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Index

Assata Main Page

Assata Poster w/ Askia Touré Poem

Assata film on US tour, Oct '99

Assata Photos

Letter from Assata on Prison Industrial Complex

Poem on Assata by Askia M. Toure

Congress asks for Assata's extradition, reactions, 9/98

New Jersey and the Nazis, 8/98

Republican Bob Franks (NJ) sponsors bill on Assata: May 1, 1998

Poem on Assata by Comrade Askia M. Touré: April, 1998

Open letter from Assata: March, 1998

Assata TV Lynching: February, 1998

Assata's letter to the Pope: January, 1998

NJ State Police ask Pope to bring back Assata: December 1997

Bibliography on Assata Shakur

Web Links on Assata

 

Assata Shakur, Part 2

Open letter from Assata: March, 1998           panther.gif (1810 bytes)

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 || * --  SPECIAL  -- *   March 31, 1998   * --  EDITION  -- * ||
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* SPECIAL EDITION *
* AFRIKAN FRONTLINE NEWS SERVICE *
 Web: http://afrikan.net
   Email: nattyreb@ix.netcom.com
 Tuesday, 31 March 1998
 _____________________________________________________________
 

My name is Assata Shakur, 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 fromement, 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.

In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations Organization in a petition filed by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive in US prisons.

According to the report:

The FBI and the New York Police Department in particular, charged and accused Assata Shakur of participating in attacks on law enforcement personnel and widely circulated such charges and accusations among police agencies and units. The FBI and the NYPD further charged her as being a leader of the Black Liberation Army which the government and ts respective agencies described as an organization engaged in the shooting of police officers. This description of the Black Liberation Army and the accusation of Assata Shakur's relationship to it was widely circulated by government agents among police agencies and units. As a result of these activities by the government, Ms. Shakur became a hunted person; posters in police precincts and banks described her as being involved in serious criminal activities; she was highlighted on the FBI's most wanted list; and to police at all levels she became a 'shoot-to-kill' target.

I was falsely accused in six different "criminal cases" and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the "evidence" presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government’s policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges.

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 Foerster 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 Foerster 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.

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 public’s 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. (See attached Letter to the Pope).

In January of 1998, during the pope’s visit to Cuba, I agreed to do an interview with NBC journalist Ralph Penza around my letter to the Pope, about my experiences in New Jersey court system, and about the changes I saw in the United States and it’s treatment of Black people in the last 25 years. I agreed to do this interview because I saw this secret letter to the Pope as a vicious, vulgar, publicity maneuver on the part of the New Jersey State Police, and as a cynical attempt to manipulate Pope John Paul II. I have lived in Cuba for many years, and was completely out of touch with the sensationalist, dishonest, nature of the establishment media today. It is worse today than it was 30 years ago. After years of being victimized by the "establishment" media it was naive of me to hope that I might finally get the opportunity to tell "my side of the story." Instead of an interview with me, what took place was a "staged media event" in three parts, full of distortions, inaccuracies and outright lies. NBC purposely misrepresented the facts. Not only did NBC spend thousands of dollars promoting this "exclusive interview series" on NBC, they also spent a great deal of money advertising this "exclusive interview" on black radio stations and also placed notices in local newspapers.

