ASSATA SHAKUR, EXCLUDING THE NIGHTMARE AFTER THE DREAM:
The “Terrorist” Label And The Criminalization of Revolutionary Black Movements in The USA
by Dhoruba Bin-Wahad
At a press conference in May 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] announced that it was designating Assata Shakur, s/n Joanne Chesimard, as one of its top ten wanted “terrorists.” Assata escaped from a New Jersey jail in 1979 and thereafter surfaced in Cuba where she was granted political asylum. This designation, and the media hoopla surrounding it, has significant historical and political implications.
While numerous progressive individuals and organizations correctly denounced that designation recognizing that it was, in part, an attack on Cuba, far too many progressive and Civil Rights advocates have missed the greater and more pernicious historical revisionism and racist political implications behind Assata Shakur’s rebranding as a “terrorist.”
Many people fighting for human rights, who oppose Obama’s policies of “Rendition,” torture, (which is euphemistically termed Enhanced Interrogation Technique), indefinite detention, State sponsored murder by RCV’s (drones) have simultaneously called upon President Barack Obama to remove the Shakur’s “terrorist” designation, arguing that Assata is “innocent” of the murder charges that resulted from her 1973 arrest.
Unlike their opposition to Obama’s illegally conducted “war on terror” the same people who oppose the murder and detention of so-called “militant” and “jihadists” without according them legal due process nonetheless implicitly recognize that those targeted by the US are in fact members of “movements” targeted by the U.S. government and would not be otherwise targeted were they not. Yet notably missing from most public statements decrying Asatta’s designation as a “terrorist” were attempts to place Assata’s case, and the “terrorist” designation, in the political and cultural context of the Black Liberation Movement in the United States.
Instead Officials at the highest level of government have little trouble placing the movements of the sixties in context. President Obama during his speech commemorating the March On Washington, recounted his version of the sixties claiming Black people lost their way when “legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.”What was Obama talking about? Who was he referring to? What Blacks used police brutality to somehow mask criminal activity?
He never said but clearly Obama is referring to the Black Panther Party, but he won’t say so. But his comments when juxtaposed next to the actions of his Justice Department speak volumes. In an effort to appease domestic Law Enforcement he sanctioned his Justice Department’s targeting of a former Black Panther in exile, Assata Shakur, designating her and her movement as terrorists.
Rather than open up a discussion on the excesses of the sixties and seventies to discern who were the real criminals and assassins, the architects of COINTELPRO or the movements they illegally infiltrated and destroyed, both supporters and detractors of Assata distort, exclude, and ignore the movement from which she emerged.
This essay is an attempt to place the “terrorist” designation and Assata’s case, in a historical and political context, a context that also significantly impacts the status of Black Political prisoners in the United States.
- Fight to reclaim the Morales-Shakur Center at City College! (answercoalition.org)
- CCNY’s Morales/Shakur Center Closed By Administration (studentactivism.net)
- Justice in America: The Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike, Lynne Stewart, Ramsey Muñiz, Assata Shakur (libya360.wordpress.com)
- Fight to reclaim the Morales-Shakur Center at City College! (pslweb.org)
- For Immediate Release (citycollegeser.wordpress.com)
- Day of Celebration & Education on the Liberation of Assata Shakur (moorbey.wordpress.com)
- RBG| Assata Shakur Presents at World Youth Festival 1997 (theobamacrat.com)
- THE NEW JIM CROW Online documentary (whatsimportantinlife.wordpress.com)