With all of the current campaigning by the New Jersey government to have Assata Shakur extradited, this seems like a great time to get her story into circulation again. Cuba has made it clear already that they granted Assata Shakur political asylum for a reason, and that’s not changing. Let’s keep her story alive, and keep her words alive. Share these words she speaks, and share these words she writes. Assata Shakur deserves to live in peace!
Click the following link to watch Eyes of The Rainbow, The Assata Shakur Documentary:
Here is the open letter from Assata Shakur, and the letter to the pope she references follows at the bottom:
Assata Shakur : An Open Letter To The Media
Dec 23, 2014
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 since
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
In 1978, my case was one of many cases brought 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
its 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
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
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 Foerster. 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
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 distorted 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
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
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.
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 true
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
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.
I hope this letter finds you in good health, in good disposition, and enveloped in the spirit of goodness. I must confess that it had never occurred to me before to write to you, and I find myself overwhelmed and moved to have this opportunity.
Although circumstances have compelled me to reach out to you, I am glad to have this occasion to try and cross the boundaries that would otherwise tend to separate us.
I understand that the New Jersey State Police have written to you and asked you to intervene and to help facilitate my extradition back to the United States. I believe that their request is unprecedented in history. Since they have refused to make their letter to you public, although they have not hesitated to publicize their request, I am completely uninformed as to the accusations they are making against me. Why, I wonder, do I warrant such attention? What do I represent that is such a threat?
Please let me take a moment to tell you about myself. My name is Assata Shakur and I was born and raised in the United States. I am a descendant of Africans who were kidnapped and brought to the Americas as slaves. I spent my early childhood in the racist segregated South. I later moved to the northern part of the country, where I realized that Black people were equally victimized by racism and oppression.
I grew up and became a political activist, participating in student struggles, the anti-war movement, and, most of all, in the movement for the liberation of African Americans in the United States. I later joined the Black Panther Party, an organization that was targeted by COINTELPRO, a program that was set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to eliminate all political opposition to the U.S. government’s policies, to destroy the Black Liberation Movement in the U.S., and to discredit activists and to eliminate potential leaders.
As a result of being targeted by COINTELPRO, I, like many other young people, was faced with the threat of prison, underground, exile or death.
At this point, I think that it is important to make one thing very clear. I have advocated and still advocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the U.S. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism, and the elimination of political repression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty.
To make a long story short, …let me emphasize that justice for me is not the issue, it is justice for my people that is at stake. When my people receive justice, I am sure that I will receive it, too. I know that Your Holiness will reach your own conclusions, but I feel compelled to present the circumstances surrounding the applicatlon of “justice” in New Jersey. I am not the first nor the last person to be victimized by the New Jersey system of “justice.” The New Jersey State Police are infamous for their racism and brutallty. Many legal actions have been filed against them and just recently, in a class action legal proceeding, the New Jersey State Police were found guilty of having an “officially sanctioned, de facto policy of targeting minorities for investigation and arrest.”
Although New Jersey’s population is more than 78 percent white, more than 75 percentof the prison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos. Eighty percent of women in New Jersey prisons are women of color. There are 15 people on death row in the state and seven of them are Black. A 1987 study found that New Jersey prosecutors sought the death penalty in 50 percent of cases involving a Black defendant and a white victim, but in only 28 percent of cases involving a Black defendant and a Black victim.
Unfortunately, the situation in New Jersey is not unique, but reflects the racism that permeates the entire country. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. There are more than 1.7 million people in U.S. prisons. This number does not include the more than 500,000 people in city and county jails, nor does it include the alarming number of children in juvenile institutions.
The vast majority of those behind bars are people of color and virtually all of those behind bars are poor.
The result of this reality is devastating. One third of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are either in prison or under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system.
Prisons are big business in the United States, and the building, running, and supplying of prisons has become the fastest growing industry in the country. Factories are being moved into the prisons and prisoners are being forced to work for slave wages. This super-exploitation of human beings has meant the institutionalization of a new form of slavery. Those who cannot find work are forced to work in prison.