DISTORTIONS AND LIES IN THE NBC SERIES              

In an NBC interview Gov. Whitman was quoted as saying that "this has nothing to do with race, this had everything to do with crime." Either Gov. Whitman is completely unfamiliar with the facts in my case, or her sensitivity to racism and to the plight of black people and other people of color in the United States is at a sub-zero level. In 1973 the trial in Middlesex County had to be stopped because of the overwhelming racism expressed in the jury room. The court was finally forced to rule that the entire jury panel had been contaminated by racist comments like "If she’s black, she’s guilty." In an obvious effort to prevent us from being tried by "a jury of our peers the New Jersey courts ordered that a jury be selected from Morris County, New Jersey where only 2.2 percent of the population was black and 97.5 percent of potential jurors were white. In a study done in Morris County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, 92 percent of the registered voters said that they were familiar with the case through the news media, and 72 percent believed we were guilty based on pretrial publicity. During the jury selection process in Morris County, white supremacists from the National Social[ist] White People’s Party, wearing Swastikas, demonstrated carrying signs reading "SUPPORT WHITE POLICE." The trial was later moved back to Middlesex County where 70 percent thought I was guilty based on pretrial publicity I was tried by an all-white jury, where the presumption of innocence was not the criteria for jury selection. Potential jurors were merely asked if they could "put their prejudices aside, and "render a fair verdict." The basic reality in the United States is that being black is a crime and black people are always "suspects" and an accusation is usually a conviction. Most white people still think that being a "black militant" or a "black revolutionary" is tantamount to being guilty of some kind of crime. The current situation in New Jersey’s prisons, underlines the racism that dominates the politics of the state of New Jersey, in particular and in the U.S. as a whole. Although the population of New Jersey is approximately 78 percent white, more than 75 percent of New Jersey’s prison population is made up of blacks and Latinos. 80 percent of the women in Jersey prisons are people of color. That may not seem like racism to Gov. Whitman, but it reeks of racism to us.

The NBC story implied that Governor Christie Whitman raised the reward for my capture based on my interview with NBC. The fact of the matter is that she has been campaigning since she was elected into office to double the reward for my capture. In 1994, she appointed Col. Carl Williams who immediately vowed to make my capture a priority. In 1995, Gov. Whitman sought to "match a $25,000 departmental appropriation sponsored by an "unidentified legislator." I watched a tape of Gov. Whitman’s "testimony" in her interview with NBC. She gave a very dramatic, exaggerated version of what happened, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support her claim that Trooper Foerster had "four bullets in him at least, and then they got up and with his own gun, fired two bullets into his head." She claimed that she was writing Janet Reno for federal assistance in my capture, based on what she saw in the NBC interview. If this is the kind of "information" that is being passed on to Janet Reno and the Pope, it is clear that the facts have been totally distorted. Whitman also claimed that my return to prison should be a condition for "normalizing relations with Cuba". How did I get so important that my life can determine the foreign relations between two governments? Anybody who knows anything about New Jersey politics can be certain that her motives are purely political. She, like Torrecelli and several other opportunistic politicians in New Jersey came to power, as part-time lobbyists for the Batista faction - soliciting votes from right wing Cubans. They want to use my case as a barrier for normalizing relations with Cuba, and as a pretext for maintaining the immoral blockade against the Cuban people.

In what can only be called deliberate deception and slander NBC aired a photograph of a woman with a gun in her hand implying that the woman in the photograph was me. I was not, in fact, the woman in the photograph. The photograph was taken from a highly publicized case where I was accused of bank robbery. Not only did I voluntarily insist on participating in a lineup, during which witnesses selected another woman, but during the trial, several witnesses, including the manager of the bank, testified that the woman in that photograph was not me. I was acquitted of that bank robbery. NBC aired that photograph on at least 5 different occasions, representing the woman in the photograph as me. How is it possible, that the New Jersey State Police, who claim to have a detective working full time on my case, Governor of New Jersey Christine Whitman, who claimed she reviewed all the "evidence," or NBC, which has an extensive research department, did not know that the photograph was false? It was a vile, fraudulent attempt to make me look guilty. NBC deliberately misrepresented the truth. Even after many people had called in, and there was massive fax, and e-mail campaign protesting NBC’s mutilation of the facts, Ralph Penza and NBC continued to broadcast that photograph, representing it as me. Not once have the New Jersey State Police, Governor Christine Whitman, or NBC come forth and stated that I was not the woman in the photograph, or that I had been acquitted of that charge.

