Assata Shakur Discussion Forums
Eyes of the Rainbow
The Talking Drum
On May 2 1973, Black Panther activist Assata Shakur (fsn) JoAnne Chesimard, was pulled over by the New Jersey State Police, shot twice and then charged with murder of a police officer. Assata spent six and a half years in prison under brutal circumstances before escaping out of the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey in 1979 and moving to Cuba. 
The Talking Drum
Table Of Contents

 Introduction  Distortions And Lies   The Tradition  The Interview  Assata Poster Sekou Odinga Sundiata Acoli Marilyn Buck Silva Baraldini Women In Prison: How It Is With Us
 The Prison Industrial Complex  Assata Speaks (audio) To My People  Message To My Sistas Remembering A Revolutionary  Closing Remarks Assata's Forums Hands Off Assata Eyes of the Rainbow

The Talking Drum
My name is Assata ("she who struggles") 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 political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government's policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I  joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program. because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar  Hoover called it "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and  vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists. 

In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations Organization in a petition filed by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive in US prisons. I was falsely accused in six different "criminal cases" and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the "evidence" presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government's policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges.

The Talking Drum
On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a "faulty tail light." Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became "suspicious." He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Forester was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Forester. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Forester was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial. We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison. In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life. 
The Talking Drum
The U.S. Senate's 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence operations inside the USA, revealed that "The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the publics perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through "friendly" news contacts." This same policy is evidently still very much in effect today. On December 24, 1997, The New Jersey State called a press conference to announce that New Jersey State Police had written a letter to Pope John Paul II asking him to intervene on their behalf and to aid in having me extradited back to New Jersey prisons. The New Jersey State Police refused to make their letter public. Knowing that they had probably totally distort the facts, and attempted to get the Pope to do the devils work in the name of religion, I decided to write the Pope to inform him about the reality of’ "justice" for black people in the State of New Jersey and in the United States. 
The Talking Drum
In January of 1998, during the pope's visit to Cuba, I agreed to do an interview with NBC journalist Ralph Penza around my letter to the Pope, about my experiences in New Jersey court system, and about the changes I saw in the United States and it's treatment of Black people in the last 25 years. I agreed to do this interview because I saw this secret letter to the Pope as a vicious, vulgar, publicity maneuver on the part of the New Jersey State Police, and as a cynical attempt to manipulate Pope John Paul II. I have lived in Cuba for many years, and was completely out of touch with the sensationalist, dishonest, nature of the establishment media today. It is worse today than it was 30 years ago. After years of being victimized by the "establishment" media it was naive of me to hope that I might finally get the opportunity to tell "my side of the story." Instead of an interview with me, what took place was a "staged media event" in three parts, full of distortions, inaccuracies and outright lies. NBC purposely misrepresented the facts. Not only did NBC spend thousands of dollars promoting this "exclusive interview series" on NBC, they also spent a great deal of money advertising this "exclusive interview" on black radio stations and also placed notices in local newspapers. 
The Talking Drum
In an NBC interview Gov. Whitman was quoted as saying that "this has nothing to do with race, this had everything to do with crime." Either Gov. Whitman is completely unfamiliar with the facts in my case, or her sensitivity to racism and to the plight of black people and other people of color in the United States is at a sub-zero level. In 1973 the trial in Middlesex County had to be stopped because of the overwhelming racism expressed in the jury room. The court was finally forced to rule that the entire jury panel had been contaminated by racist comments like "If she's black, she's guilty." In an obvious effort to prevent us from being tried by "a jury of our peers the New Jersey courts ordered that a jury be selected from Morris County, New Jersey where only 2.2 percent of the population was black and 97.5 percent of potential jurors were white. In a study done in Morris County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, 92 percent of the registered voters said that they were familiar with the case through the news media, and 72 percent believed we were guilty based on pretrial publicity. During the jury selection process in Morris County, white supremacists from the National Social[ist] White People's Party, wearing Swastikas, demonstrated carrying signs reading "SUPPORT WHITE POLICE." The trial was later moved back to Middlesex County where 70 percent thought I was guilty based on pretrial publicity I was tried by an all white jury, where the presumption of innocence was not the criteria for jury selection. Potential jurors were merely asked if they could "put their prejudices aside, and "render a fair verdict." The basic reality in the United States is that being black is a crime and black people are always "suspects" and an accusation is usually a conviction. Most white people still think that being a "black militant" or a "black revolutionary" is tantamount to being guilty of some kind of crime. The current situation in New Jersey's prisons, underlines the racism that dominates the politics of the state of New Jersey, in particular and in the U.S. as a whole. Although the population of New Jersey is approximately 78 percent white, more than 75 percent of New Jersey's prison population is made up of blacks and Latinos. 80 percent of the women in Jersey prisons are people of color. That may not seem like racism to Gov. Whitman, but it reeks of racism to us. 
The Talking Drum
The NBC story implied that Governor Christie Whitman raised the reward for my capture based on my interview with NBC. The fact of the matter is that she has been campaigning since she was elected into office to double the reward for my capture. In 1994, she appointed Col. Carl Williams who immediately vowed to make my capture a priority. In 1995, Gov. Whitman sought to "match a $25,000 departmental appropriation sponsored by an "unidentified legislator." I watched a tape of Gov. Whitman's "testimony" in her interview with NBC. She gave a very dramatic, exaggerated version of what happened, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support her claim that Trooper Forester had "four bullets in him at least, and then they got up and with his own gun, fired two bullets into his head." She claimed that she was writing Janet Reno for federal assistance in my capture, based on what she saw in the NBC interview. If this is the kind of "information" that is being passed on to Janet Reno and the Pope, it is clear that the facts have been totally distorted. Whitman also claimed that my return to prison should be a condition for "normalizing relations with Cuba". How did I get so important that my life can determine the foreign relations between two governments? Anybody who knows anything about New Jersey politics can be certain that her motives are purely political. She, like Torrecelli and several other opportunistic politicians in New Jersey came to power, as part time lobbyists for the Batista faction - soliciting votes from right wing Cubans. They want to use my case as a barrier for normalizing relations with Cuba, and as a pretext for maintaining the immoral blockade against the Cuban people.
