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Assata Shakur

"My name is Assata ("she who struggles") Olugbala ("for the people") Shakur ("the thankful one"), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the #politicalrepression, #racism, and #violence that dominate the #US government's policy towards the #peopleofcolor".

Today we would like to dedicate this space to a #blackliberationist and a #feminist who marked the 60s and 70s – Joanne Deborah Bryon, also known as Assata Olugbala Shakur. When talking about the #CivilRightsMovement of the late 40s, names like #MartinLutherKingJr., #RosaParks, #HarrietTubman, and #MalcolmX are the first to mind. Unfortunately, while their actions undoubtedly shaped the course of the movement, many other individuals' contributions remain purposefully undermined; #AssataShakur is one such person.

After taking an interest in #blackhistory during her college years, she decided to join the #BlackPantherParty (BPP) – a Marxist-Leninist Black Power political organisation – to help the oppressed black community. Soon after that, she joined the #BlackLiberationArmy – an underground #BlackPower revolutionary movement with similar values.

Assata had been arrested numerous times due to her political activities. In 1973, the police stopped Assata and the two other BLA members when traveling. One of the police officers was killed during the scuffle that ensued, and Assata was found guilty of murder despite no concrete evidence. There were accounts of her being shot twice despite holding her hands up in the air. This incident made her the first woman on the #MostWanted#Terrorist List in the US. After six years in prison, she fled to #Cuba, where she lives as a political #refugee. She pleads her innocence to this day.

This was not an isolated incident. In the 70s, the BPP and the BLA were rendered dangerous because, as Shakur states, "the most important thing they did was to make it clear who the enemy was: not the white people, but the capitalistic, imperialistic oppressors." Also the #FBI blocked activists, falsified evidence, and arrested without evidence.

While it is impossible to know for certain whether Assata Shakur committed the crime or not, what can be known is the antagonistic attitude of the #US#government towards movements such as the #BPP and the #BLA, as well as the #institutionalracism that still remains to this day.

According to the National Conference of Black Lawyers, her case was one of the worst examples of “a class of victims of #FBI misconduct…who as political activists have been selectively targeted for provocation, false arrests, entrapment, fabrication of evidence, and spurious criminal prosecutions.” Furthermore, in the racist climate of the US society, the jury in her case was all white, with some expressing prejudice before the start of the trial.

Assata fought for the oppressed. She opposed the #racist, #classist, #mysogynist ‘American values’ and became a powerful voice within the Civil Rights Movement. To no surprise, in the eyes of the US government, she posed a threat. Rendering her a #terrorist (and equating radicalism with extremism) to diminish her contributions to the Movement and scare its other members, seems only expected.

The Black Panther Party was known for providing food and helping those in marginalized black communities access healthcare. As a BPP and BLA member, Assata fed hungry children within the black community, she fought against the slave-like US #prisonsystem, she advocated for women and all the oppressed. In a capitalist, patriarchal country, built on the blood of black slaves, a black liberationist and an #anti-capitalist woman who refuses to be silenced is a criminal.

Her story takes place in the 70s, but racially motivated persecution still runs rampant within the US, along with the #criminalization of activities deemed anti-systemic, which deserves every condemnation and requires all of us around the world to stand up for racial equality and justice.

We, as Rethinking Refugees members, agree with what she said in 2007, “If we all see ourselves as citizens of this planet, and citizens of the world, it will be easier for us to save this planet and recognize the human rights of human beings around the world."

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