Another major lie and distortion was that we had left trooper Werner Foerster on the roadside to die. The truth is that there was a major cover-up as to what happened on May 2, 1973. Trooper Harper, the same man who shot me with my arms raised in the air, testified that he returned to the State Police Headquarters which was less than 200 yards away, "To seek aid." However, tape recordings and police reports made on May 2, 1973 prove that not only did Trooper Harper give several conflicting statements about what happened on the turnpike, but he never once mentioned the name of Werner Foerster, or the fact that the incident took place right in front of the Trooper Headquarters. In an effort to hide his tracks and cover his guilt he said nothing whatsoever about Foerster to his superiors or to his fellow officers.

In a clear attempt to discredit me, Col. Carl Williams of the New Jersey State Police was allowed to give blow by blow distortions of my interview. In my interview I stated that on the night of May 2, 1973 I was shot with my arms in the air, then shot again in the back. Williams stated "that is absolutely false. Our records show that she reached in her pocketbook, pulled out a nine millimeter weapon and started firing." However, the claim that I reached into my pocketbook and pulled out a gun, while inside the car was even contested by trooper Harper. Although on three official reports, and when he testified before the grand jury he stated that he saw me take a gun out of my pocketbook, he finally admitted under cross-examination that he never saw me with my hands in a pocketbook, never saw me with a weapon inside the car, and that he did not see me shoot him.

The truth is that I was examined by 3 medical specialists:                                                           

(1) A Neurologist who testified that I was immediately paralyzed immediately after the being shot.

(2) A Surgeon who testified that "It was absolutely anatomically necessary that both arms be in the air for Mrs. Chesimard to receive the wounds." The same surgeon also testified that the claim by Trooper Harper that I had been crouching in a firing position when I was shot was "totally anatomically impossible."

(3) A Pathologist who testified that "There is no conceivable way that it [the bullet] could have traveled over to hit the clavicle if her arm was down." he said "It was impossible to have that trajectory."

 

The prosecutors presented no medical testimony whatsoever to refute the above medical evidence.

No evidence whatsoever was ever presented that I had a 9-millimeter weapon, in fact New Jersey State Police testified that the 9-millimeter weapon belonged to Zayd Malik Shakur based on a holster fitting the weapon that they was recovered from his body.

There were no fingerprints, or any other evidence whatsoever that linked me to any guns or ammunition.

The results of the Neutron Activation test to determine whether or not I had fired a weapon were negative.

Although Col. Williams refers to us as the "criminal element" neither Zayd, or Sundiata Acoli or I were criminals, we were political activists. I was a college student until the police kicked down my door in an effort to force me to "cooperate" with them and Sundiata Acoli was a computer expert who had worked for NASA, before he joined the Black Panther Party and was targeted by COINTELPRO.

In an obvious maneuver to provoke sympathy for the police, the NBC series juxtaposed my interview with the weeping widow of Werner Foerster. While I can sympathize with her grief, I believe that her appearance was deliberately included to appeal to people’s emotions, to blur the facts, to make me look like a villain, and to create the kind of lynch mob mentality that has historically been associated with white women portrayed as victims of black people. In essence the supposed interview with me became a forum for the New State Police, Foerster’s widow, and the obviously hostile commentary of Ralph Penza. The two initial programs together lasted 3.5 minutes - me - 59 seconds, the widow 50 seconds, the state police 38 seconds, and Penza - 68 seconds. Not once in the interview was I ever asked about Zayd, Sundiata or their families. As the interview went on, it was painfully evident that Ralph Penza would never see me as a human being. Although I tried to talk about racism and about the victims of government and police repression, it was clear that he was totally uninterested.