The Talking Drum
In what can only be called deliberate deception and slander NBC aired a photograph of a woman with a gun in her hand implying that the woman in the photograph was me. I was not, in fact, the woman in the photograph. The photograph was taken from a highly publicized case where I was accused of bank robbery. Not only did I voluntarily insist on participating in a lineup, during which witnesses selected another woman, but during the trial, several witnesses, including the manager of the bank, testified that the woman in that photograph was not me. I was acquitted of that bank robbery. NBC aired that photograph on at least 5 different occasions, representing the woman in the photograph as me. How is it possible, that the New Jersey State Police, who claim to have a detective working full time on my case, Governor of New Jersey Christine Whitman, who claimed she reviewed all the "evidence," or NBC, which has an extensive research department, did not know that the photograph was false? It was a vile, fraudulent attempt to make me look guilty. NBC deliberately misrepresented the truth. Even after many people had called in, and there was massive fax, and e-mail campaign protesting NBC's mutilation of the facts, Ralph Penza and NBC continued to broadcast that photograph, representing it as me. Not once have the New Jersey State Police, Governor Christine Whitman, or NBC come forth and stated that I was not the woman in the photograph, or that I had been acquitted of that charge. 
The Talking Drum
Another major lie and distortion was that we had left trooper Werner Forester on the roadside to die. The truth is that there was a major cover-up as to what happened on May 2, 1973. Trooper Harper, the same man who shot me with my arms raised in the air, testified that he returned to the State Police Headquarters which was less than 200 yards away, "To seek aid." However, tape recordings and police reports made on May 2, 1973 prove that not only did Trooper Harper give several conflicting statements about what happened on the turnpike, but he never once mentioned the name of Werner Forester, or the fact that the incident took place right in front of the Trooper Headquarters. In an effort to hide his tracks and cover his guilt he said nothing whatsoever about Forester to his superiors or to his fellow officers. In a clear attempt to discredit me, Col. Carl Williams of the New Jersey State Police was allowed to give blow by blow distortions of my interview. In my interview I stated that on the night of May 2, 1973 I was shot with my arms in the air, then shot again in the back. Williams stated "that is absolutely false. Our records show that she reached in her pocketbook, pulled out a nine millimeter weapon and started firing." However, the claim that I reached into my pocketbook and pulled out a gun, while inside the car was even contested by trooper Harper. Although on three official reports, and when he testified before the grand jury he stated that he saw me take a gun out of my pocketbook, he finally admitted under cross examination that he never saw me with my hands in a pocketbook, never saw me with a weapon inside the car, and that he did not see me shoot him. 
The Talking Drum
The truth is that I was examined by 3 medical specialists: (1) A Neurologist who testified that I was immediately paralyzed immediately after the being shot. (2) A Surgeon who testified that "It was absolutely anatomically necessary that both arms be in the air for Mrs. Chesimard to receive the wounds." The same surgeon also testified that the claim by Trooper Harper that I had been crouching in a firing position when I was shot was "totally anatomically impossible." (3) A Pathologist who testified that "There is no conceivable way that it [the bullet] could have traveled over to hit the clavicle if her arm was down." he said "It was impossible to have that trajectory. "The prosecutors presented no medical testimony whatsoever to refute the above medical evidence. No evidence whatsoever was ever presented that I had a 9 millimeter weapon, in fact New Jersey State Police testified that the 9 millimeter weapon belonged to Zayd Malik Shakur based on a holster fitting the weapon that they was recovered from his body. There were no fingerprints, or any other evidence whatsoever that linked me to any guns or ammunition. The results of the Neutron Activation test to determine whether or not I had fired a weapon were negative. Although Col. Williams refers to us as the "criminal element" neither Zayd, or Sundiata Acoli or I were criminals, we were political activists. I was a college student until the police kicked down my door in an effort to force me to "cooperate" with them and Sundiata Acoli was a computer expert who had worked for NASA, before he joined the Black Panther Party and was targeted by COINTELPRO.
The Talking Drum
In an obvious maneuver to provoke sympathy for the police, the NBC series juxtaposed my interview with the weeping widow of Werner Forester. While I can sympathize with her grief, I believe that her appearance was deliberately included to appeal to peoples emotions, to blur the facts, to make me look like a villain, and to create the kind of lynch mob mentality that has historically been associated with white women portrayed as victims of black people. In essence the supposed interview with me became a forum for the New State Police, Forester's widow, and the obviously hostile commentary of Ralph Penza. The two initial programs together lasted 3.5 minutes - me - 59 seconds, the widow 50 seconds, the state police 38 seconds, and Penza - 68 seconds. Not once in the interview was I ever asked about Zayd, Sundiata or their families. As the interview went on, it was painfully evident that Ralph Penza would never see me as a human being. Although I tried to talk about racism and about the victims of government and police repression, it was clear that he was totally uninterested. I have stated publicly on various occasions that I was ashamed of participating in my trial in New Jersey trial because it was so racist, but I did testify. Even though I was extremely limited by the judge, as to what I could testify about, I testified as clearly as I could about what happened that night. After being almost fatally wounded I managed to climb in the back seat of the car to get away from the shooting. Sundiata drove the car five miles down the road carried me into a grassy area because he was afraid that the police would see the car parked on the side of the road and just start shooting into it again. Yes, it was five miles down the highway where I was captured, dragged out of the car, stomped and then left on the ground. Although I drifted in and out of consciousness I remember clearly that both while I was lying on the ground, and while I was in the ambulance, I kept hearing the State troopers ask "is she dead yet?" Because of my condition I have no independent recollection of how long I was on the ground, or how long it was before the ambulance was allowed to leave for the hospital, but in the trial transcript trooper Harper stated that it was while he was being questioned, some time after 2:00 am that a detective told him that I had just been brought into the hospital. I was the only live "suspect" in custody, and prior to that time Harper, had never told anyone that a woman had shot him. 
The Talking Drum
As I watched Governor Whitman's interview the one thing that struck me was her "outrage" at my joy about being a grandmother, and my "quite nice life" as she put it here in Cuba. While I love the Cuban people and the solidarity they have shown me, the pain of being torn away from everybody I love has been intense. I have never had the opportunity to see or to hold my grandchild. If Gov. Whitman thinks that my life has been so nice, that 50 years of dealing with racism, poverty, persecution, brutality, prison, underground, exile and blatant lies has been so nice, then Id be more than happy to let her walk in my shoes for a while so she can get a taste of how it feels. I am a proud black woman, and I'm not about to get on the television and cry for Ralph Penza or any other journalist, but the way I have suffered in my lifetime, and the way my people have suffered, only god can bear witness to. 

