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.”
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.
By the early 1970s, heroin was flooding the streets of New York City. Black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods like Harlem and the South Bronx were hardest hit. This four-part podcast series explores how Dr. Mutulu Shakur, stepfather of the late Tupac Shakur, along with members of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords, combined community health with radical politics to create the first acupuncture detoxification program in America.
Over the course of the 1970s, the Lincoln Detox People’s Program became a fixture of hope in the South Bronx and detoxed thousands of people off of drugs. DOPE IS DEATH explores why this program was considered a threat to the political and social stability of the United States. And how its brightest star, celebrated community activist and healer Dr. Mutulu Shakur, ended up one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted until he was captured and convicted of RICO conspiracy.
Today, Dr. Mutulu Shakur remains incarcerated. Civil rights hero or enemy of the state? DOPE IS DEATH dives deep into the history of COINTELPRO and other legal tools that law enforcement can utilize to repress political dissidents.
Longtime supporter of Dr. Shakur, Adrian “Rocky” is making her boxing debut this summer! Follow her journey by subscribing to Roc’s House on YouTube! You don’t want to miss her in the ring as she continues the fight for freedom and justice for Dr. Shakur:
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:
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.