M1 of Dead Prez On The Case of Assata Shakur
A few weeks ago I caught up with M1 from dead prez to discuss the
case of Assata Shakur. We did the quick interview on Crenshaw Boulevard
in LA while he had a break from filming “Broken Rhyme,”
a film set to come out where he is the starring character.
For those that don’t know, dead prez is one
of the most political groups on the nationwide radar of hip hop.
They say their music is a cross between “NWA and P.E.”
If you aren’t up on them, you need to be, so go to your nearest
record store and grab all of their works if you enjoy music that
has a message.
But unlike most political artists, M1 is not all
talk. He participates in revolutionary community campaigns that
better the community from coast to coast, with nationwide organizations
like the Prisoners of Conscience Committee, in which he is the Minister
of Culture. Check out what he has to say about our beloved Black
Panther freedom fighter Assata Shakur …
JR: Who is Assata Shakur?
M1: Assata Shakur is a member of our Black Liberation Movement, in particular
she became a member of revolutionary organizations from her involvement
in New York City with many organizations that were the ground organizations,
from the Black United Front all the way up to the Black Panther
Party, which is ultimately where she did the bulk of her political
work in New York City. She outlasted the Panther 21 Trial, where
they tried to lock up 21 Panthers on conspiracy charges in the height
of the movement – the revolutionary trend where there was
return fire, gun fights going on in the hood, and where political
action was ending in court dates every day.
She was definitely one of the people who were doing
the above-ground work, when there came a day when the police in
New Jersey, the troopers who are trained like the German Nazis,
pulled her over after doing surveillance, knowing that the U.S.
government had kept heavy Cointelpro records against people like
Assata Shakur and the Black Panther Party and even tried to create
conflict between East Coast and West Coast Panthers.
They also knew the daily movements of the Panthers,
and the tension got so high above ground that they forced her into
a conflict with the New Jersey State Troopers when she was in the
car with two other Panthers, Zayd Shakur and Sundiata Acoli. On
that day when the troopers came at the Panthers, the Panthers fired
back. They suffered a loss and we suffered a few losses by way of
Zayd Shakur being murdered, assassinated by the pigs, and left Assata
Shakur and Sundiata Acoli behind enemy lines, which would’ve
been to serve life for what has been.
Sundiata is still serving those sentences languishing
in these dungeons, but Assata Shakur was liberated by the Black
Liberation Army, which I say she also laid character to. She was
liberated and lives in Cuba under the protection of Fidel Castro
and the Cuban government, in exile from the U.S., which also leads
to the particular point that this aggression against our movement
is also in concert with the aggression against Cuba and Latin America.
Because there is a huge anti-American, anti-capitalist
movement that has been growing and is at its height in Latin America
and is leading the revolutionary fightback. So at this point, the
attack on Assata Shakur is also an attack on the socialist government
of Cuba. And I think if we study history and look at our watches
very closely and look at the second hand, we know that Cuba is next.
JR: On May 2, the U.S. government put a $1 million bounty on the head of Assata
Shakur, and I know that dead prez along with NY City Councilman
Charles Barron and Mos Def had a press conference protesting this
modern-day slave hunt. What is Assata Shakur’s importance
to our cause?
M1: The U.S. government has again openly declared war against the poor
and oppressed people of the world. Once again this declaration has
come in the form of this $1 million dollar bounty, which rests on
the head of not only Assata Shakur but our movement, because the
most important thing about the bounty that they placed on Assata
Shakur, whom they call Joanne Chesimard, is that she represents
the struggle inside our community that has not died. And they know
very quickly the spark could re-inflame what is going on all around
So it is sending a message to the future revolutionaries,
don’t become … because what we know will eventually
happen. We retaliate against that kind of aggression against our
people by saying, “Assata Shakur is welcome here.” And
that idea that “Assata is welcome here” should be adopted
by every hood, every Blood, every Crip, every Latin King, every
old folks home, every school and every Boy Scout club. “Assata
Shakur is welcome here” is the identity that the government
is not welcomed in our lives and will not be tolerated when violating
our basic rights of humanity.
So those are the forces at play, and Assata Shakur
is being used as that case. We say “Hands off Assata Shakur,”
and we will keep her safe by any and all means necessary. And we
were represented at the press conference in New York City, which
like I said is gaining a momentum, just like all across our country
in the African community – in Atlanta, and down here in LA.
We’re ready, willing and able just within a quick time of
People like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement,
which includes the Free the Hood Committee, and organizations like
the POCC and the Grassroots Artist Movement, Charles Barron and
the City Council of the government and cultural workers like ourself
and Mos Def were gathered to send a resolution that the bounty should
be taken off of Assata Shakur’s head, and we sent that into
City Hall by way of Charles Barron, who is basically the most balanced
that we’ve seen inside any government in New York City. So
that’s what’s going on, and we’re going to keep
everybody tuned into what we’re going to do next.
This interview was originally recorded for
the Block Report Radio Show in LA. To buy the audio version, email
To get more info on Assata Shakur, read her book, “Assata,”
or her aunt’s book, “Inadmissible Evidence.”