Col. Williams of the New Jersey State Police stated "we would do everything we could go get her off the island of Cuba and if that includes kidnapping, we would do it." I guess the theory is that if they could kidnap millions of Africans from Africa 400 years ago, they should be able to kidnap one African woman today. It is nothing but an attempt to bring about the re-incarnation of the Fugitive Slave Act. All I represent is just another slave that they want to bring back to the plantation. Well, I might be a slave, but I will go to my grave a rebellious slave. I am and I feel like a maroon woman. I will never voluntarily accept the condition of slavery, whether its de-facto or ipso facto, official, or unofficial. In another recent interview, Williams talked about asking the federal government to add to the $50,000 reward for my capture. He also talked about seeking "outside money, or something like that, a benefactor, whatever." Now who is he looking to "contribute" to that "cause"? The ku klux klan, the neo nazi parties, the white militia organizations? But the plot gets even thicker. He says that the money might lure bounty hunters. "There are individuals out there, I guess they call themselves ‘soldiers of fortune ’ who might be interested in doing something, in turning her over to us." Well, in the old days they used to call them slave catchers, trackers, or patter rollers, now they are called mercenaries. Neither the governor nor the state police say one word about "justice." They have no moral authority to do so. The level of their moral and ethical bankruptcy is evident in their eagerness to not only break the law and hire hoodlums, all in the name of "law and order." But you know what gets to me, what makes me truly indignant? With the schools in Paterson, N.J. falling down, with areas of Newark looking like a disaster area, with the crack epidemic, with the wide-spread poverty and unemployment in New Jersey, these depraved, decadent, would-be slave masters want federal funds to help put this "n-word wench" back in her place. They call me the "most wanted woman" in Amerikkka. I find that ironic. I've never felt very "wanted" before. When it came to jobs, I was never the "most wanted," when it came to "economic opportunities I was never the "most wanted, when it came to decent housing." It seems like the only time Black people are on the "most wanted" list is when they want to put us in prison. But at this moment, I am not so concerned about myself. Everybody has to die sometime, and all I want is to go with dignity. I am more concerned about the growing poverty, the growing despair that is rife in Amerikkka. I am more concerned about our younger generations, who represent our future. I am more concerned that one third of young black are either in prison or under the jurisdiction of the "criminal in-justice system." I am more concerned about the rise of the prison industrial complex that is turning our people into slaves again. I am more concerned about the repression, the police brutality, violence, the rising wave of racism that makes up the political landscape of the U.S. today. Our young people deserve a future, and I consider it the mandate of my ancestors to be part of the struggle to insure that they have one. They have the right to live free from political repression. The U.S. is becoming more and more of a police state and that fact compels us to fight against political repression. I urge you all, every single person who reads this statement, to fight to free all political prisoners. As the concentration camps in the U.S. turn into death camps, I urge you to fight to abolish the death penalty. I make a special, urgent appeal to you to fight to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the only political prisoner who is currently on death row. It has been a long time since I have lived inside the United States. But during my lifetime I have seen every prominent black leader, politician or activist come under attack by the establishment media. When African Americans appear on news programs they are usually talking about sports, entertainment or they are in handcuffs. When we have a protest they ridicule it, minimized it, or cut the numbers of the people who attended in half. 

