Monday, October 24, 2011

Assata: An Autobiography

Assata: An Autobiography
Assata: An Autobiography
Assata Shakur

Back in September, I finally got to read Assata by Assata Skakur. Ms. Skakur was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1970s. She was active in the struggle against the institutional racism that existed – and still exists – here in the United States. Because of her political activities, she was arrested and accused of involvement in many crimes, including kidnapping, bank robbery, and the murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

Her book opens just after she’s been shot by a police office on the New Jersey Turnpike. She describes being abused and threatened as she’s lying in a hospital bed, fighting for her life. She’s cut off from her friends and family, and has no idea what is happening to her. She's terriffied, with good reason. She's been targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program (although no one will know the details of that for some time).

After this violent introduction, the chapters alternate between the past and present. Ms. Shakur recalls her childhood, spent in the American South and then in New York. We see how she experienced racism and oppression throughout her life, and how she was led to be a political activist, working to radically change the system.

Bobby Seale, bound and gagged
I have to admit that my white privilege was severely checked while reading this book. There were times that I'd read her words describing her prison conditions and I'd think "Really? C'mon, she must be exaggerating." And then she'd tell how the UN came in and confirmed what she said. Why would I only believe it after some "established" body came in and confirmed what she herself experienced and described? Why weren't her own words good enough for me? And I'm someone who knows that Bobby Seale was bound and gagged in an American courtroom during his trial.

So yeah, you should read this. Fascinating life story from an activist woman of color. A look at the lows our government will stoop to.

Here she is in her own words, which are better than any I have (it is cut off at the end, but hey - that will just make you want to read the whole story in her book):


Nymeth said...

This does sound fascinating and eye-opening. Thanks for bringing it to my attention - to the wishlist it goes.

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

I hear about this book from time to time. I haven't been compelled to read it though. I think I'd be more interested in reading about her son.

I was watching a frustrating and intense exchange between Sherry Shepherd and Barbara Walters on The View. And I'm not sure whether Sherry wasn't articulating it or if Barbara wasn't acknowledging it but - "white privilege" - thank you for acknowlegding that it does exist.

MJ said...

@Nymeth No problem! I recommend it wholeheartedly.

MJ said...

@Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose Well, it does exist, obviously. It's unfortunate that people won't acknowledge it. If I can encourage people to think about this issues, I'm happy to do that.

Vern said...

As I always say, "This book changed my life." This is a great review! Big shout out to you for your transparency. Everybody should read this book...

Akilah said...

I love, love this book. It is one of my absolute favorites.