We are pleased to announce there is a new documentary in production– Truth & Reconciliation: Dr. Mutulu Shakur. The film features stories told by the men who were incarcerated, mentored and inspired by Dr. Shakur. For more information on how to be featured in the documentary or how to support this project on the unparalleled impact and positive work of Dr. Shakur check out the Indiegogo page.
The opioid crisis is a hot topic this year, and a recent article in The Atlantic mentions Dr. Shakur as one of the figures who brought acupuncture treatment into the mainstream particularly as a method of detoxification from drug use. Despite conducting an 11-question written interview, the article did not feature any of his own words, and inaccurately states the reason for his incarceration. In an effort to add to what little accurate information is publicly available about the highly influential Lincoln Detox program, we are posting his full response to the questions raised by the interviewer.
1. How did you first become involved with Lincoln Detox? Who did you know who already worked there? Why did you decide to apply for a job, and why do you think they opted to hire you?
by Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard on filtermag.org
“They just took over the Nurses’ Residence at Lincoln Hospital,” says Walter Bosque, an acupuncturist and community organizer. His salt-and-pepper eyebrows are an archive.
I sat down with Bosque at the New York City Botanical Garden cafe on a brisk fall afternoon to discuss his involvement in the radical health activism of a fabled group in the history of grassroots organizing: the Young Lords.
The Puerto Rican liberation organization–founded in Chicago in 1968 and pollinated to New York in 1969–kicked off its activism around issues like failing garbage collection services, infrastructure laced with lead paint, and lethal medical services. In ‘69 and ‘70, the Lords took direct action with the Black Panthers and other allies against derelict facilities and care deficits at Lincoln Hospital–known locally as the “Butcher Shop.” It was the only medical facility in the majority Black and Latinx South Bronx.Continue reading
James Shelton and Kate Kampmann from the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) have created a series of images honoring 7 people whose life’s work contributed greatly to what we now term Liberation Acupuncture. These are the Ancestors of Liberation Acupuncture.
Gustavo Gutierrez was born in Lima, Peru in 1928. He is an originator and leading proponent of Liberation Theology. The phrase, “a preferential option for the poor” is attributed to him. If a practice doesn’t work for the poorest people, then it doesn’t work. This ethos is foundational to Liberation Acupuncture.
Ignacio Martín-Baró was born in Spain in 1942. He worked largely in El Salvador. A proponent of Liberation Psychology, Baró was adamant that a practice had to be useful and valuable to the popular majority. One could not import a European styled psychology for a Central American peasantry with their differing experiences of imperialism and poverty. Similarly, Liberation Acupuncture must adapt the delivery of healthcare to the
needs of the underserved American people. Baró was assassinated by the US-trained El Salvadorian Army in 1989.
Master Tung Ching Chang was born in Shandong Province, China. c. 1916. He moved to Taiwan during the Chinese revolution. His family lineage of acupuncture used a very different system than what became known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. He would have been prosecuted if he had not conformed. Tung’s acupuncture makes great use of distal points, allowing him to treat 100 people in a day and making it ideal for community acupuncture. Master Tung also stepped out of his family tradition by training many outside practitioners, including Miriam Lee.
Mutulu Shakur was born in Baltimore, in 1950. Shakur became the assistant director of the Lincoln Detox, a community organized drug detoxification clinic in an occupied building at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, which was founded in 1970 by the Black Panther Party, the Republic of New Afrika, and the Young Lords. After its closing Shakur went on to found the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA) as well as the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture. He sought to utilize affordable acupuncture for oppressed, underserved communities. A member of the Black Liberation Army, Shakur has been incarcerated since 1986. There is an ongoing campaign for freedom.
“I’m a Rastafarian-Quaker,” said Jondhi Harrell, easing back into his chair at the Friends Center, where the administrative office of Harrell’s nonprofit The Center for Returning Citizens (TCRC) is located.
“I know. It’s weird.”
Maybe at first, but comparisons between the two religions have been drawn before. The Atlantic in 2010 pointed to an excerpt from a 1966 paper on the Rastafari movement. Both Rastafarians and Quakers, the author writes, have notably refused to “modify their beliefs when confronted by a hostile society.”
Much like Jamaican Rastafaris and 17th-century Philadelphia Quakers, Harrell has refused to modify the beliefs he’s come to hold since returning home from prison in 2009. The nonprofit founder spent 25 years incarcerated for armed robbery. Eighteen years were in federal prison, 12 of those were spent “under the tutelage” of Black nationalist Mutulu Shakur.
Shakur’s guidance, Harrell said, created the “foundation” for the man he is, the beliefs he holds and the vision he’s striving to make manifest.