The Talking Drum
The news is big business and it is owned operated by affluent white men. Unfortunately, they shape the way that many people see the world, and even the way people see themselves. Too often black journalists, and other journalists of color mimic their white counterparts. They often gear their reports to reflect the foreign policies and the domestic policies of the same people who are oppressing their people. In the establishment media, the bombing and of murder of thousands of innocent women and children in Libya or Iraq or Panama is seen as "patriotic," while those who fight for freedom, no matter where they are, are seen as "radicals," "extremists," or "terrorists." Like most poor and oppressed people in the United States, I do not have a voice. Black people, poor people in the U.S. have no real freedom of speech, no real freedom of expression and very little freedom of the press. The black press and the progressive media has historically played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We need to continue and to expand that tradition. We need to create media outlets that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate their minds. I am only one woman. I own no TV stations, or Radio Stations or Newspapers. But I feel that people need to be educated as to what is going on, and to understand the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression in Amerikkka. All I have is my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the truth. But I sincerely ask, those of you in the Black media, those of you in the progressive media, those of you who believe in truth, freedom To publish this statement and to let people know what is happening. We have no voice, so you must be the voice of the voiceless.
Wish I could be there, Assata Shakur
     Havana, Cuba
The Talking Drum
(A poem by Assata Shakur)

Carry it on now.
Carry it on.
Carry it on now.
Carry it on.
Carry on the tradition.

