Category Archives: Honoring Dr. Shakur

‘Juneteenth and Black Liberation’ by Nebil Husayn

Our government’s history of oppression compels us to free those Black revolutionaries aging in our prisons

Published on July 15, 2022 on Inquest: A Decarceral Brainstorm by the Institute to End Mass Incerceration

This was only the second year that Americans celebrated Juneteenth as a federal holiday. This day of remembrance, and our nation’s oldest African American holiday, recognizes the fundamental reality that citizens can be unjustly barred from rights afforded to them by their government for years. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which reached Texas more than two years after its signing, was followed by the 13th Amendment, which made human enslavement unconstitutional “except as a punishment for crime.” As it is well documented, this exception incentivized the targeted incarceration of Black men for labor, perpetuated slavery, and served white communities that upheld myths about Black criminality.

Icons of abolition and racial justice such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela lived in eras where their activism and acts of civil disobedience on behalf of other Black lives were considered unlawful and worthy of imprisonment. Yet the history of repression and oppression surrounding their actions greatly mitigates and helps explain them.

In their lifetimes, both Malcolm X and Dr. King were considered radical Black leaders and agitators who divided the nation with their critiques of American culture and society. It is in studying the history of these Black activists accused by their peers of radicalism that we can see the ways in which many were villainized and gradually written out of narratives of Black history. Public school students do not commonly learn about the Stono slave rebellion, the insurrection of Nat Turner, the contributions of Malcolm X, or the most famous revolutionary movement to uplift Black communities with a national network of social welfare initiatives — the Black Panther Party. 

Founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a grassroots Marxist-Leninist organization that urged members to challenge the endemic pattern of police brutality and false imprisonment of Black people in Oakland, California, with armed patrols. Under its longtime director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI considered Pan-African and Black nationalist movements such as the Panthers threats to national security, and many were subjected to unlawful surveillance, intimidation, incarceration, and assault. The highest-profile targets of this coordinated assault were the leaders and members of the Black Panther Party. The urgency with which the party demanded an immediate end to police brutality as part of its Ten Point Program was not a sentiment shared by most Americans until, perhaps, 54 years later — when video footage captured the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

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Faith-based Leaders all over the U.S. Call for Compassionate Release

Over a hundred faith-based leaders sign a letter to the U.S. Parole Commission, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and U.S. Department of Justice voicing strong support for Mutulu’s compassionate release. The letter, penned to promote the values of redemption and salvation, is addressed to the U.S. Parole Commission Chair Patricia Cushwa, FMC Lexington Warden Francisco Quintana, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. It will be hand-delivered by a delegation this month followed by a press conference.

Mutulu featured in An Injustice! Mag

Mutulu Shakur: Proof That a Different Kind of Prison is Possible

He helped us and paid with his life

By Pam Bailey

In 1988, Mutulu Shakur, a Black-liberation leader and stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, was convicted in connection with the robbery of a Brink’s armored truck, during which three people were killed (although not by him). He has been incarcerated for 35 years now and has repeatedly been denied both parole and compassionate release, despite a record of peaceful and productive leadership in prison.

Now, at age 71, Shakur has been diagnosed with advanced bone marrow cancer. An oncologist has told the court that even with successful treatment, Shakur will likely die within two to three years. Without treatment, or if it fails, he is expected to live fewer than 11 months. Nearly 55,000 people have signed a petition calling on President Biden and the federal Bureau of Prisons to grant Shakur immediate compassionate release.

James Carpenter, released in 2020 after serving 24 years, is one of those signatories. But unlike most of them, he has personal knowledge of the role model Shakur has become. They were incarcerated together back in the early 2000s.

“They should let that man go home,” he says. “He’s been nothing but positivity and an uplifter of people, always working to intervene in conflicts and find solutions to problems. The concept of tolerance and cultural diversity that is so big right now? I heard it from him years ago.”

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‘Acupuncture as Revolution’ now available in bookstores!

A thoroughly researched and insightful look at acupuncture’s radical history in NYC has been released by Brevis Press and is now available in bookstores worldwide. Rachel Pagones’ ‘Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation and Love’ provides not only a detailed account of Lincoln Detox, but also the lesser-known history of BAAANA featuring Dr. Mutulu Shakur in his own words throughout.

Check it out at independent booksellers like Left Bank Books!

NYT notes Mutulu and young Tupac’s backing vocals on ‘A Grain of Sand’ Album

A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle of Asians in America, a 1973 Paredon Records release, is widely recognized as the first album of Asian American music. Chris Kando Iijima, Joanne Nobuko Miyamoto, and William “Charlie” Chin deliver their activist message through simply–recorded acoustic guitars and vocals, with the occasional accompaniment of bongos, bass, and di zi, a Chinese flute. Soul, jazz, and blues elements are interwoven in the American folk style of the songs. The artists were also influenced by their solidarity with African American and Latin American social movements; for example, their musical collaboration with Puerto Rican duo Flora y Pepe and exposure to Latino artists while living in New York. The liner notes include a political statement by the musicians, lyrics, and a list of Asian American publications from the era:

All tracks can be purchased through Smithsonian Folkways

The album Yellow Pearl released on Paredon was the poetic and groundbreaking “A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America,” which included anthems like “We Are the Children” and “Free the Land,” featuring backing vocals from Mutulu Shakur (his stepson, Tupac Shakur, sang along to “A Grain of Sand” as a child, according to Smithsonian Folkways Magazine). It was recorded in two and a half days at a small New York studio and that no-frills spontaneity brings the music alive still.

New York Times, February, 10, 2021