Thursday, July 20, 2017

belated hapi b day assata


“To move a blade of grass is to change the world…”
Huey P. Newton
July  2017
            On Sunday, July 16th, a cross section of activists, artists and humanitarians will come together to salute Assata Shakur, the long exiled Black Panther who resides in Cuba to mark her 70th birthday.
          The gathering is called ‘For The Love Of Freedom: Assata Is Always Welcome Here-An Honoring of 70 Years of a Committed Life.
          It will not be the usual maligning of Shakur in connection with the bounty on her head that comes from the NJ State Police, the FBI and the law enforcement community.
          Instead, it will be an evening of poetry, dance, song, testimony and more, appreciating the activist’s lifetime commitment to the struggle for human dignity.
          Shakur was born on July 16th, 1947 to a proud, independent Black family from Wilmington, North Carolina. At the turn of the 20th century, Wilmington was the site of a vicious ethnic cleansing attack that literally ran legions of African Americans from the town. Shakur’s grandparents dared to be landowning business persons against this violently segregated background. It is from this background that would emerge her own commitment and courage that she would take into the Black Panther Party as a college student.
          When the Black Panther Party was faced with the dangerous distinction of  being labelled the ‘greatest threat to the internal security’ of the country by the FBI, and when NY chapters of the Party came under particular attack after surviving the NY 21 case, a case where 21 Panthers, officers and rank and file members were put on trial for bogus conspiracy charges to commit terrorist acts, charges that would have landed them in prison for the rest of their lives, Shakur  and a number of other Panthers opted to go underground and create the Black Liberation Army to continue their fight.
          On May 2, 1973, Shakur was shot and critically injured in an incident on the NJ Turnpike that would capture international attention. It is often referred to as the ‘Turnpike Incident,’ an apparent racial profiling stop by a NJ State Trooper. The incident left Shakur critically wounded, Zayd Shakur, the apparent driver dead and Trooper Werner Foerster dead.  At her trial, forensic evidence clearly established that Shakur was shot with her hands up, and that the Trooper who made the stop, James Harper, by his own admission, started the shooting and fled the scene. Yet Shakur and her co-defendant Sundiata Acoli, now 80 and still incarcerated, were each given sentences of life plus thirty years, after being convicted for the murder of Trooper Foerster. On November 2, 1979, Shakur was liberated from what was then the Clinton Correctional Facility in one of the most incredible moments in the history of the Black Liberation Movement after enduring threats on her life while in prison. She was since given exile in Cuba. She currently has a 2 million dollar bounty for her capture and was put on the FBI’s Domestic Terrorist List retroactively several years ago.
          Meanwhile, supporters of Shakur, and many others in the human rights community believe that cases like hers should be reopened in a context of a Truth And Reconciliation Commission that takes on how racism drove police violence and repression during that period, a framework comparable to what emerged in South Africa on their road to dismantling Apartheid.
          In 1987, Shakur penned a moving memoir of her life story, Assata:An Autobiography. She has lent her voice to other humanitarian efforts and to the support many other of her comrades from the Black Panther Party who are still in prison as a result of the now well-known COINTELPRO Operations that were empanelled to destroy the Party and other important Black leaders. She is the subject of a moving film Eyes Of The Rainbow done by critically acclaimed filmmaker Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando Ocasio. While murderously maligned by mainstream press and racist and opportunist politicians, she is considered a miraculous surviving link to the Underground Railroad legacy of her ancestors.
          “Assata was not even an officer or a leader in the Party, and yet there was this obsession with going after her, or rather with going after rank and file members of the Party, as intensely as they were going after its leadership.
          “What happened to her is a prime example of the length that the government was willing to go to destroy the Party,” said Zayid Muhammad, a longtime supporter of Shakur and a principal organizer of the gathering.
          “The fact that she survived her incredible ordeal and was able to secure some semblance of freedom, albeit exiled, is a testimony to the spiritual will of our people to survive the worse expressions of oppression and to be free,” he finished
          Just as this moving gathering will feature poetry, song, dance, testimony from Shakur’s comrades, as indicated above, it will also lay out meaningful support measures to be taken in support of her Party comrades still in prison, appreciation of the Cuban Revolution and its incredible solidarity with the African world and the oppressed, and more.
          This moving afternoon will take place at The REFAL Center, 271 So 9th Street, Newark at 4:30pm…

"Hands Off Assata Shakur, Free Sundiata Acoli & Long Live The Panther Spirit Of Zayid Malik Shakur"
* Above: Read Assata's Book & Support The Revolutionary Art Of Captured Comrade Kevin Rashid Johnson

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