Assata Shakur

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Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur (born JoAnne Deborah Byron Chesimard July 16, 1947 in New York City) was an activist in the Black Panther Party. Shakur grew up in New York City and attended Manhattan Community College and CCNY, where she was involved in many struggles. Granted political asylum in Cuba (where she presently lives), Assata Shakur remains fugitive in New Jersey and the United States for the slayings of fellow activist Zayd Shakur and New Jersey State Police (http://www.afrocubaweb.com/assata4.htm) officer Werner Foerster.

On May 2, 1973, Shakur, said to be a member of Black Liberation Army but no longer a member of the Black Panther Party, was stopped on the New Jersey State Turnpike by State Trooper James Harper, along with two Black Panthers: Zayd Shakur and Sundiata Acoli, for nothing more than a broken taillight. In an ensuing gunfight, Zayd Shakur and State Trooper Werner Foerster were killed and Assata Shakur and Trooper Harper injured. Over the next two-and-a-half years, Assata Shakur claims she was incarcerated, beaten, and tortured in a series of federal and state prisons while being tried in six different criminal trials arranged by the FBI COINTELPRO program against the Black liberation movement. The charges ranged from kidnapping to assault and battery to bank robbery. She was acquitted in all six cases.

However, Shakur was found guilty of the murder of both Foerster and her companion Zayd Shakur, for her involvement at the gun battle, despite physical evidence that she could not have fired a weapon during the incident. In 1979 she escaped a maximum-security prison in Hunterdon County and lived underground until 1986, when she was granted political asylum in Cuba. In 1998, the United States Congress unanimously passed a resolution asking Cuba for the extradition of JoAnne Chesimard. Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus later explained that they were against her extradition, but they had not recognized her name when the bill was proposed.

The National Conference of Black Lawyers and Mos Def are among the professional organizations and politically conscious entertainers to support Assata Shakur.

Her book, Assata: An Autobiography, was written in Cuba, where she still resides in exile.

On May 2, 2005, her name was added to the FBI's Domestic Terrorist List with a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture. This has sparked a pitched debate among American grassroots activists that application of newly revised terrorist laws might be used to squelch U.S. citizen's rights to organize, dissent and free speech.

Assata has one daughter and is also the godmother of the late rap artist Tupac Shakur.

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