Her Name is ASSATA! ~NJ NBPP Open Letter to Carson Dunbar
THE NEW BLACK PANTHER PARTY
THE GREATER NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY CHAPTERS OFFICE OF CHIEF OF STAFF
P.O. BOX 25332
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY 07101 973-776-3901, EXT. 2966
An Open Letter To Carson Dunbar
Since you are so terribly and pathetically out of touch with just who you are insultingly calling Joanne Chesimard, and since you are so out of your Afrikan mind, let's get this straight.
Her name is Assata!
Although her enemies and the enemies of our people insist on calling her "the notorious, copkiller Joanne Chesimard," as they continue to demonize her, her name is Assata.
To be sure, it is actually "Assata Olubala Shakur," or "she who struggles, loves her people and is grateful."
For the bravest of our ancestors who have gone on before us, for the strength of her family, like her grandparents, who taught her from the time that she was a child how to stand up to racists, for having had comrades who were heroically rich in courage, and for the compassion, love and tongueless support of those who helped her on her way along those blazing trails of the underground, with her incredible life commitment, with her very blood spilt from her tender torso several times, she has indeed proven herself to be most grateful.
She was born on July 16, 1947, in the People's Republic of Brooklyn to the late Doris Johnson, a proud Black woman who took no shorts.
Her maternal grandparents, the Freemans, were fiercely independent Black people from Wilmington, North Carolina. As landowners, entrepreneurs and Klan-resisters, they personally understood what Malcolm tried to get us to understand, "that land is the basis of all independence!" With that clarity, they valiantly fought off the rednecks and the bloodsuckers to hold onto their own choice land on Wilmington's beachfront for decades!
Her aunt, Evelyn Williams,** a trailblazing Black female attorney in her own right who called our sister her little "Joey," as a child, and who would later be her attorney, this woman taught our sister to inhale intellect, excellence, the arts and culture, and all of the world as it came through New York that she could.
Together, these strong family anchors would shape Assata into becoming the fearless, precocious, artist, dancer, poet, writer, organizer, mother, grandmother, and warrior woman that she would ultimately become.
As a college student seeking her true self, she was deeply impressed with the emergence of young people rising up to change the world. To become apart of that she dared to join the Black Panther Party because she deeply affected by its unique, obvious and special place in the whirlwind, a vehicle that uniquely allowed for the most disconnected and disaffected of our youth at that time to enter onto the stage of history as revolutionary agents of change, and as perhaps the boldest example of attempting to implement Malcolm's line in the teeming slums of this country's upsouth northern cities.
It was a part of the New York chapter of the party that she became a "Shakur," along with other fearless Panthers from those ranks like Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mom, like Lumumba Shakur, a brother who got things done and wore his dredlocks with regal ease way before they "got in style," like a young Mutulu Shakur, who later become Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a pioneering acupuncturist who used this ancient tradition to get people clean, and who is now one of our political prisoners and like Zayd Shakur, a resourceful organizer who tragically did not survive "The Turnpike Massacre."
Assata worked in the Party's medical cadre, their sickle cell clinics, their portable free street clinics, who worked hard making the Party's example of a socialist alternative within a racist and capitalist paradigm that cared nothing about its poor, especially its black poor!
Then came COINTELPRO, the government's obsession with destroying our movement. When they failed to get convictions in the Panther 21 case of 1971, they forced people to go underground, isolating them and charging them with criminal offenses all along the way. On top of that, the enormous drama surrounding what would come to be known as "The Split," the terrible internal rupture within the Party, would all combine to effectively destroy the Party as an above ground organization.
But some like Assata vowed to "carry it on!" They formed the Black Liberation Army. Although they continued to raize hell, the government moved from counterintelligence to counterinsurgence. The government then went after these brave men and with a vengence! As a consequence, Assata, and many of her comrades, would then become targets of a particular counterintelligence operation known as "Operation Newkill," anytime a policeman came under fire, they would seek out former Panthers to blame for it. For Assata, they even had one called "Operation Chesrob," an operation aimed specifically at her to make it impossible for her to ever live any semblance of a normal life ever again.
