Want to Start a Revolution? Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle (Excerpt)

December 4, 2011

The below quote is taken from the chapter, Framing the Panther – Assata Shakur and Black Female Agency by Joy James

 

[Assata Shakur’s] eulogy for Safiya Bukhari, given in Havana on August 29, 2003, is haunting. Bukhari collapsed hours after she buried her own mother-the grandmother who raised Safiya Bukhari’s young daughter the day her own daughter became a BLA fighter and fugitive, going underground only to surface for an eight-year prison term. Bukhari survived the maiming medical practices of prison doctors (although her uterus did not) only to succumb to the “typical” black women diseases of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart failure in 2002. The eulogy could be read as Assata Shakur’s – and that of all revolutionary black women who refused to circumscribe their rebellion, and paid the costs for that decision:

It is with much sadness that I say last goodbye to Safiya Bukhari. She was my sister, my comrade and my friend. We met nearly thirty-five years ago, when we were bothe members of the Black Panther Party in Harlem. Even then, I was impressed by her sincerity, her commitment, and her burning energy. She was a descendant of slaves and she inherited the legacy of neo-slavery. She believed that struggle was the only way that African people in America could rid themselves of oppression. As a black woman struggling to live in America she experienced the most vicious forms of racism, sexism, cruelty and indifference. As a political activist she was targeted, persecuted, hounded and harassed. Because of her political activities she became a political prisoner and spent many years in prison. But she continued to struggle. She gave the best that she had to give to our people. She devoted her life, her love and her best energies to fighting for the liberation of oppressed people. She struggled selflessly, she could be trusted, she was consistent, and she could always be counted on to do what needed to be done. She was a soldier, a warrior-woman who did everything she could to free her people and to free political prisoners.”

For Assata Shakur, the weight of isolation, alienation, and vilification are scars that are borne. Redemption does not occur on this plane or in this life. Betrayal by nonblacks and black, by men and wome, to part of the liberation narrative. There will be no gratitude, no appreciation, no recognition equal to the insults and assaults. So, Assata Shakur, in true revolutionary fashion, must conclude her testimonial embracing a community that radiates beyond our immediate boundaries and limitations:

“I have faith that the Ancestors will welcome her, cherish her, and treat her with more love and more kindness than she ever received here on this earth.”

Framing the Panther

Want to Start a Revolution? Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle

Related Links:

What Happens When a Book is Judged by its Cover

Assata Shakur: In her Own Words

Assata Shakur’s Autobiography (amazon)

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