Book of the Month: Assata: An Autobiography
Author: Assata Shakur
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Price: £12.99 (or FREE on E-library on MaarifaHub app)
Format: Paperback (& E-Book)
Page Numbers: 320
“Assata” gives the reader direct insight of the childhood and political struggle of revolutionary, Assata Shakur. Before reading this book, I had almost no knowledge of Shakur, only knowing that she was an ex-member of the Black Panther Party. As well as gaining more knowledge of her life and the injustice at the hands of the American police and the court system, I learned historical events which have been hidden by our own education system.
Without revealing too many details including in the book, Shakur discusses many issues and her own thoughts about the root of the oppression faced by black people in the timeframe before the 1980s – white capitalism. Her reasons for leaving the Black Panther Party, and joining the Black Liberation Army, being due to her distaste at the fact that the political party didn’t have much knowledge about their own history; still believing that the Civil War was fought to fight the slaves, Abraham Lincoln ‘felt sorry’ for slaves, instead of the actual truth, which she reveals in her book.
Other topics mentioned in her book was the relationship between the justice system and black people in the 1960s and 1970s. Before reading this book, I already knew about the institutional racism that was the police force by observing the acquittals some police officers received despite murdering unarmed black people. However, my knowledge of the severity of police injustice, and its history was limited to the civil rights movement from 1954-1968. Shakur gives the reader insight on despite black people no longer having to submit to the racist Jim Crow laws and gaining the right to vote, did not stop the police from having a disgusting hatred for black people. During the 1970s, her many trials for crimes she didn’t commit revealed how ‘just’ the court system was. The ‘jury of her peers’ was almost full of ‘non-racist’ white people, who would eventually reveal that they would never invite a black person into their homes, or have used the derogatory term ‘nigger’ to address black people. The officers who were to guard her whilst tied to a hospital bed also proudly admitted they were part of the Nazi party (bare in mind that these were people who were appointed to ‘serve and protect’ all citizens having such racist views – only 40 years ago). The ‘suspicious’ deaths of black inmates who allegedly committed suicide by hanging themselves – reminding me of Sandra Bland.
Another major issue discussed by Shakur was the colourism black people faced amongst our own community. This was something she faced in her childhood and even demonstrated as a child, due to the lack of awareness of the beauty of being black. Without even knowing the self-hatred many black people exerted before the black power movement in the 1980s, to be called “black” by a black person was considered an insult, having ‘nappy’ (not straight, therefore not assimilating with the European standard of beauty) hair was unappealing, and having big lips was considered unattractive (I found that quite ironic). She called out her past self-hatred and included a poem (one of a few included in the book) about the strength and beauty of the big black woman, Eva, she grew close to whilst imprisoned. The final poem named ‘The Tradition’ embodied my whole passion about carrying on the knowledge of black history, black pride, and black power – something which will be uploaded later.
I would definitely recommend this book to everyone not afraid of learning some truths about historical events, unlearning their anti-blackness, and gaining more knowledge of the ‘not so famous’ revolutionist that is the amazing, Assata Shakur. My prayers go out to her, and I hope she sees the revolution that is currently happening with the increase of awareness of black pride (natural hair trend, as an example), and black lives matter.
There was no doubt about it, our people would one day be free. The cowboys and bandits didn’t own the world.