Tuesday, August 01, 2006

“Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur. This classic autobiography of the heroine revolutionary, Assata Shakur belongs on every progressive bookshelf alongside “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”. This is a tale of turbulent times told with serenity. For someone often called a “cop hater” by her enemies, Assata’s words come from a place of pure love, love for the people of her nation and love for oppressed peoples everywhere. Considering the tremendous abuse she has suffered at the hands of the United States for the better part of the 1970’s, there is no doubt some hatred in her heart - hatred put there in part by hundreds of years of oppression and racism. This is the background no one should forget when reading the story leading to Assata’s arrest and subsequent railroading at the hands of the state, under the guise of “the people”. She was shot, tortured and thrown in a hole in the name of “the people”, in my name and your name. She has been called the “high priestess of the… Black Liberation Army” in the “Daily News” during the press’ efforts in conjunction with the state to frame Assata for a whole string of trumped up charges. Yet, in Charles E. Jones excellent book “The Black Panther Party (Reconsidered)” Assata is referred to as merely a rank-and-file member of the Black Panther Party. In a way, both of these characterizations are accurate. Assata’s career as a revolutionary began quite humbly as a worker for the Panthers. Apparently, she was thrown into the “leadership” spotlight only after she was identified by the state as a “person of interest” wanted for questioning in relation to the murder of a cop in May of 1971. This one false identification threw Assata’s life into the whirlwind of the underground revolution, where she remained until her capture three years later in May of 1973. She was tried and acquitted three times. Once there was a hung jury. Three times cases were dismissed. Still Assata remained locked away for most of a decade, often as not in solitary confinement in the worst of conditions of the prison system within the prison system the United States government reserves for its political prisoners and prisoner’s of war. All of this happened long before the recent well-publicized prisoner abuses related to the so-called “war on terror”. No wonder the current administration assumes it can get away with this shit. Our government has been doing the same thing to its African American prisoner population for, well basically, since the creation of the union. Finally, Assata was convicted on charges stemming from the incidents that occurred when she was originally arrested! Convicted on evidence that does not come close to proving her guilt. Nevertheless, the system simply could not hold a revolutionary force as great as Assata. No amount of steel and concrete could keep her locked up forever. On November 2nd 1979, Black Solidarity Day, Assata escaped. She is living safely in Cuba. As Evelyn Williams says elsewhere, in reference to Assata’s daughter, she is “not living in the drug-infested, death-driven racist country that might claim her life.” I would love to know more operational details of Assata’s escape and of her activities with the Black Liberation movement, but so would the FBI and the CIA and every other WWW (Wicked White Warmonger) out their spying through the proverbial keyhole. For those stories we will have to wait for her next book, perhaps published after the revolution has finally shut down the ugly forces of imperialism, racism and war. That is an on-going process that none of us will see the end of. Assata’s story is just one of many small stories within the process of revolution.


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