Who Is Assata Shakur?

Assata Shaku lives in Cuba.
Assata Shaku lives in Cuba.

Assata Shakur was born in New York City on July 16, 1947. Her birth name was Joanne Deborah Chesimard but she changed her name to Assata Shakur in 1971. The reason she gives for changing her name was that she needed a name that reflected her state of feeling more like an African woman rather than a European as her name depicted. Shakur is a revolutionary African American woman who has been a fugitive in Cuba for over 30 years. She is the late Tupac Shakur’s godmother and was a member of a group known as the Black Panther.

Brief Revolutionary History

During the late 1960s, Shakur joined the Black Panthers Group. At the time she was in her 20s. Discontented with the group’s actualization of its vision, she left and joined the Black Liberation Army (BLA). The BLA was another rebellious Black organization. The group believed in exercising open resistance.

Murder Charges Against Shakur

Shakur and two members of the BLA were pulled over by state troopers on May 2, 1973. There must have been a misunderstanding that led to the deaths of one BLA member and a state trooper named Werner Foerster. Having been present at the scene, the police insisted that Shakur was responsible for the murder of Mr. Foerster. In fact, the police shot her twice before arresting her and taking her to court. She was charged with murder and six assault charges. The verdict of the court was life imprisonment. However, Shakur has always maintained that she was innocent of all charges.

Shakur escaped prison in 1979 with the help of BLA members who pretended to be visitors. Subsequently, she fled to Cuba which is a country often accused of harboring African Americans accused of “political crimes” or “domestic terrorism.” Besides Shakur, other Black Panthers that have resided in Cuba include Raymond Johnson, Eldridge Cleaver, and Huey Newton. Interestingly, in 1984 Fidel Castro granted Shakur an asylum.

Calls For Extradition

Shakur was the first black woman to make the FBI 2013 list of the 10 most wanted terrorists. In fact, a reward of $2 million has been promised for her arrest. Nevertheless, many politicians have been seeking her extradition from Cuba for many years now. One such politician is Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey State and more recently, President Donald Trump.

The Future Of Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur happens to be one of Hip-hop’s beloved black icons. Songs such as “A Song for Assata” and “Rebel Without A Pause” by Common and Public Enemy singing groups were composed in Shakur’s honor. Suffice to say, President Donald Trump is now interested in her case. It is not clear what the future holds for Shakur. It would be a great honor for her to return home after many years of being an American fugitive.


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