I have stated publicly on various occasions that I was ashamed of participating in my trial in New Jersey trial because it was so racist, but I did testify. Even though I was extremely limited by the judge, as to what I could testfy about, I testified as clearly as I could about what happened that night. After being almost fatally wounded I managed to climb in the back seat of the car to get away from the shooting. Sundiata drove the car five miles down the road carried me into a grassy area because he was afraid that the police would see the car parked on the side of the road and just start shooting into it again. Yes, it was five miles down the highway where I was captured, dragged out of the car, stomped and then left on the ground. Although I drifted in and out of consciousness I remember clearly that both while I was lying on the ground, and while I was in the ambulance, I kept hearing the State troopers ask "is she dead yet?" Because of my condition I have no independent recollection of how long I was on the ground, or how long it was before the ambulance was allowed to leave for the hospital, but in the trial transcript trooper Harper stated that it was while he was being questioned, some time after 2:00 am that a detective told him that I had just been brought into the hospital. I was the only live "suspect" in custody, and prior to that time Harper, had never told anyone that a woman had shot him.

`As I watched Governor Whitman’s interview the one thing that struck me was her "outrage" at my joy about being a grandmother, and my "quite nice life" as she put it here in Cuba. While I love the Cuban people and the solidarity they have shown me, the pain of being torn away from everybody I love has been intense. I have never had the opportunity to see or to hold my grandchild. If Gov. Whitman thinks that my life has been so nice, that 50 years of dealing with racism, poverty, persecution, brutality, prison, underground, exile and blatant lies has been so nice, then I’d be more than happy to let her walk in my shoes for a while so she can get a taste of how it feels. I am a proud black woman, and I’m not about to get on the television and cry for Ralph Penza or any other journalist, but the way I have suffered in my lifetime, and the way my people have suffered, only god can bear witness to.

Col. Williams of the New Jersey State Police stated "we would do everything we could go get her off the island of Cuba and if that includes kidnapping, we would do it." I guess the theory is that if they could kidnap millions of Africans from Africa 400 years ago, they should be able to kidnap one African woman today. It is nothing but an attempt to bring about the re-incarnation of the Fugitive Slave Act. All I represent is just another slave that they want to bring back to the plantation. Well, I might be a slave, but I will go to my grave a rebellious slave. I am and I feel like a maroon woman. I will never voluntarily accept the condition of slavery, whether it’s de-facto or ipso-facto, official, or unofficial. In another recent interview, Williams talked about asking the federal government to add to the $50,000 reward for my capture. He also talked about seeking "outside money, or something like that, a benefactor, whatever." Now who is he looking to "contribute" to that "cause"? The Ku Klux Klan, the Neo Nazi Parties, the white militia organizations? But the plot gets even thicker. He says that the money might lure bounty hunters. "There are individuals out there, I guess they call themselves ‘soldiers of fortune’ who might be interested in doing something, in turning her over to us." Well, in the old days they used to call them slave-catchers, trackers, or patter-rollers, now they are called mercenaries. Neither the governor nor the state police say one word about "justice." They have no moral authority to do so. The level of their moral and ethical bankruptcy is evident in their eagerness to not only break the law and hire hoodlums, all in the name of "law and order." But you know what gets to me, what makes me truly indignant? With the schools in Paterson, N.J. falling down, with areas of Newark looking like a disaster area, with the crack epidemic, with the wide-spread poverty and unemployment in New Jersey, these depraved, decadent, would-be slave-masters want federal funds to help put this "nigger wench" back in her place. They call me the "most wanted woman" in Amerika. I find that ironic. I’ve never felt very "wanted" before. When it came to jobs, I was never the "most wanted," when it came to "economic opportunities I was never the "most wanted, when it came to decent housing." It seems like the only time Black people are on the "most wanted" list is when they want to put us in prison.

But at this moment, I am not so concerned about myself. Everybody has to die sometime, and all I want is to go with dignity. I am more concerned about the growing poverty, the growing despair that is rife in Amerika. I am more concerned about our younger generations, who represent our future. I am more concerned that one-third of young black are either in prison or under the jurisdiction of the "criminal in-justice system." I am more concerned about the rise of the prison-industrial complex that is turning our people into slaves again. I am more concerned about the repression, the police brutality, violence, the rising wave of racism that makes up the political landscape of the U.S. today. Our young people deserve a future, and I consider it the mandate of my ancestors to be part of the struggle to insure that they have one. They have the right to live free from political repression. The U.S. is becoming more and more of a police state and that fact compels us to fight against political repression. I urge you all, every single person who reads this statement, to fight to free all political prisoners. As the concentration camps in the U.S. turn into death camps, I urge you to fight to abolish the death penalty. I make a special, urgent appeal to you to fight to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the only political prisoner who is currently on death row.

