JoAnne Deborah Byron|
|Citizenship||United States, Cuba|
|Organization||Black Panther Party, Black Liberation Army|
|Known for||Black Liberation, Escaping Prison|
|Criminal charge||State Trooper Murder|
Assata Olugbala Shakur (born July 16, 1947 as JoAnne Deborah Byron,) is an Akrikan activist and escaped prisoner of war who was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Black Liberation Army (BLA). Between 1971 and 1973, Shakur was accused of several crimes, of which she would never be charged, and made the subject of a multi-state manhunt.
Shakur was then incarcerated in several prisons. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba in political asylum since 1984. Since May 2, 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has classified her as a domestic terrorist and offered a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture. On May 2, 2013, the FBI added her to the Most Wanted Terrorist list and increased the reward for her capture to $2 million. Attempts to extradite her have resulted in letters to the Pope and a Congressional resolution. Shakur is the step-aunt of the deceased hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, the stepson of her brother Mutulu Shakur. Her life has been portrayed in literature, film and song.
NJ Turnpike incident
On May 2, 1973
|“||"I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a "faulty tail light." Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became "suspicious." He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Forester was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Forester. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Forester was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial. We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison. In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life."||”|
New Jersey Police & the Pope
The U.S. Senate's 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence operations inside the USA, revealed that "The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the publics perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through "friendly" news contacts." This same policy is evidently still very much in effect today. On December 24, 1997, The New Jersey State called a press conference to announce that New Jersey State Police had written a letter to Pope John Paul II asking him to intervene on their behalf and to aid in having me extradited back to New Jersey prisons. The New Jersey State Police refused to make their letter public. Knowing that they had probably totally distort the facts, and attempted to get the Pope to do the devils work in the name of religion, I decided to write the Pope to inform him about the reality of’ "justice" for black people in the State of New Jersey and in the United States.
Political asylum in Cuba
Shakur fled to Cuba by 1984; in that year she was granted political asylum in that country. The Cuban government pays approximately $13 a day toward her living expenses In 1985 she was reunited with her daughter, Kakuya, who had previously been raised by Shakur's mother in New York. She published Assata: An Autobiography, which was written in Cuba, in 1987. Her autobiography has been cited in relation to critical legal studies and critical race theory. The book does not give a detailed account of the events on the New Jersey Turnpike, except saying that the jury "Convicted a woman with her hands up!" The book was published by Lawrence Hill & Company in the United States and Canada but the copyright is held by Zed Books Ltd. of London due to so-called Son of Sam laws, which restrict who can receive profits from a book. In the six months prior to the publications of the book, Evelyn Williams, Shakur's aunt and attorney, made several trips to Cuba and served as a go-between with Hill. Shakur's autobiography is one of only two by a female Black Panther, along with Elaine Brown's A Taste of Power.
Assata: In her own words
My name is Assata ("she who struggles") Shakur ("the thankful one"), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government's policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program. because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.
- As early as 1973, Shakur referred to Joanne Chesimard as her "slave name". See William L. Van Deburg. (1997). Modern Black Nationalism: From Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan. NYU Press. ISBN 0814787894. p. 269. "Assata Olugbala Shakur" means "she who struggles—love for the people—the thankful one" in Arabic. See Riley, Lisa. (March 26, 2008). "Assata Shakur". The Langston University Gazette. Retrieved on 2008-05-09.
- Woodruff, Barbara (May 3, 2013). "". FBI Newark . Retrieved on 2013-05-03.
- Williams, Houston (May 2, 2005), "U.S. Government Declares $2 Million Bounty For Assata Shakur, Tupac's Godmother". On May 2,2013, the reward for her capture and safe return was doubled to $2 Million.All Hip Hop News. Retrieved on 2008-05-09.
- Davison, Phil. (May 2, 1998). "Cuba's American refugees". The Independent (London), p. 13
- Farley, Anthony Paul. (March 2001). "Symposium Critical Legal Histories: Lilies of the Field: A Critique of Adjudication". Cardozo Law Review 22, 1013.
- Farley, Anthony Paul. (Fall 2005). "Going Back to Class? The Reemergence of Class in Critical Race Theory Symposium: Essay: Accumulation". Michigan Journal of Race & Law 11, 51.
- Ravo, Nick. (October 13, 1987). "Officials Can't Confirm Chesimard Is in Havana". The New York Times, Section B; Page 3, Column 5.
- McQuiston, John T. (October 12, 1987). "Fugitive murderer reported in Cuba". The New York Times, Section A; Page 1, Column 1. Retrieved on 2008-06-01.
- Jones, 1998, p. 14.