  Their were Black People since the childhood of time
who carried it on.
In Ghana and Mali and Timbuktu
We carried it on.
Carried on the tradition.

 We hid in the bush.
When the slave masters came
holding spear
And when the moment was ripe,
leaped out and lanced the lifeblood
of our would-be masters.
We carried it on.

 On slave ships,
hurling ourselves into oceans.
Slitting the throats of our captors.
We took their whips.
And their ships
Blood flowed in the Atlantic
and it wasn't all ours.
We carried it on.

Fed Missy arsenic apple pies.
Stole the axes from the shed.
Went and chopped off master's head.
We ran. We fought.
We organized a railroad.
An underground.
We carried it on.

 In newspapers. In meetings.
In arguments and street fights.
We carried it on.

In tales told to children.
In chants and cantatas.
In poems and blues songs
and saxophone screams,
We carried it on.

In classrooms. In churches.
In courtrooms. In prisons.
We carried it on.

On soapboxes and picket lines.
Welfare lines, unemployment
Our lives on the line,
We carried it on.

In sit-ins and pray ins
And march ins and die ins,
We carried it on.

On cold Missouri midnights
Pitting shotguns against lynch mobs
On burning Brooklyn streets
Pitting rocks against rifles,
We carried it on.

Against water hoses and bulldogs.
Against nightsticks and bullets.
Against tanks and tear gas.
Needles and nooses.
Bombs and birth control.
We carried it on.

In Selma and San Juan.
Mozambique, Mississippi.
In Brazil and in Boston,
We carried it on.

Through the lies and the sell-outs,
The mistakes and the madness.
Through pain and hunger and frustration,
We carried it on.

Carried on the tradition.
Carried a strong tradition.
Carried a proud tradition.
Carried a Black tradition.
Carry it on.

Pass it down to the children.
Pass it down.
Carry it on.
Carry it on now.
Carry it on

Assata Shakur

The Talking Drum
"The Prison Industrial Complex"
Greetings Sisters, Brothers, Comrades, 

Never in our history has critical resistance to the status quo been more important. The growth of the  Prison Industrial complex has been appallingly rapid and the escalating repression that has  accompanied it is totally alarming. What of future lies ahead of us? What are the implications of for  our children? 

Those who are targeted as the victims of the Prison Industrial Complex  are mainly people of color.  They are Native Americans, Africans, Asians, and Latinos, who came from societies where there  were no prisons and where prisons were an unknown concept. Prisons were introduced in Africa, the Americas and Asia as by-products of slavery and colonialism, and they continue to be instruments of  exploitation and oppression. In the heart of the imperialist empires, prisons also meant oppression.  The prisons of Europe were so overcrowded that European prisoners were sent to the colonies and  encouraged to enslave and colonize other peoples. In England, during the so-called period of  expansion, there were not only debtor's prisons for the poor, but also more than 200 crimes that were  punishable by death. During the French revolution, the storming and destruction of the Bastille Prison,  became a symbol for liberation all over Europe. And today, those of us whose ancestors were  imprisoned in Slave forts like Elmina, or Goree Island, now find ourselves imprisoned in places like  Elmira, Rikers Island, Terminal Island, Marion or Florence. The prisons that are being constructed In  the United States today are more sophisticated than concentration camps like Auschwitz or Dachau,  but they serve the same purpose. The profits from prison industries, and prison slave labor is  surpassing the super exploitation levels of forced labor in Nazi concentration camps.

The Prison Industrial Complex is not only a mechanism to convert Public tax money into profits for  private corporations, it is an essential element of modern neo-liberal capitalism. It serves two purposes.  One to neutralize and contain huge segments of potentially rebellious  sectors of the population, and  two, to sustain a system of super exploitation, where mainly black and Latino captives are imprisoned  in white rural, overseer communities. People of color are easy targets. Our criminalization and  villianization is an Amerikkkan tradition. The image of the dirty-lazy-shiftless- savage - backwards-  good for nothing - darkies has been the underpinning of the racist culture and ideology, that dominates  U.S. politics. One of the basic tenets of that revolution was that only rich, white men have the right to  have a revolution, anyone else who struggles for one is a terrorist or a subversive. The truth of the  matter is that oppressed people have, and have always had a great deal more to be outraged about  than taxation without representation.

