Monday, May 13, 2013

Assata Shakur

Black Agenda Report graphic

Assata Shakur isn't a household name, but when the FBI put her on its list of most wanted terrorists last week it made some headlines. The 65-year-old former Black Panther, birth name JoAnne Byron, has been living in exile in Cuba for 30 years, after escaping from prison in the US. Shakur was a black activist during the time when, led by the FBI, law enforcement in the US had declared war on black activists, and not just the Black Panthers, many of whom ended up murdered by police or the FBI, but up to and including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose murder remains unsolved in the minds of many people including members of his family.

In naming Shakur the first woman on the most wanted terrorist list, the FBI also doubled the bounty on her head to $2 million and put up big billboards and wanted posters about her in the US.

Assanta Shakur hasn't stopped criticizing US imperialism since she got to Cuba and she's a significant and well regarded figure, both symbolically and practically, in many Leftist circles. Still, the FBI's announcement caused shock and disbelief in the Leftist press. It didn't make sense. After all this time? With her living in Cuba? There were calls to stand up for her. Suggestions were made that it was part of a plan to try to silence Leftist criticism of the government.

But Margaret Kimberly, a black writer whose work appears in black owned publications that often criticize the president's policies, such as Black Agenda Report and The Black Commentator, has written an article arguing that there's a broader significance behind the FBI's move.

Kimberly first points out that under the Patriot Act, anyone who openly supports Shakur is now subject to arrest for "material support" of a terrorist, and that under laws and policies implemented since President Obama took office, they are also subject to indefinite detention and drone strike.

"Obama is making a point about black America and those few who still dare to speak out against their nation's domestic and international policy," Kimberly says.

"Of course," she ads, "the billboards aren't meant to capture Shakur but to send a not so subtle message about the state of black liberation. Simply put, there won't be any talk of black liberation. The Shakurs of the world who weren't imprisoned, killed off by Cointelpro or bought off, have to be destroyed once and for all and any memory of them must be disappeared as well."


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