Searching For Assata Shakur

Disclaimer: I wrote this paper back in college when I was filled with fire!

assata_shakur

If asked the question, “How much would you be willing to sacrifice for your beliefs?” the average individual would probably look bewildered. Would you be willing to give up your friends, family, freedom, even possibly your life for a cause that was dear to you? The cynic inside me says, “Probably not.” In American society, people have a tendency to speak with much grandiloquence about their beliefs but when asked to sacrifice for those same beliefs, they crumble. Assata Shakur did not. Assata Shakur is a revolutionary and one of the most wrongly convicted individuals in U.S. history. Her story is a sad chapter in American history, in which race, social class, political affiliation, and gender played a role in her subsequent exile from her homeland.

On May 2, 1973, racial prejudice would forever change the life of Assata Shakur. An incident of what would now be labeled “racial profiling” took place on the New Jersey Turnpike. Ms. Shakur, an active participant in the Black Liberation Army (BLA), was traveling with friends, Malik Zayad Shakur and Sundiata Acoli when state troopers stopped them, reportedly because of a broken headlight. A trooper explained that they looked suspicious because the Vermont license plates on the vehicle they were driving. The three were made to exit the car with their hands up. Suddenly, shots were fired and when it was over, state trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were killed.

Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were charged with the deaths of state trooper Foerster and Zayd Malik Shakur. While held in jail, she was shackled and chained to a bed, with bullet wounds still in her chest. She was also forced to undergo the jabs of shotgun butts of the New Jersey State troopers and heard their voices shouting Nazi slogans and threats to her life. In the history of New Jersey had a female prisoner ever been treated as she, confined to a men’s prison and placed under a constant twenty-four hour surveillance of her most intimate bodily functions.

Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were eventually sentenced to life plus thirty-three years. Although the verdict was no surprise since they were convicted by an all-white jury, many questioned the racial injustice of the trial because it was riddled with several human rights violations and constitutional errors. The pretrial publicity was extremely negative and African-Americans were purposely excluded from the jury. Even more incredible was the fact Ms. Shakur was shot with her arms in the air, making it anatomically impossible for her to commit the murders she was convicted of.

However, in the country of the United States where there is allegedly freedom, justice, and liberty for all, the only people who have that luxury are white men. Ms. Shakur had the triple jeopardy of being Black, female, and poor and she was a member of a political organization that had been targeted by the CIA and the FBI because of its political views. Any organization that challenges the status quo has to be eliminated at all costs.

Assata Shakur spent six and a half years in prison, two of those in solitary confinement. During that time, she was beaten and tortured on a daily basis. Although there is no mention of rape, she was probably sexually harassed everyday of her imprisonment. While imprisoned, she gave birth to her daughter Kakuya who was taken away from her a week after her birth. In 1979, fearing for her life, she made a daring escape that continues to infuriate the United States government to this day. There was a nationwide search for her but not a trace of her or the people who aided her escape was ever found. In 1984, she was granted political asylum by Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba and was finally united with her daughter. On May 2, 2005, the federal government issued a statement in which they labeled Ms. Shakur a domestic terrorist. In addition to doing that, the government also increased the bounty on her head from $150,000 to an unprecedented $1,000,000.

When I first read about Ms. Shakur, I cried. I could not believe what this woman went through for fighting for basic human rights. Because of the triple jeopardy of race, sex, and class and her political affiliation, she was unjustly sentenced to jail for a murder she did not commit. According to research, African-American women experience more bias in the courts than White women on the basis that White women are presumed to be good mothers by virtue of marital status (Andersen, p.285) and Black women are not. Black women have been historically stereotyped as sexually deviant troublemakers who need to be controlled.

Also, according to the Labeling Theory, groups with the power to label individuals deviant, exercise total control over what and who is considered deviant. Ms. Shakur was deemed to be deviant by the courts and the U.S. government because of her race, gender, political beliefs, and class status; therefore, she was sentenced to prison without any due process of the law.

While in prison, she received horrific treatment at the hands of her jailers. During her pregnancy, she received no prenatal care and the authorities even tried to starve her so she would miscarry. Although this type of treatment of female prisoners is extreme, most do not receive adequate medical treatment while in prison. According to research, health care in women’s prisons is limited, and prenatal care is nonexistent. If pregnant, female prisoners’ babies are taken right after birth. They are also treated no differently than men in prison. Ms. Shakur experienced this first hand and she was beaten every day the six years she was in prison.