And then came May 2, 1973.
Somewhere between 10 and 12 that night, the car Assata was in on the New Jersey Turnpike, was pulled over by state trooper Harper on the basis of an alleged taillight violation -- Shots were fired -- and in the end, Zayd Shakur and trooper Werner Foerster were dead; Assata and Sundiata were critically wounded and captured.
Once captured, Assata was tortured and literally put underneath a Middlesex County Jail. While awaiting trial, she would be forced to stand trial nearly a dozen times in a variety of bank robberies in New York (the playing out of Operation Chesrob). In spite of her prosecutors and persecutors going all out to make some of those charges stick, she was acquitted in all of them only to be convicted of murder in 1977, along with Sundiata, by an all-white jury in Morris County, the whitest and richest county in New Jersey, for the Turnpike incident, even though she forensically proved that she could not have fired any weapons in that incident because her hands were up when she got shot!
Once convicted and sent to prison, the torture and abuse would continue. She was deliberately put in life-threatening situations, like being left alone with Klanwomen in the Alderman, West Virginia federal facility.
That all changed suddenly on November 2, 1979, however, when the whirlwind blew Oya-like*** through that backwards upsouth state in which we share a residence. It was Black Solidarity Day, and forces from the underground came to what is now known as the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton, New Jersey and liberated our sister!
Feeding off the heroism of Assata and her comrades, some of our people, even though their homes and communities would come under siege in response to what became known as "Assata sightings," "some of the people boldly celebrated Assata being liberated." Up went posters which boldly said "Assata Is Welcome Here!"
The people were not going to let the two-legged police dogs, the government and the media turn them against this valiant freedom fighter.
And so we say today, as they still try to villainize, demonize, and terrorize our minds' eyes with more of their lies, we know who our heroes are and who our enemies are.
Because of her commitment, because of her special place in the whirlwind, we boldly say now what we said as we rolled over 60 deep with our Assata Shakur Freedom Fighters Caravan Straight Out of Jersey to the Million Youth March, that "Assata Is Always Welcome Here!"
Mr. Dunbar, you may have carried around Trooper Foerster's picture with you and identify with him, as a fellow law enforcer, to remind you of "the dangers of the job," as you put it, but the people, who are the heart, flesh and soul of the movement and the resistance that put you in your job, we identify with that brave sister, forced underground by government repression for standing up for justice and whose only crime was that she survived one of the worst expressions of racial profiling in the history of its practice! And she was placed there by nothing more than the color of her skin, no matter who she identified with!
Your masters may find your bootlicking and pathetic stance becoming and reassuring, but we, the people who continue to resist, do not.
Hands Off Assata! Free Sundiata! Ban Racial Profiling! Free All Political Prisoners! Free The Land! Long Live the Cuban Revolution! Black Power! All Power To The People! Brother Zayid Muhammad, Regional Chief of Staff, New Black Panther Party
July 16, 2001, the anniversary of the ascension John Henrik Clarke to the ancestry, the birthday of Assata Shakur.
*Dunbar is the first African-American to head the N.J. State Police. In June 2001, Dunbar, in pure masterserving form, stood with New Jersey Congressman Steven Rothman, a doublespeaking "Clinton" Democrat, in support of Rothman's call for "The No Safe Haven In Cuba Act," renewing the State of New Jersey's call to have Assata extradited back to New Jersey as a necessary precondition for the normalizing of any relations with Cuba"
**Evelyn Williams own narrative Inadmissable Evidence is a must companion read to Assata: The Autobiography
***Oya "the Yoruba orisha associated with storms" Sundiata Acoli Freedom Page ~~ http://www.afrikan.net/sundiata
Editor's note: My thanks and appreciation to the BRC-PP-POW: Black Radical Congress listserv for this informative piece of history. We'll NEVER allow Assata to be extradicted!
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The Journal of History - Winter 2003 Copyright © 2003 by News Source, Inc.