Repression, torture, and beatings are as common in U.S. prisons today as they were on slave  plantations. And political prisoners bear the brunt of this systematic brutality. Those who fight against  oppression are thrown into dungeons, rather than those who perpetuate it. The prolonged torture of  solitary confinement is being used, not only as a weapon against political dissent, but as a weapon  against anyone who protests any of the injustices of the system. How can you fight against injustice,  without demanding the liberation of political prisoners?

Unfortunately, there are more young people behind bars because they have been inculcated with and  are reproducing the values of this decadent capitalist system, than those who are consciously  struggling to change it. During the 1960s, when the movement was at its height, the prison population  was only a fraction of what it is today. Those who institutionalized the kidnapping of Africans, those  who orchestrated genocide against Native Americans, those who plunder the treasures of the world, and who are responsible for the most heinous crimes on this planet, want to preach to us about law  and order. Those who profit from human misery and deny us education, affirmation action, health  care, decent housing, want to lecture us about morality. Many of us watch helplessly as our children  imitate and internalize the greedy, ostentatious, culture of conspicuous consumption, practiced by  those who oppress us. We watch the same people who import drugs into the country, who distribute them,  in our communities, wage a war on us, in the name of fighting drugs.

The Prison Industrial complex is not a distortion of modern global capitalism;  it is part and parcel of  that system. It is not enough to fight against the Prison Industrial complex; we must fight against the  ideology that promotes it.  Human beings are social beings and have a basic need to live in nurturing  communities, instead of hostile ones. The people on this planet have an infinite potential to contribute  to this planet and it is a crime to prevent us from doing so. The human beings who live on this planet  have an unlimited ability to learn, to grow, to change, to be generous, to invent and to share. It is a  crime to prevent young people from developing their talents. It is a crime to let individualistic values  destroy the collective good. To those who rule this planet, we are all disposable. Our only value to  them is the wealth that we are capable of producing. It is a system with no compassion, no love, and  no faith.

What kind of mentality is it that would classify a 5 year old as being incorrigible?   What kind of  system would try a 12 year as an adult? What kind of mentality is it that would sentence a  20-year-old to life without parole? How can a system claim to be nonviolent, while praising the death  penalty inside its borders, and bombing and killing innocent people all over the world? This is a system  that sells and promotes and exports violence. It is a system that would rather warehouse and murder  its young, than cultivate them. In this grotesque  world with its grotesque, cynical values, it sounds,  naive, to believe in people, and believe in our ability to create a better world.

But how can you believe in a future if you don't believe in people who are going to make it? How can  you believe in human rights unless you believe in human beings? How can you say you believe in  justice, without believing in social justice, political justice and economic justice for all people?

The Prison Industrial complex not only destroys individuals; it destroys families and communities. If  we do not destroy it, it will destroy us. I urge you to do everything you can to break these chains.

Free All Political Prisoners!
Free Mumia Abu Jamal!

