Friday, July 1, 2011
I believe in the sweat of love and the fire of truth
En route to NY, I finished reading Assata Shakur's autobiography. It was an honor to gain more knowledge of this sistah, who in my opinion knows the true meaning of struggle and love. Love for her people. Love for herself. Love manifested through social justice and equality. She is one strong woman, and they for damn sure don't make em' like her anymore. Assata's articulation of the events that led up to her escape from the U.S. is a true testimony that she was extremely passionate about the injustices in this country and how it affected her as well as black people as a whole. The way that the media portrayed her was a force to be reckoned with. All the untruths, painting a picture of her as a violent, dangerous villain is almost laughable. But ironically it brought tears to my eyes, simply because at that time the media was able to get away with it so easily. As far as media today, I would say not much has changed. I found myself throughout various parts in the book asking out loud "is that even legal?" But quickly answered myself with "it didn't even matter." The FBI's COINTELPRO viewed Assata as prey, and they were bound to stifle, imprison, and quiet her unapologetic black voice whether it was legal or not. The living conditions that Assata endured while in prison were unfit even for the filthiest of swine. She was placed in Rikers Island men's prison basement for example. She was violently beaten numerous times and placed in isolation. Assata was forced to lived in these same conditions even when she was pregnant. She was not allowed proper medical treatment until her aunt (also her lawyer) forcefully disputed the inhumane conditions Assata was in and human rights groups starting putting pressure on the government. Even still, the courts required that their doctor be present when Assata's chosen doctor examined her. It was the U.S. intention to break her. But to no avail. Mistrial after mistrial. Prison after prison. Injustice after Injustice. Assata endured. Throughout the book Assata recalls experiences that shaped her life stemming from her early recollections of racism right up to the moment on the New Jersey turnpike. I think the thing that most gained my respect for Assata was the fact that she was a free thinker and a leader in her own right. She did not just co-sign with the Black leaders of that time because it sounded cool to be a part of or because all of her friends were joining. She read. She questioned. She firmly stated her opinions. It was interesting to find that although she strongly supported the Black Liberation Movement and was a member of the Black Panthers, that she as a black women within the party, challenged some of the parties theories and made many attempts at changing some of the ways the Black Panther party portrayed itself. In other words, she was more about action than angry, violent rhetoric. I could go on and on, about how much I enjoyed this book, from her beautiful poetry to her personal experiences with love, hate, anger, and joy. She used all of her senses to be in tune with the social injustices of that time and as I look at the cover of her book, I see the fire in her eyes. She was real. She believed wholeheartedly in the struggle for truth, equality, and social justice for our people and was willing to sacrifice herself to obtain and secure it. The beautiful struggle continues.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from her: "I believe in the sweat of love and the fire of truth."