Alice Walker Speaks on the Cruelty Shown to Assata Shakur by the US Government

When Alice Walker speaks, we listen. The Pulitzer Prize winning author offered her thoughts on the ...

When Alice Walker speaks, we listen. The Pulitzer Prize winning author offered her thoughts on the renewed hunt for Assata Shakur. In a brief article, Walker laments a lack of empathy in US governmental policy. She writes:

What is most distressing about the times we live in, in my view, is our ever accelerating tolerance for cruelty. Prisoners held indefinitely in orange suits, chained and on their knees. Like the hunger strikers of Guantanamo, I would certainly prefer death to this. People shot and bombed from planes they never see until it is too late to get up from the table or place the baby under the bed. Poor people terrorized daily, driven insane really, from fear. People on the streets with no food and no place to sleep. People under bridges everywhere you go, holding out their desperate signs: a recent one held by a very young man, perhaps a veteran, under my local bridge: I Want To Live. But nothing seems as cruel to me as this: that our big, muscular, macho country would go after so tiny a woman as Assata who is given sanctuary in a country smaller than many of our states.

Walker goes on to recount her first meeting with Shakur.

The first time I met Assata Shakur we talked for a long time. We were in Havana,where I had gone with a delegation to offer humanitarian aid during Cuba’s “special period” of hunger and despair, and I’d wanted to hear her side of the story from her. She described the incident with the New Jersey Highway Patrol, and assured me she was shot up so badly that even if she’d wanted to, she would not have been able to fire a gun. Though shot in the back, and elsewhere, she managed to live through two years of solitary confinement, in a men’s prison, chained to her bed. Then, in what must surely have been a miraculous coming together of people of great compassion, she was helped to escape and to find refuge in Cuba. One of the women who helped Assata escape, a white woman named Marilyn Buck, was kept in prison for thirty years and released only one month before her death from uterine cancer. She was a poet, and I have been reading her last book, Inside/Out, Selected Poems. There is also a remarkable video of her, shot in prison, that I highly recommend.
Many who are familiar with Assata's story feel that her inclusion as a "Most Wanted Terrorist" is unjust; however, reading the recollections of her confidants reminds us of her humanity. Assata Shakur is more than a political figure. She is a woman in her 60s exiled from her country of origin.

Read the rest of Alice Walker's tribute to Assata.


Assata Shakur In Her Own Words
In Search of Assata: Former Black Panther First Woman Named to FBI’s Top Terrorist List

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