Writing this paper was one of the most emotionally wrenching projects I have ever done. Reading about Ms. Shakur’s experiences brought feelings of pain and anger but my feelings are minuscule when I think about the tears that she wept and still weeps. Imagine being convicted for the murders of two people, one of them your best friend and you are innocent. Imagine your other friend being convicted of the same murders and he was innocent too. Imagine being mentally tortured, beaten, and starved for six years of your life, living in a cage. Imagine giving birth to your daughter and having her taken away a week later. Imagine escaping from prison and being exiled away from your family and friends, knowing that you might not see them or the country of your birth again.

These are things that Assata Shakur experience everyday of her life and knowing that makes me as guilty as the criminal system that wrongly convicted her. I am guilty because I was ignorant of her history and had forgotten about the struggles of her and many African-Americans who fought for equality in this country. This woman in essence, gave her life for a cause she held dear and how many people are willing to that? She was and still is, a true warrior woman in every sense of the word. The only thing I can do to repay Assata and others who have sacrificed their lives in the battle for equality is to raise my children to be strong, productive members of their race who are proud of their heritage, and not afraid to fight for their rights.

A revolutionary woman can’t have no reactionary man. If he’s not about liberation, if he’s not about struggle, if he ain’t about building a strong Black family, if he ain’t about building a strong Black nation, then he ain’t about nothing. – Assata Shakur

 

A Christmas Tale

my mommy

Christmas has lost a lot of its sparkle for me since my mother died nine years ago in the month of December. There have been times, I have literally just wanted to curl up in a corner and just weep during this season but I have to keep going. Not just for me but my children and grandson. For her too because she made an incredible come back the Christmas season of 1978. Here it goes.

Right after Thanksgiving, my mother’s heath started failing. She was lethargic and sluggish but she went to work like the soldier she was. One Friday night, she couldn’t take it anymore and her niece and my cousin Cleo took her the hospital. She drove her car on three flat tires in one of the worst winters in Chicago history and got my mother checked in at a hospital on 61st and Ellis.

While in the hospital, my mother found out that she was a diabetic and that her glucose sugar level was at 900 and if she had not come in, she would gone into a coma and probably died. That was a scary thought to my then eight-year old self because she was all I had and she was everything to me.

She was in the hospital for almost three weeks; a long time for a clingy child to be without her mother. I told myself I would not cry and I didn’t but I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to Christmas. I learned a long time ago that there was no white man in a red suit that brought me my presents and that my mother did. So I pondered what would happen if she didn’t get out on time. I wanted my mother to come home so bad but I also wanted some presents.

But she did get out and she made miracles happen! She purchased my brother Larry a silk gray shirt and slacks complete with Stacy Adams and he thought he was the shit when he put it on. She brought Randy, my other brother some skates because it was 1978 and he was about that disco life and skating at the Rink on Disco Night.

And for me? The usual collage of dolls and dishes she knew I loved. Thirty-seven years later when I look back at on my mother’s strength and perseverance, I cannot help but marvel. Damn near died, hadn’t been to work in almost a month and she managed to find money to take care of her children for Christmas. So when I am feeling low during this time, I just remember my mother and pull myself together. She was a remarkable woman.

A Letter to My Molester

This letter was originally written five years ago a few months before my fortieth birthday.  Unfortunately, this bastard was let out of prison in 2013 and is currently non-compliant.  Which means there a convicted child molester who spent 16 years in prison for the rape of a six-year-old girl running the streets of Chicago. He was 62-years-old at the time. Now he is 82. An old ass nasty child molesting bastard.

Today I learned that the bastard died three years ago at the age of 85. I thought I would feel some closure but I don’t. Because this bastard live to be in his 80s and my mother and so many of my matriarchs didn’t. And that isn’t fair.

pamgrier

Lawrence Correctional Center
10930 Lawrence Road
Sumner, IL 62466
Dear Mr. Hunt:
This letter to you has been a long time coming. If you don’t remember me, my name is Kathy Henry, your ex-girlfriend, Gertrude’s daughter. You came into my life when I was ten-years-old and from the moment you appeared, I knew you was not shit. My mother thought that I was just jealous because I never had to share her before, but instinctively I knew that your presence would mean no good for me.
At first, you seemed like a good man for my mother. You helped pay her bills, gave me an allowance and pretended that you were a stand-up guy and father figure but you weren’t shit. You were and still are a child-molesting, motherfucking pig who took away my innocence when I was eleven-years-old.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:10:08 --- Batch Resized

