“If They Take You In The Morning, They Will Be Coming For Us That Night”

Jordan Davis is Dead. But not murdered?

I wish I had something more to say about the fact that Michael Dunn was not convicted for killing a black boy. Except I said it after George Zimmerman was not convicted of killing a black boy. Except the parents of black boys already know this. Except the parents of black boys have long said this, and they have been answered with mockery.

Jordan Davis had a mother and a father. It did not save him. Trayvon Martin had a mother and a father. They could not save him. My son has a father and mother. We cannot protect him from our country, which is our aegis and our assailant. We cannot protect our children because racism in America is not merely a belief system but a heritage, and the inability of black parents to protect their children is an ancient tradition.

Ta-Neshi Coates/”On the Killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn”

James Baldwin (photo credit ReciteThis.com)

One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses.

The American triumph—in which the American tragedy has always been implicit—was to make black people despise themselves. When I was little I despised myself, I did not know any better. And this meant, albeit unconsciously, or against my will, or in great pain, that I also despised my father. And my mother. And my brothers. And my sisters. Black people were killing each other every Saturday night out on Lenox Avenue, when I was growing up; and no one explained to them, or to me, that it was intended that they should; that they were penned where they were, like animals, in order that they should consider themselves no better than animals. Everything supported this sense of reality, nothing denied it: and so one was ready, when it came time to go to work, to be treated as a slave. So one was ready, when human terrors came, to bow before a white God and beg Jesus for salvation—this same white God who was unable to raise a finger to do so little as to help you pay your rent, unable to be awakened in time to help you save your child!

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

We know that we, the blacks, and not only we, the blacks, have been, and are, the victims of a system whose only fuel is greed, whose only god is profit. We know that the fruits of this system have been ignorance, despair, and death, and we know that the system is doomed because the world can no longer afford it—if, indeed, it ever could have. And we know that, for the perpetuation of this system, we have all been mercilessly brutalized, and have been told nothing but lies, lies about ourselves and our kinsmen and our past, and about love, life, and death, so that both soul and body have been bound in hell.

Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.

If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.

An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis by James Baldwin/November 19, 1970

This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that for the heart of the matter is here and the crux of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do and how you could do it, where you could live and whom you could marry.

Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words “acceptance” and “integration.” There is no reason for you to try to become like white men and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them, and I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love, for these innocent people have no other hope. They are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men.

Many of them indeed know better, but as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case the danger in the minds and hearts of most white Americans is the loss of their identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shivering and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar, and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.

A Letter to My Nephew by James Baldwin/ December 1962

James Baldwin. Right then. Still right now.


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The Hunting of Assata Shakur

From Revolutionary Icon to Most Wanted Terrorist in 40 years.

Suddenly hearing the name of Joanne Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur in the wake of her dubious distinction being named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List jerked me back to the Seventies when I was young man.   I was never a true Black militant like Shakur, but I knew who she was, identified with her fight against a racist, oppressive U.S. government and saw her as a strong sister who had escaped the reach of the system by leaving the country only to turn up as an honored guest in Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

The feds are serious about branding Shakur as an enemy of the state.  The FBI placed a $1 million dollar reward (or bounty) for her arrest which along with the money New Jersey has kicked in puts a $2 million price tag on her head.

What did Shakur do to make her the only woman on a list of primarily Arab terrorists including Ayman Al-Zawahiri,  the replacement for Osama bin Laden as the leader of Al Qaeda?   The details why are found on Shakur’s wanted poster with the FBI’s version of events.

Joanne Chesimard is wanted for escaping from prison in Clinton, New Jersey, while serving a life sentence for murder. On May 2, 1973, Chesimard, who was part of a revolutionary extremist organization known as the Black Liberation Army, and two accomplices were stopped for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike by two troopers with the New Jersey State Police. At the time, Chesimard was wanted for her involvement in several felonies, including bank robbery. Chesimard and her accomplices opened fire on the troopers. One trooper was wounded and the other was shot and killed execution-style at point-blank range. Chesimard fled the scene, but was subsequently apprehended. One of her accomplices was killed in the shoot-out and the other was also apprehended and remains in jail.

In 1977, Chesimard was found guilty of first degree murder, assault and battery of a police officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery. She was sentenced to life in prison. On November 2, 1979, Chesimard escaped from prison and lived underground before being located in Cuba in 1984. She is thought to currently still be living in Cuba.

Shakur was prosecuted, but is she now being persecuted?

A few of the details missing from the FBI’s version of events is Chesimard/Shakur was shot while seated with her arms raised, her fingerprints were not found on any guns nor was any gunpowder residue detected on her hands.   Despite the curious lack of evidence against her, in 1977 Shakur was convicted and sentenced to 33 years plus life

“No person, no matter what his or her political or moral convictions are, is above the law. Joanne Chesimard is a domestic terrorist who murdered a law enforcement officer execution style,” said FBI Special Agent Aaron Ford at a press conference announcing Shakur’s addition to the Most Wanted Terrorists list.

In an interview with Democracy Now,  Shakur’s attorney Lennox Hinds and Angela Davis,  another target of the government’s wrath, J. Edgar Hoover’s racism hatred, COINTELPRO and other initiatives declaring open season on Black revolutionaries denounced the renewed  hunt for Shakur.

“…It was a major shock to hear that Assata Shakur has become the first woman to be added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list and then to learn that they’re adding another million dollars to the reward, the bounty. Really, it seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of terrorism. I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems as if it were a long time ago, four decades; however, in the 21st century, at the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues—police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison, and so forth. So I see this as an attack not so much on Assata herself, although of course she deserves to be brought home. She deserves to be able to live out her life, and with justice and peace. It was wonderful that you allowed people, through this program, to hear Assata’s words, because, 40 years later, people really don’t know the details of the case and are not aware of the extent to which she was targeted by the FBI by the COINTEL Program, as Lennox pointed out. And it’s amazing that in 2013, where she is living in Cuba as a political refugee, having given—having been given political asylum by Cuba, she is still pursued. And actually, this is an invitation for anyone to travel to Cuba illegally and to kidnap her and bring her back to the United States, if not shoot her dead. This is—as I said, was an extremely shocking revelation.”

Angela Davis knows something about being a political prisoner.

I cannot fathom what Attorney General Eric Holder thinks going after a 65-year-old fugitive is going to accomplish.   Cuba won’t extradite Shakur and she certainly isn’t about to return to stand trial.  Sending the Navy SEALS in after her might work in the movies, but odds are it wouldn’t work as well as Zero Dark Thirty.

Perhaps what’s driving this renewed effort to get Shakur now is in the wake of the Boston bombings the Obama Administration is in search of another head to mount on the wall.   Shakur has successfully evaded the grasp of her pursuers for decades and they’re still ticked off about it.   Break out of prison, evade your captors, escape to Cuba and you’re not going to be forgotten by your enemies.   They will remember your name.

What does it gain the Obama Administration to pursue a vendetta against Shakur?   Is this Holder and Obama trying to look tough?   Is this their “Sistah Souljah” moment where they show how they won’t play favorites even when the terrorist (that’s a laugh) is a Black woman?

If Shakur was a threat to the United States before, she certainly isn’t now.   She isn’t mailing any letters contaminated with ricin or bombing any marathons.   The timing of branding her a terrorist is as curious as it is misguided.   Shakur has gone from a young revolutionary to a political prisoner to a old woman who will likely as not live out her last years in exile 90 miles away from her homeland.

Shakur should be left alone.   The good guys don’t always win and in this case, it’s not clear who the good guys are.