 20 and 29 are either in prison or under the jurisdiction of the criminal justicesystem.Prisons are big business in the United States, and the building, running, and supplying of prisonshas become the fastest growing industry in the country. Factories are being moved into theprisons and prisoners are being forced to work for slave wages. This super-exploitation of humanbeings has meant the institutionalization of a new form of slavery. Those who cannot find workon the streets are forced to work in prison.Not only are the prisons used as instruments of economic exploitation, they also serve asinstruments of political repression. There are more than 100 political prisoners in the UnitedStates. They are African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Native Americans, Asians, andprogressive white people who oppose the policies of the United States government. Many ofthose 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 UnitedStates, there are other, more deadly indicators.There are currently 3,365 people now on death row, and more than 50 percent of those awaitingdeath are people of color. Black people make up only 13 percent of the population, but we makeup 41.01 percent of persons who have received the death penalty. The number of stateassassinations has increased drastically. In 1997 alone, 71 people were executed.A special rapporteur appointed by the United Nations organization found serious human rightsviolations in the United States, especially those related to the death penalty. According to hisfindings, people who were mentally ill were sentenced to death, people with severe mental andlearning disabilities, as well as minors under 18. Serious racial bias was found on the part ofjudges 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 politicalbeliefs and because of his work as a journalist, exposing police brutality in the city ofPhiladelphia.I believe that some people spell God with one "O" while others spell it with two. What we callGod is unimportant, as long as we do God’s work. There are those who want to see God’s wrathfall 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 ofprison that I felt the presence of God up close, and it has been my belief in God, and in thegoodness of human beings that has helped me to survive. I am not ashamed of having been inprison, and I am certainly not ashamed of having been a political prisoner. I believe that Jesuswas a political prisoner who was executed because he fought against the evils of the RomanEmpire, because he fought against the greed of the money changers in the temple, because hefought against the sins and injustices of his time. As a true child of God, Jesus spoke up for thepoor, 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 ofoverwhelming oppression.
RBG| HANDS OFF ASSATA 6 | P a g eI am not writing to ask you to intercede on my behalf. I ask nothing for myself. I only ask you toexamine the social reality of the United States and to speak out against the human rightsviolations that are taking place.On this day, the birthday of Martin Luther King, I am reminded of all those who gave their livesfor freedom. Most of the people who live on this planet are still not free. I ask only that youcontinue to work and pray to end oppression and political repression. It is my heartfelt belief thatall the people on this earth deserve justice: social justice, political justice, and economic justice. Ibelieve it is the only way we will ever achieve peace and prosperity on this earth. I hope that youenjoy your visit to Cuba. This is not a country that is rich in material wealth, but it is a countrythat is rich in human wealth, spiritual wealth and moral wealth.Respectfully yours,Assata ShakurHavana, CubaAngela Davis and Assata Shakur’s LawyerDenounce FBI’s Adding of Exiled Activist toTerrorists List | Play Video