It has been a long time since I have lived inside the United States. But during my lifetime I have seen every prominent black leader, politician or activist come under attack by the establishment media. When African-Americans appear on news programs they are usually talking about sports, entertainment or they are in handcuffs. When we have a protest they ridicule it, minimized it, or cut the numbers of the people who attended in half. The news is big business and it is owned operated by affluent white men. Unfortunately, they shape the way that many people see the world, and even the way people see themselves. Too often black journalists, and other journalists of color mimic their white counterparts. They often gear their reports to reflect the foreign policies and the domestic policies of the same people who are oppressing their people. In the establishment media, the bombing and of murder of thousands of innocent women and children in Libya or Iraq or Panama is seen as "patriotic," while those who fight for freedom, no matter where they are, are seen as "radicals," "extremists," or "terrorists."

Like most poor and oppressed people in the United States, I do not have a voice. Black people, poor people in the U.S. have no real freedom of speech, no real freedom of expression and very little freedom of the press. The black press and the progressive media has historically played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We need to continue and to expand that tradition. We need to create media outlets that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate their minds. I am only one woman. I own no TV stations, or Radio Stations or Newspapers. But I feel that people need to be educated as to what is going on, and to understand the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression in Amerika. All I have is my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the truth. But I sincerely ask, those of you in the Black media, those of you in the progressive media, those of you who believe in truth freedom,

To publish this statement and to let people know what is happening. We have no voice, so you must be the voice of the voiceless. Free all Political Prisoners, I send you Love and Revolutionary Greetings From Cuba, One of the Largest, Most Resistant and Most Courageous Palenques (Maroon Camps) That has ever existed on the Face of this Planet.

Assata Shakur
Havana, Cuba

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Poem to Assata in Exile by Comrade Askia M. Touré: April 98

Poet defends Assata, April 27, 1998

by Andres Petit

"Palenque Queen by Habana's Shores," is a poem written by the award-winning African-American poet, Askia M.Touré, in defense of the legendary freedom-fighter and exiled Black Panther activist, Assata Shakur.

Askia Touré is one of the Architects of the Black Arts Movement along with Larry Neal and Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones). Askia is a poet, political activist, and was one of the writers of the SNCC (Students' Non-violent Coordinating Committee) Black Power "Position Paper." Askia Touré participated at San Francisco State College with Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka in the building of one the first Black Studies Programs in the Country.

Shakur recently came under attack by the U.S. Mass Media (NBC TV), New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and the New Jersey Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol leadership recently wrote a letter to the Pope demanding that he use his influence to return Shakur to the

United States and to New Jersey authorities. Cuba granted Shakur political asylum after she escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979. Recently NBC featured an "interview" with all parties involved, which was heavily slanted in favor of the views of Whitman and the Highway Patrol. These views painted Shakur as a merciless killer and criminal. To the contrary, Touré's poem reflects the insurrectionary mood of the U.S. Black masses who view Shakur as a revolutionary heroine and resistance leader similar to the 19th Century Abolitionist leader, Harriet Tubman.

Touré's poem also alludes to the historic Million Man and Woman Marches (the two largest mass demonstrations in U.S history) and to the explosive "Rodney King rebellion" of 1992, which swept urban areas, from the West Coast through the Midwest, to the East Coast, North and South. Since its creation, the poem has been met with a mounting enthusiasm by African-Americans, and their fellow oppressed peoples. The poet has expressed his gratitude at being given the honor of defending a heroic champion of Liberation & Human Rights.

