Yesterday, the FBI announced that Assata Shakur is the first woman on its list of living “terrorists.” In addition to the designation, the reward for the capture Shakur has been doubled to $2 million dollars.
Assata Shakur is a revolutionary activist who fought with the Black Panther Party for Self Defense for the liberation of African people in the United States. She began her lifelong career in Black Liberation Movement with the BPP and continued her work with the student movement and the anti war movement. By 1969, the Black Panther Party was a prime target of the FBI’s domestic surveillance operation, Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). The U.S. government used this operation to “disrupt, discredit, destroy, and otherwise neutralize” the Black Panther Party, its leaders and members.
On May 2nd, 1973, Assata and her comrades Zyad Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike by state troopers who alleged that their car had a faulty taillight. A shoot out ensued resulting in the death of State Trooper Werner Foerster and Zyad Shakur and the severe wounding of Assata Shakur. She was shot once with her arms held up in the air, and then once more in the back. Sundiata Acoli escaped but was captured days later in New Brunswick as a result of the massive manhunt in search for him. Police hailed the capture of Assata, referring to her as the “Black Joan of Arc” and the “Soul of the Black Liberation Army.” Forensic tests revealed that Assata did not fire nor had she carried a weapon, but both Acoli and Assata were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Foerster and their comrade Zyad Shakur.
Assata was liberated from the Clinton, NJ Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in on November 2nd, 1979. She would later be named the FBI’s number one female fugitive.
In 1984, Assata resurfaced in Cuba and was introduced as President Fidel Castro’s special resident guest. In May 2005, the New Jersey State Troopers increased the bounty on Assata to one million dollars and placed her name on the list of domestic terrorists. Today, twenty-eight years after her liberation, after twenty-three years in exile and celebrating six decades on this planet as a fierce African woman, Assata remains in Cuba as an enduring symbol of resistance, freedom and love for Black people.