Do you remember coming into my bedroom when my mother was asleep and feeling on my-then-budding body? I used to lie in my bed, fearing when you would come over because that meant I would have to sleep in my street clothes instead of a nightgown to protect myself. No little girl should have to go through that but that was my life for four years. Four fucking years.
You never penetrated me vaginally, but the damage you inflicted on my psyche was immeasurable. I was just a little girl whose only thoughts were of Barbie Dolls, books and my cat Boogie-Woogie and you made me feel like a filthy whore because the feelings you stirred in my body felt good. How could a good girl feel like that? From then on, I believed that I was no good and I blame you for that.
I became sexually active at the age of fifteen and was the mother to two children by time I was twenty-one-years old. No one put a gun to my head, but you made me feel like I was just a piece of ass and for a long time I believed that no decent man would want a nasty, dirty female like me who got herself molested because I was wearing a size 38 Double D bra at the age of eleven.
I never told my mother you molested me because I was afraid that she would not believe me. I only told her after you got arrested for taking away the innocence of another little girl, age six and the pain in my mother’s face is something that will haunt me until my dying day.
You are scheduled for parole on July 21, 2011, nine days before your 78th birthday, but the system kept your sorry ass in prison and if I have my way you will never get out because I plan on doing everything in my power to make sure your slimy ass stays behind bars for the rest of your life. You do not deserve to be free on the streets to have another opportunity to ruin another little girl’s life. God knows how many little girls you molested, but as long as I have breath in my body you will never walk the streets of Chicago again.
It is not fair that you are alive to see another birthday and my mother is dead. She died five years ago from complications from diabetes, and I still mourn her passing every day. But the world is not fair. She is in a better place and not in pain but you have been in pain every day. No freedom, referred to as a number, no normal sex life. Oh, I forgot, you are not a normal man anyway, but a fucking pervert.
I hope that the last fifteen years of your life has been hell on earth and that you are getting molested by some big, burly dude on a nightly basis. Child molesters get treated like shit in prison and I know that you have received your comeuppance. Do you lie on your bunk at night, scared and shaking, hearing the footsteps of your predator, knowing what is going to happen? Good.
Just one more question and I will leave you alone, Mr. Hunt. How could you destroy my life so willfully? I was a little girl, and with one-act you took away my innocence and my ability to ever trust a man fully. I have come to the conclusion at the age of forty-one that I will probably never get married because I do not have it in me to give myself totally in a relationship because I do not trust men.
In a just society, you would have been sentenced to life in prison for your crimes, but unfortunately that is not the way of the American judicial system. Maybe you have repented, but I doubt it. A leopard doesn’t change his spots but learns to camouflage. God may have mercy on your soul, but I don’t and I hope that you rot in hell.
Sincerely,
Kathy M. Henry

We Will Not Forget – Black Pain and White Racism

black-lives Last night, nine Black people were murdered, including state senator Clementa Pinckney, were killed in an act of domestic terrorism while attending Wednesday night prayer services at their church in Charleston, South Carolina. State senator Pinckney was the senior pastor at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest church in the South and it was established in 1816 by Denmark Vesey, who was later implicated in a slave revolt and was subsequently hanged. These murders also took place on the anniversary of this same slave revolt dated June 17, 1822.

If I closed my eyes, I would swear I was in some kind of twisted time warp. It is 2015 and black children are being beaten and arrested for swimming in pools designated allegedly for white people, black churches are being targeted by racist psychotics and black people are being hunted down like prey by the police. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Although black people have opportunities now that our ancestors could not imagine, we are still not free in the true sense of the word. True freedom means being able to live a life without constant worrying about whether you or your children will become a victim of police violence because of your skin color. True freedom means being able to worship freely at your church without worrying about whether a lone, white male will come in and start shooting O.K. Corral style because his ass is deranged and filled with hate. True freedom means being able to live your life according to your standard without worrying about white retaliation. For as long as American society continues to bury its head about the sins of the past and acknowledge black pain, black people will never be free.

Although American society would like to pretend that racism is an antique of the past and that black people just need to get over it, we cannot. The reality is that a black life don’t mean shit. As long as black lives are not valued and a 12-year-old girl’s jaw is fractured and her ribs are broken by a white male police officer, we will not get over it. Until there is justice for Tamir, Rekia, Trayvon, Tanisha, and the thousands of other black people who were murdered for the sin of blackness, we will never get over institutionalized racism. This country was built on the blood, sweat, tears, and grit of Black slaves who were brought here against their will, never received any type of compensation after they were freed and whose descendants are still getting treated like shit because they are black. We will never forget so just get used to it.