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What about Assata? Is Black revolutionary still safe in Cuba?

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Nov 30, 2016 - 2:57:25 PM

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While the world mourns the death of Fidel Castro, many are remembering him as the protector and defender of political exile Assata Shakur. In 1984, he welcomed Ms. Shakur to the tiny island just 90 miles from Miami.

“They wanted to portray her as a terrorist, something that was an injustice, a brutality, an infamous lie,” Fidel Castro said in a television address in 2005. “They have always been hunting her, searching for her because of the fact that there was an accident in which a policeman died,” Mr. Castro said.

Assata Shakur

At a time when Cuban American relations were already bad, allowing Black liberation activist Assata Shakur to find refuge on the island only made matters worse.  But Fidel Castro did it none the less.

“He is the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution,” Zayid Muhammad, former New Jersey Black Panther leader, told The Final Call. “Cuba has been a protector and defender of Assata Shakur as a matter of principle. Cuba does not give up their political prisoners. Assata is fine there. Castro retired 20 years ago. She couldn’t be in a better place.  Cuba is already taking defensive measures since the election. They are on full military alert.”

When President Obama thawed relations with Cuba the Shakur case was not discussed. In 2013, the FBI placed her on its Most Wanted Fugitive List with a $1 million bounty. On the same day, the New Jersey State Police matched that with another $1 million, meaning a $2 million bounty is offered for information leading to her capture. She is the first and only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

What will happen to her under a President Trump? Many are speculating just how President-elect Trump will handle Cuban relations in general now that numerous companies are doing business there and tourism has increased.

“She’s fairly safe so long as Raul is still alive,” Dr. Wilmer Leon, political scientist, commentator and host of the Sirius XM Radio Show Inside the Issues. “The sense I get from Raul is that he’s just slightly more moderate than Fidel. There’s not likely to be much change.”

“With a President Trump, I don’t know if he will bring a tenor and tone that will thaw relations. When I look at the people he is nominating, I don’t see it. I don’t see a Rudy Guiliani or a John Bolton going to Cuba and negotiating.  The only one I can see doing that is Mitt Romney. But even he will be bringing the world view of the president to the negotiations.”

Twitter was abuzz with comments about the strong relationship between Fidel Castro and Assata Shakur: 

@Basseyworld  Nov 26 Fidel protected Assata at all cost. Good night.

#AssataTaughtMe @Warrior4Assata November 27  It was Fidel Castro who granted asylum to Assata Shakur! Thank you for looking after our freedom fighter  #BlackLiberationArmy #BLA

Fils Du Soleil @KivavaK  November 26  Assata Shakur was safe under Fidel Castro leadership, let’s hope she stay safe even after his passing.

The year is 1973 and an incident of what would now be called “racial profiling” takes place on the New Jersey Turnpike. Ms. Shakur, actively involved in the Black Liberation Army, is traveling with Malik Zayad Shakur (no relation) and Sundiata Acoli. State troopers stop them, reportedly because of a broken headlight. They said they exited the car with their hands up. All of a sudden, shots are fired.

Shots fired seems to be the only thing everybody agrees on. 

When the smoke cleared, State Trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were dead. Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were charged with the death of state trooper Foerster.

A trial found both guilty.

“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 The Final Call in a 2002 exclusive 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.”

She spent six and a half years in prison, two of those in solitary confinement. During that time she gave birth to her daughter Kakuya.

In 1979 she staged a daring escape that continues to infuriate the New Jersey State Troopers. There was a nation-wide search. In 1984 she went to Cuba and was united with her daughter where she has lived ever since. 

Abdul Akbar Muhammad, international representative of the Nation of Islam, wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to pardon a list of Black political prisoners and at the top of that list is Assata Shakur.

“The men and women who engaged in The Black Liberation struggle for freedom, justice and equality for our people, and are suffering from the pain of injustice in America are languishing in prisons across this country. Many have already died and Mr. President, if you pardon them most of them because of age and sickness could never be a menace to American society,” wrote Min. Akbar Muhammad.

“When we look back at this struggle and reassess some of their convictions you may see in your wisdom that their conviction based on the prevailing circumstances at that time and history may give you a new view of what they were convicted of and for. We would hope that you would use the pardon privilege invested in you as the President of The United States to free these brothers and sisters.”