Although Assata Shakur has been living in exile in Cuba for nearly three decades, the legendary Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army (BLA) member’s ideas on activism and movement-building continue to form the bedrock for contemporary anti-racist work. And at a time when police killings of unarmed black and brown civilians has reentered the public consciousness with full force, Shakur continues to be a leading figure for many people of color living under the foot of American structural violence.
Shakur’s Cuban exile began with a 1973 shootout that left a white New Jersey State trooper, Werner Foerster, and another BLA member, Zayd Shakur (no blood relation), dead. Shakur, who was seriously injured in that incident on the New Jersey Turnpike, was imprisoned and charged with multiple unrelated crimes. She escaped from prison in 1979 and left the United States in 1984. She has always maintained her innocence.
In 2013 the FBI, using her married name, JoAnne Chesimard, declared Shakur a Most Wanted Terrorist. She was the first woman in history to be placed on that list. At the same time, New Jersey added $1 million to an existing FBI bounty of $1 million.
But the bounty has not stopped the grandmother from periodically providing trenchant commentary on American state violence. On her 68th birthday, we celebrate the life and influence of Assata Shakur with these 10 quotes.