Not only are prisons being used as instruments of economic exploitation, they also serve as lnstruments of political repression. There are more than 100 political prisoners in the U.S. They are African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Natlve Americans, Asians, and progressive white people who oppose the policies of the United States government. Many of those targeted by the COINTELPRO program have been in prison since the early 1970s.
Although the situation in the prisons is an lndication of human rights violations inside the United States, there are other, more deadly indicators.
There are currently 3,365 people now on death row, and more than 50 percent of those awaiting death are people of color. Black people make up only 13 percent of the population, but we make up 41 percent of persons who have received the death penalty.
The number of state assassinations has increased drastically. In 1997 alone, 71 people were executed.
A special reporter assigned by the United Nations organization found serious human rights violations in the U.S., especially those related to the death penalty. According to these findings, people who were mentally ill were sentenced to death, and people with severe mental and learning disabilities, as well as minors under age 18. Serious racial bias was found on the part of judges and prosecutors.
Specifically mentioned in the report was the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the only political prisoner on death row, who was sentenced to death because of his political beliefs and because of his work as a journalist, exposing police brutality in the city of Philadelphia.
Police brutality is a daily occurrence in our communities. The police have a virtual license to kill and they do kill: children, grandmothers, anyone they perceive to be the enemy. They shoot first and ask questions later. Inside the jails and prisons there is at least as much brutality as there was on slave plantations. An ever increasing number of prisoners are found hanging in their cells.
The United States is becoming a land more hostile to Black people and other people of Color. Racism is running rampant and xenophobia is on the rise. This has been especially true in the sphere of domestic policy.
Politicians are attempting to blame social problems on Black people and other people of color. There have been attacks on essentially all affirmative action programs designed to help correct the accumulated results of hundreds of years of slavery and discrimination. In addition, the government seems determined to eliminate all social programs that provide assistance to the poor, resulting in a situation where millions of people do not have access to basic health care, decent housing or quality education.
It was with great happiness that I read the Christmas message that Your Holiness delivered. I applaud you for taking up the cause of the poor, the homeless, the unemployed. The fact that you are addressing the issues of today, unemployment, hopelessness, child abuse, and the drug problem, is important to people all over the world.
One third of Black people in the United States live in poverty, and our communities are inundated with drugs. We have every reason to believe that the CIA and other government agencies are involved in drug trafficking.
Although we live in one of the richest, most techically advanced countries in the world, our reality is similar to an undeveloped, Third World country. We are a people who are truly seeking freedom and harmony.
All my life I have been a spiritual person. I first learned of the struggle and the sacrifice of Jesus in the segregated churches of the South. I converted to Catholicism as a young girl. In my adult life I have become a student of religion and have studied Christianity, Islam, Asian religions and the African religions of my ancestors. I have come to believe that God is universal in nature although called different names and with different faces. I believe that some people spell God with one “O” while others spell it with two.
What we call God is unimportant, as long as we do God’s work. There are those who want to see God’s wrath fall on the oppressed and not on the oppressors.I believe that the time has ended when slavery, colonialism, and oppression can be carried out in the name of religion. It was in the dungeons of prison that I felt the presence of God up close, and it has been my belief in God,and in the goodness of human beings that has helped me to survive. I am not ashamed of having been in prison, and I am certainly not ashamed of having been a political prisoner. I believe that Jesus was a political prisoner who was executed because he fought against the evils of the Roman Empire, because he fought the greed of the money changers in the temple, because he fought against the sins and injustices of his time. As a true child of God, Jesus spoke up for the poor, the meek, the sick, and the oppressed. The early Christians were thrown into lion dens. I will try and follow the example of so many who have stood up in the face of overwhelming oppression.
I am not writing to ask you to intercede on my behalf. I ask nothing for myself. I only ask you to examine the social reality of the United States and to speak out against the human rights violations that are taking place.
On this day, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., I am reminded of all those who gave their lives for freedom. Most of the people who five on this planet are still not free. I ask only that you continue to work and pray to end Oppression and political repression. It is my heartfelt belief that all the people on this earth deserve justice: social justice, political justice, and economic justice. I believe it is the only way that we will ever achieve peace and prosperity on earth. I hope that you enjoy your visit to Cuba. This is not a country that is rich in material wealth, but it is a country that is rich in human wealth, spiritual wealth and moral wealth.