During the summer of 2011, I was reunited with my Abu & life long mentor, Dr. Mutulu Shakur. I had been serving 2 life sentences plus 30 years for conspiracy to possess crack cocaine, none of which were introduced in court nor found upon my person…nevertheless, I was given this time because of my ignorance of the drug laws, my inability to see into my educational, cultural and social background. Many people cannot remember or actually point to a particular individual or group of individuals that has helped them transition out of his or her negative past of immature decisions/choices. However, this is not my experience. Because for me it was Dr. Shakur who at the alpha of our much need reunion knew that he had to began educating me as to my ignorance, or I would become even more destructive than I was during such time as a teen high school drop-out, drug dealer, and so much more. Continue reading
I first reached out to Dr. Mutulu Shakur in 2004 during a time in my life when I needed more than anything, to be understood and I knew that he, of all people, would hear my voice and that my words and my story would matter to him because of his background as an expert on naturopathic cures for addiction. Continue reading
I am the above addressed, Leonard A. Rollock, Jr., also known as Petey or Pete Rollock. I am 65 years young…and what I trust is significant as a former federal prisoner/defendant who spent over 25 years straight in various federal penitentiaries and lower level federal facilities is that I bear witness that inmate intellectuals who genuinely care for others become more efficient minded people at what naturally feeds their spirit…and that is providing service.
I was a former unconscious heroin dealer out of New York and Dr. Mutulu Shakur would have been at odds with my behavior as an enabler to the serious problem of crime and addiction in our community. My being held still, in prison, with a literally 152 and ½ years in concurrent sentences provided space and time to take personal inventory. I was convicted in a RICO heroin conspiracy which charged me with conspiring with the likes of Angelo Ruggiero and Mark Reiter, the infamous John Gotti associates placing me in USP Lewisburg and blessed to cross paths with Dr. Mutulu Shakur. This was in the early 1990’s, not too long after the HBO Special “Doing Time: Life Inside The Big House” was aired, and USP Lewisburg was considered the most violent Federal USP in America.
In his own words, Rev. Kamal Hassan firmly believes that, “The church must be engaged in efforts to mend the tear in our social fabric that has caused so many of us to focus solely on our individual needs and ignore the sufferings of others. To be true to our prophetic calling the people of God must act locally for justice, peace, and freedom, while also considering the global implications of our work. We must take seriously the urgent need to participate in the building of a new heaven and a new earth, because in a faithful and relevant church there is hope for the entire world.” It is through Dr. Shakur’s work for justice, peace and freedom while incarcerated that Rev. Hassan and his wife Makini came to know Dr. Shakur:
I’ve known Dr. Shakur since the 1990’s when invited to support special educational and cultural programs that were organized by Dr. Shakur at Lompoc Prison, where he was incarcerated. His dedication to the encouragement and education of others was evident in those efforts to provide connections between us in the community and those incarcerated. I believe his dedication and commitment has encouraged successful transitions for hundreds who have experienced more meaning and opportunity outside the prison system.
It was his wonderful example that prompted us to ask him to be the godfather of our beloved daughter, Aiyisha. We are grateful for his meaningful expressions of interest and love to our family, and so many others, even while being personally impacted by his incarceration.
Related to Dr. Shakur’s expertise as an acupuncturist, I’ve had the opportunity to experience positive results from acupuncture treatment for chronic health conditions, and I do believe that many in underserved communities would greatly benefit from his expertise and dedication.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur is a highly principled, caring, well respected, is beloved by thousands; and is greatly needed on the “outside,” as we strive to find demonstrable solutions to challenging conditions that disproportionately impact communities of color. In addition, while aging, and experiencing extreme conditions in prison, he has developed chronic health conditions that deserve comprehensive care and support.
It’s past time for Dr. Mutulu Shakur to receive executive clemency, and we ask that this consideration be provided by President Obama as a high priority.
Peace and Blessings,
Eleven years ago today I got in a car in Connecticut and drove 26 hours to New Orleans. It was four months since Katrina and I was heading to the area to volunteer as an EMT with a relief organization founded in the wake of the storm. For six months, I volunteered as a medic at gutting sites as well as an intake provider at a free clinic. For six months, I was worn down by the devastation created by the storm and more so by the underlying social conflicts it magnified. When I got in the car in May of 2006 to return north I felt utterly faithless. Then, on the way out of town, I received a letter from Dr. Mutulu and felt a renewed strength of purpose for the first time since my arrival. “It is important work you are doing,” he wrote. “It is an important place and time.” After a week at home, I drove back to New Orleans and stayed for two more years. That was the first letter I received from Dr. Mutulu.
In the two years that followed, we corresponded regularly, and Dr. Mutulu continued to remind me of the greater purpose of my work there. On days when I felt alone and questioned the motivations of those around me, when I was offered money to leave the work I was doing, when I was surrounded by drugs and violence, his words reminded me “Straight ahead, stiff resistance.” Continue reading