Assata Shakur,
Havana Cuba

The Talking Drum
"A Message To My Sistas"
At this time I'd like to say a few words especially to my sisters: SISTERS. BLACK PEOPLE WILL NEVER BE FREE UNLESS BLACK WOMEN PARTICIPATE
I think that Black women, more than anybody on the face of the earth, recognize the urgency of our situation. Because it is We who come face to face daily with the institutions of our oppression. And because it is We who have borne the major responsibility of raising our children. And it is We who have to deal with the welfare systems that do not care about the welfare of our children. And it is We who have to deal with the school systems that do not educate our children. It is We who have to deal with the racist teachers who teach our children to hate themselves. It is We who have seen the terrible effects of racism on our children. I JUST WANT TO TAKE A MOMENT OUT
TO EXPRESS MY LOVE TO ALL OF YOU WHO RISK YOUR LIVES DAILY STRUGGLING OUT HERE ON THE FRONT LINES. We who have watched our young grow too old, too soon. We who have watched our children come home angry and frustrated and seen them grow more bitter, more disillusioned with the passing of each day. And We who have seen the sick, trapped look on the faces of our children when they come to fully realize what it means to be Black in Amerikkka. And we know what deprivation is. How many times have We run out of bus fare, rent money, food money and how many times have our children gone to school in hand-me-down clothes, with holes in their shoes. We know what a hell-hole Amerikkka is. We're afraid to let our children go out and play. We're afraid to walk the streets at night. We sisters, We have seen our young, the babies that We brought into this world with such great hopes for, We have seen their bodies bloated and aching from drugs, scarred and deformed by bullet holes. We know what oppression is. We have been abused in every way imaginable. We have been abused economically, politically. We have been abused physically, and We have been abused sexually. And sisters, We have a long and glorious history of struggle on this land/planet. Afrikan women were strong and courageous warriors long before We came to this country in chains. And here in Amerikkka, our sisters have been on the front lines. Sister Harriet Tubman led the underground railroad. And sisters like Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hammer, Sandra Pratt and our Queen Mother Moore have carried it on. Sisters, We have been the backbone of our communities, and We have got to be the backbone of our nation. We have got to build strong family units, based on love and struggle. We don't have no time to play around. 

Assata Shakur's Forum

The Talking Drum
If he's not about liberation, if he's not about struggle, if he ain't about building a strong Black nation then he ain't about nothing. We know how to struggle. We know how to struggle and finagle to survive. We know what it means, sisters, to struggle tooth and nail. We know what it means to struggle with love. We know what unity is. We know what sisterhood is. We have always been kind to each other, brought each other hot soup and biscuits. We have always helped each other through the hard times. Sisters, We must celebrate Afrikan womanhood. We don't want to be like Miss Ann. She can keep her false eyelashes and her false, despoiled image of womanhood. She can keep her mink stole and her French provincial furniture. We will define for ourselves what womanhood is. And We will create our own style and our own ways of dress. We can't have no white man in France telling Afrikan women what to look like. We will create our own New Afrikan way of living. We will create our own way of being and living our own New Afrikan culture, taking the best of the old and mixing it with the new.
Greetings Sisters and Brothers,
As we move toward a new millennium, we must face a bitter truth. For African people born and raised in this country, the 20th century has meant the transformation and the continuation of the same greedy, racist policies that kept our ancestors enslaved. Our relationship with the U.S. government is still one of domination and forced subordination, using the cruelest forms of repression, the most sophisticated techniques of mind control, based on vicious lies and distortions. The U.S. government not only uses its military, economic, political and propaganda machinery to dominate and exploit black people and other oppressed people inside its borders, it uses the same system to try to dominate and exploit entire countries, and subjugate huge portions of the world's population. I don't have to talk about the terrible oppression our people are living under, you know that better than i do. Many of us who believed that we could work for change inside the system, have discovered that we were only working under it, the same system that denies us our basic liberties, our human rights and opposes our quest for social justice and human development. In the hostile reality that we are facing it is evident the only solutions are radical solutions - radical changes in the priorities, and in the political and economic structure of the U.S. government. 
The Talking Drum
More than at any other time in the last 20 years, millions of black people are crying out for change, for self determination, for principled leadership and for a genuinely democratic movement. I am elated and very proud that so many seasoned political activists have risen to the occasion and come together to try and meet the many challenges that we as a people are facing. Our commitment to social change represents our commitment to the future. We have an heavy historical duty that we must fulfill, but is a beautiful and noble task. It is not easy to build a growing, organized, sustained people's movement, but without such a movement the future of our children is in extreme danger. As in any struggle for social change, there will be many different opinions, and many different approaches. I hope that we have learned enough from the past to minimize our differences and to maximize what we have in common. I hope that we will leave our negativity and pessimism at home, and allow ourselves to be open, to be creative, to be open, to be understanding. I hope that we will differ with love, debate with kindness and take full advantage of the strength and the sweetness of unity. Let us call on the spirit of our ancestors. Let us be humbled by their strength, by their sacrifices and by the beauty and love that they passed down to us. 
The Talking Drum
 Free all Political Prisoners,
I send you Love and Revolutionary Greetings
From Cuba, One of the Largest, Most Resistant and
Most Courageous Palenques (Maroon Camps)
That has ever existed on the Face of this Planet.

Assata Shakur 
Havana, Cuba 

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