Askia Touré turned this poem into a beautiful poster with recent Assata photos.  

Where are the Women Warriors? Why are they so hard to find?
Why do they suffer so in this terrible World? …You will know
them by their beautiful eyes…they embody the Rainbow…

                                - from Gloria Rolando's Eyes of the Rainbow

PALENQUE QUEEN BY HABANA'S SHORES
(to Assata in Exile)

Maroon Woman, feisty and sensual with Oshun beauty;
the fierce, blue Gulf waters wash daily over your shadow,
as you mingle with fragrant palms and tropical peoples…
Political Exile. Twenty years have passed since the blast
of your Great Escape created havoc for the Empire;
now safe in an African palenque: Afro-Cuba, child
of Maceo and Marti, whose guerilla blood stains
the Caribbean proletarian red. But red is equally spiritual,
being Shango's color and that of mystic Olokun. Both
Yoruba orishas, African deities blessing the untamed,
warrior-spirit. Sista-woman; the years have calmed and
refined your spirit, deepened your eyes, broadened your
smile, unleashed your regal beauty. Maturity becomes you.
Blessed by Oya's rainbow, we behold the flamingo
embodied in the fledgling. A most captivating bird!
spreading her wings over her people's joyous Future.

Of course, 666 and Its minions blockade and spew death-
threats at the insurgent Isle. New Jersey's mini-skirted
Barbie doll threatens Fidel, even the Pope, demanding
your recapture. You see, Oya's rainbow-radiance spreads joy
among our African captives; and even New Jersey stands in
danger of creating young Assatas to come. So Barbie,
the governor, masquerades as Reagan's parrot, Bush's
puppet, tongue-kissing Jesse Helms in a Kodak Moment,
by demanding your head. But we, Thirty Million strong,
Million Man and Woman marchers, say:
"Hands off Assata, Republican witch! This Sista you won't
kill or turn into Oprah, hanging out with Uncle Sam.
She is ours; this Oya Woman, this Liberation Fighter,
this Warrior-queen, this child of Harriet Tubman,
is ours--the Black Nation's Champion; and we will
collectively Burn Down Babylon, if she is harmed in any
way (you do remember Rodney King?)"…
So, nights
in Habana are rhythmic with Afro-Cubano accents,
and friendships diminish Time's tyranny. O how
we wish your brilliant strategies could lead us, but
realize that only revolution will bring you home.
So bless us, Sista-woman; keep us in your heart, sing
victories at Bembes & strategy sessions, while we
"Carry the Tradition," as militants
raise New African banners
over Babylon, chanting your name & your song,
while we liberate this wretched land!

--Comrade Askia M.Touré
Boston, MA. 4/8/1998
acw_AT_afrocubaweb.com [replace _AT_ with @]

Check out http://aalbc.com/askiam.htm for a nice page on Askia M.Touré

panther.gif (1810 bytes)

Republican Bob Franks (NJ) sponsors bill on Assata: May 1, 1998

 Lawmakers seek Assata's return, 5/1/98

by Andy Petit

According to various reports, Rep Bob Franks (Republican from New Jersey) and other lawmakers want to increase the pressure on Cuba to send back Assata Shakur (the former Joanne Chesimard) and 90 other escaped felons who have found safety in Cuba. They say the fugitives' return should be a condition of any further normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Franks held a press conference April 30 promoting a resolution he sponsored, where he stated: "Fidel Castro is protecting a cold-blooded cop killer. There can and must be no safe haven for Joanne Chesimard and the 90 other convicted criminals who have fled to Cuba." He was referring to Assata's controversial conviction in the shooting death of Trooper Werner Foerster.

NBC News in New York taped an hour long interview with Assata earlier this year in Havana. However, they only aired 1 minute, in which she said she had obtained a master's degree, written several books in Cuba and had recently became a grandmother. She added that she lives

in fear of the New Jersey State Police. She also denied killing Foerster. It will be recalled that Assata was stalked by the FBI as well as the New York and New Jersey police under CONINTELPRO. She was repeatedly indicted on frivolous charges which were invariably dropped until that fateful day in New Jersey when she and her friends were assaulted by the State Police.

