(Photo credit: Jean Weisinger)
ASSATA SHAKUR is an African-American woman. She is a social justice activist, a poet, an artist, a mother and a grandmother. She has lived in Cuba since the early 1980s.
During the 1960s and 1970s, she found herself a victim of both racial profiling and political targeting. After being spotted on the New Jersey turnpike on May 2, 1973, because she is black, it was discovered that she and her two companions were members of the Black Panther Party. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Leonard Peltier, and many members of the Civil Rights and American Indian Movements, Assata and her companions had been watched, their phones tapped, their families monitored, their organizations infiltrated, and widespread disinformation campaigns waged against them. They were like many activists of the day -- targets of the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).
After police stopped them, a shootout occurred. When the smoke cleared one police officer, and one of Assata's companions, Zayd Shakur, lay dead. Assata, shot and dragged from the car, lay wounded. Belatedly taken to the hospital, Assata was then chained to her bed, tortured and questioned while injured. She was quickly jailed, prosecuted and incarcerated over the next few years for a series of trumped up charges.
In five separate trials with largely white juries, charges were dismissed because of lack of evidence or she was acquitted of all charges ranging from bank robbery to murder.
Only in the final trial in 1977, where she was charged with the turnpike killings, was she found guilty even though forensic evidence taken that day showed that she had not fired a weapon. She was sentenced to life + 33 years in prison. In 1979, after nearly six years behind bars, she escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey and some time later emerged in Cuba where she applied for and received political asylum.
Since being in Cuba, she has continued her college education, published an autobiography, and writes on global issues facing women, youth, and people of color.