“We have three objectives: to get our sister Assata Shakur off the terrorist list, to get the $2 million bounty on her head lifted, and to get the Revolutionary Republic of Cuba off the State Department’s list of nations the U.S. imperialism falsely accuses of state-sponsored terrorism,” said Obi Egbuna Jr., external relations officer of the Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association, to The Final Call in a phone interview.
The announcement on the objectives was made during the virtual “Assata and Cuba Appeal Press Conference,” on October 11.
Dr. ChenziRa Davis Kahina, CEO and founder of AST Speaks, Natural Indigenous Afrakan broadcasts opened the media conference with Russell Shoatz, III, son of the late political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz, who endured 30 years of inhumane solitary confinement.
“This is not a petition. The intention is very clear that our sister is to no longer be on the Most Wanted List for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” stated Dr. Kahina.
“It’s very important that we clarify and make sure that she is protected. There is no justification for a $2 million bounty on her head. Period!” she added.
As reported in a 2002 article, “Assata Shakur: From exile with love,” by Final Call staff writer Nisa Islam Muhammad, a May 2, 1973 traffic stop that occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike would now be called “racial profiling.” Ms. Shakur, who was actively involved in the Black Liberation Army (BLA), was traveling with Malik Zayad Shakur (no relation) and Sundiata Acoli. State troopers stopped them, reportedly because of a broken headlight, and explained that they were “suspicious” because they had Vermont license plates. The three were made to exit the car with their hands up. Suddenly, shots were fired.
When all was said and done, state trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were killed, and Assata Shakur and Mr. Acoli were charged with state trooper Foerster’s death. The trial found them both guilty. The verdict was no surprise. But many question the racial injustice by the all-White jury and admitted perjury by the trial’s star witness:
“I was shot with my arms in the air. My wounds could not have happened unless my arms were in the air. The bullet went in under my arm and traveled past my clavicle. It is medically impossible for that to happen if my arms were down,” Ms. Shakur told Ms. Muhammad during a one-on-one interview in Cuba.
“I was sentenced to life plus 30 years by an all-White jury. What I saw in prison was wall-to-wall Black flesh in chains. Women caged in cells. But we’re the terrorists. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Ms. Shakur, during their 2002 interview.
Forty years later on May 2, 2013, she was added as the first woman named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List by former President Barack Obama’s administration. The federal government has a $1 million bounty out for her arrest, and another $1 million bounty has been issued by New Jersey’s Attorney General.
“What this shows is that in our community there’s a divide because Black excellence has a more militant twin called African resistance. And Black excellence and African resistance may sit at the same dinner table, but they are nothing alike,” stated Mr. Egbuna Jr. “And for us to be liberated, the two twins are going to have to lock horns and the people are going to have to decide which path they choose,” he added.
“It is the time, now! We have waited long enough,” stated Mr. Shoatz, during the media conference. “We need this effort not to be just here, today. We need you to go out into your community, do that outreach work, be uncomfortable, go to the places, turn over the stones that haven’t been turned over. Talk to people who are not your comrades. Don’t preach to the choir. Let’s get outside of the box now. We need to be very uncomfortable and bring this sister home,” he said.
The coordinators of the campaign received a heartfelt message of appreciation and encouragement from Ms. Shakur’s daughter, Kakuya, shared Mr. Egbuna Jr.
“Not only should mercy be granted to those living under harsh sentences in American prisons, but people like Sister Shakur deserve mercy, as do the people of Cuba, who continue to pay the price in frozen bank accounts, denied visas and so much more, as long as Cuba is on the State-sponsored terrorists list,” stated Reverend Dr. Madeline McClenney, president and founder of the Exodus Foundation, which works to curb incarceration of Black and immigrant peoples.
“What is at stake here is our moral authority that we think we have as a nation. So, it’s baffling to me that a nation built on the Judeo-Christian ethical system would continue to keep a bounty on a woman who lived in a time she lived in, facing the terrorism that she faced as a Black woman, and in her own country. We cannot forget her context,” she added.
Bilal Sunni-Ali also expressed solidarity for Sundiata Acoli, who was Ms. Shakur’s co-defendant at trial. He also asked that Allah’s (God’s) Blessing be on their slain comrade Zayd Malik Shakur.
At the time, he was involved with the National Task Force for Research and Litigation of the U.S. Government’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which continued to support Assata Shakur after her arrest and during the trial.
The global campaign is anticipated to involve a series of events which include issuing an appeal before engaging members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Biden-Harris administration, said Mr. Egbuna, Jr. to The Final Call. He said the appeal will be out by the end of November, and they are calling for involvement by churches, spiritual sectors of the community, artists, entertainers, musicians, athletes, and media to support the global effort.
A highlight of the Oct. 11 conference was a poetic verse shared by The Children of Mass Emphasis Theater Company. “Mother Africa is our home, and that will never change. So when we say that Cuba is our home away from home, we hope we don’t sound strange,” the youth passionately recited.
The media conference concluded with a video statement of solidarity by two youths from the Thomas Sankara Center in Ouagadougou-Burkina Faso.