The Franks resolution is a non-binding sense of Congress' statement calling upon Cuba to return Assata and all other fugitives. It says the extradition of fugitives should be "a top priority" of the U.S. government in its relationship with the Castro government.

NJ Republican Gov. Christie Whitman declared she is doubling the state's $50,000 reward for Assata's return: "Whatever gets her back to New Jersey to fulfill her sentence is what we want to see." Whitman is reportedly on the outs with her party as she lowered taxes only to find that property taxes had to be raised, angering the fox hunting set which has long been the mainstay of NJ Republicans. She has turned to currying favor with the more hard right elements of the party, the Klan oriented police and the allegedly right wing Cuban Americans. Allegedly as there are strong centrist NJ Cuban American tendencies, though they find themselves under physical assault and terrorist threats in that state.

Predicably enough, two right-wing Florida representatives active in Cuban-American affairs are supporting Franks' resolution, saying it underscores the type of leader Castro is. "It's very important for the American people to understand this is normal behavior for Fidel Castro - to give safe harbor to terrorists, to drug dealers, to cop killers," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican from Florida. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, also Republican from Florida, said "the worst criminal living in Cuba is Fidel Castro himself."

They are following the time honored technique of the big lie, since there is very little drug smuggling in Cuba and a great deal in Miami, a city built on drug money. Miami is home to anti-Castro Cubans who supported their death squad brethren in El Salvador and Nicaragua by importing large quantities of cocaine into US cities in the '80s while the US government turned a blind eye. A recent and very blatant case of terrorism is the Miami network that supported the Salvador based mad bomber Luis Posada Carriles in his campaign to destroy Cuba's tourism industry by bombing hotels and restaurants in Havana, as revealed by the Miami Herald's Spanish edition, on 11/17/97.

Rep. Robert Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey, who is active in Cuban-American affairs, said Franks was engaging in political grandstanding. Menendez said Trooper "Foerster's memory is being caught up in a media circus." Through his chief of staff, Michael Hutton, Menendez stated he would vote for the resolution but doesn't think it will have any impact.

Regarding Assata, a State Department official said, "The United States has sought her return but the Cuban government has refused to do so," a pro-forma comment not designed to vigorously promote Franks' legislation. However, the presence of this statement in the news is indicative of an orchestrated campaign to build a case to forestall changes in US Cuba relations and to set harder terms for negotiations by using a COINTELPRO victim for fodder.

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Letter from Assata on the Prison Industrial Complex

Assata Shakur                                                                                                             September 25, 1998

Greetings Sisters, Brothers, Comrades,

Never in our history has critical resistance to the status quo been more important. The growth of the Prison-Industrial complex has been appallingly rapid and the escalating repression that has accompanied it is totally alarming. What of future lies ahead of us? What are the implications of for our children?

Those who are targeted as the victims of the Prison-Industrial Complex  are mainly people of color. They are Native Americans, Africans, Asians, and Latinos, who came from societies where there were no prisons and where prisons were an unknown concept. Prisons were introduced in Africa, the Americas Asia as by-products of slavery and colonialism, and they continue to be instruments of exploitation and oppression. In the heart of the imperialist empires, prisons also meant oppression. The prisons of Europe were so overcrowded that European prisoners were sent to the colonies and encouraged to enslave and colonize other peoples. In England, during the so-called period of expansion, there were not only debtor's prisons for the poor, but also more than 200 crimes that were punishable by death. During the French revolution, the storming and destruction of the Bastille Prison, became a symbol for liberation all over Europe. And today, those of us whose ancestors were imprisoned in Slave forts like Elmina, or Gorree Island, now find ourselves imprisoned in places like Elmira, Rikers Island, Terminal Island, Marion or Florence. The prisons that are being constructed In the United States today are more sophisticated than concentration camps like Auschwitz or Dachau, but they serve the same purpose. The profits from prison industries, and prison slave labor is surpassing the super-exploitation levels of forced labor in Nazi concentration camps.

The prison-Industrial Complex is not only a mechanism to convert Public tax money into profits for private corporations, it is an essential element of modern neo-libral capitalism. It serves two purposes. One to neutralize and contain huge segments of potentially rebellious  sectors of the population, and two, to sustain a system of super-exploitation, where mainly black and Latino captives are imprisoned in white rural, overseer communities. People of color are easy targets. Our criminalization and villianization is an Amerikan tradition. The image of the dirty-lazy-shiftless- savage - backwards- good-for nothing - darkies has been the underpinning of the racist culture and ideology, that dominates U.S. politics. One of the basic tenets of that revolution was that only rich, white men have the right to have a revolution, anyone else who struggles for one is a terrorist or a subversive. The truth of the matter is that oppressed people have, and have always had a great deal more to be outraged about than taxation without representation.

Repression, torture, and beatings are as common in U.S. prisons today as they were on slave plantations. And political prisoners bear the brunt of this systematic brutality. Those who fight against oppression are thrown into dungeons, rather than those who perpetuate it. The prolonged torture of solitary confinement is being used, not only as a weapon against political dissent, but as a weapon against anyone who protests any of the injustices of the system. How can you fight against injustice, without demanding the liberation of political prisoners?

Unfortunately, there are more young people behind bars because they have been inculcated with and are reproducing the values of this decadent capitalist system, than those who are consciously struggling to change it. During the 1960s, when the movement was at its height, the prison population was only a fraction of what it is today. Those who institutionalized the kidnapping of Africans, those who orchestrated genocide against Native Americans, those who plunder the treasures of the world, and who are responsible for the most heinous crimes on this planet, want to preach to us about law and order. Those who profit from human misery and deny us education, affirmation action, health care, decent housing, want to lecture us about morality. Many of us watch helplessly as our children imitate and internalize the greedy, ostentatious, culture of conspicuous consumption, practiced by those who oppress us. We watch the same people who import drugs into the country, who distribute them our communities, wage a war on us, in the name of fighting drugs.

The Prison-Industrial complex is not a distortion of modern global capitalism;  it is part and parcel of that system. It is not enough to fight against the Prison-Industrial complex; we must fight against the ideology that promotes it.  Human beings are social beings and have a basic need to live in nurturing communities, instead of hostile ones. The people on this planet have an infinite potential to contribute to this planet and it is a crime to prevent us from doing so. The human beings who live on this planet have an unlimited ability to learn, to grow, to change, to be generous, to invent and to share. It is a crime to prevent young people from developing their talents. It is a crime to let individualistic values destroy the collective good. To those who rule this planet, we are all disposable. Our only value to them is the wealth that we are capable of producing. It is a system with no compassion, no love, and no faith.

What kind of mentality is it that would classify a 5-year old as being incorrigible?   What kind of system would try a 12-year as an adult? What kind of mentality is it that would sentence a 20-year-old to life without parole? How can a system claim to be nonviolent, while praising the death penalty inside its borders, and bombing and killing innocent people all over the world? This is a system that sells and promotes and exports violence. It is a system that would rather warehouse and murder its young, than cultivate them. In this grotesque  world with its grotesque, cynical values, it sounds, naive, to believe in people, and believe in our ability to create a better world.

But how can you believe in a future if you don't believe in people who are going to make it? How can you believe in human rights unless you believe in human beings? How can you say you believe in justice, without believing in social justice, political justice and economic justice for all people?

The Prison-Industrial complex not only destroys individuals; it destroys families and communities. If we do not destroy it, it will destroy us. I urge you to do everything you can to break these chains.

Free All Political Prisoners!
Free Mumia Abu Jamal!

Assata Shakur,
Havana Cuba

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