To My People By
Assata Shakur (written while in prison)
4 July 1973
Black brothers, Black sisters, i want you to know
that i love you and i hope that somewhere in your hearts you have
love for me. My name is Assata Shakur (slave name joanne chesimard),
and i am a revolutionary. A Black revolutionary. By that i mean that
i have declared war on all forces that have raped our women,
castrated our men, and kept our babies empty-bellied.
I have declared war on the rich who prosper on our poverty, the
politicians who lie to us with smiling faces, and all the mindless,
heart-less robots who protect them and their property.
I am a Black revolutionary, and, as such, i am a victim of all the
wrath, hatred, and slander that amerika is capable of. Like all
other Black revolutionaries, amerika is trying to lynch me.
I am a Black revolutionary woman, and because of this i have been
charged with and accused of every alleged crime in which a woman was
believed to have participated. The alleged crimes in which only men
were supposedly involved, i have been accused of planning. They have
plastered pictures alleged to be me in post offices, airports,
hotels, police cars, subways, banks, television, and newspapers.
They have offered over fifty thousand dollars in rewards for my
capture and they have issued orders to shoot on sight and shoot to
I am a Black revolutionary, and, by definition, that makes me a part
of the Black Liberation Army. The pigs have used their newspapers
and TVs to paint the Black Liberation Army as vicious, brutal,
mad-dog criminals. They have called us gangsters and gun molls and
have compared us to such characters as john dillinger and ma barker.
It should be clear, it must be clear to anyone who can think, see,
or hear, that we are the victims. The victims and not the criminals.
It should also be clear to us by now who the real criminals are.
Nixon and his crime partners have murdered hundreds of Third World
brothers and sisters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, and
South Africa. As was proved by Watergate, the top law enforcement
officials in this country are a lying bunch of criminals. The
president, two attorney generals, the head of the fbi, the head of
the cia, and half the white house staff have been implicated in the
They call us murderers, but we did not murder over two hundred fifty
unarmed Black men, women, and children, or wound thousands of others
in the riots they provoked during the sixties. The rulers of this
country have always considered their property more important than
our lives. They call us murderers, but we were not responsible for
the twenty-eight brother inmates and nine hostages murdered at
attica. They call us murderers, but we did not murder and wound over
thirty unarmed Black students at Jackson State—or Southern State,
They call us murderers, but we did not murder Martin Luther King,
Jr., Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, George Jackson, Nat
Turner, James Chaney, and countless others. We did not murder, by
shooting in the back, sixteen-year-old Rita Lloyd, eleven-year-old
Rickie Bodden, or ten-year-old Clifford Glover. They call us
murderers, but we do not control or enforce a system of racism and
oppression that systematically murders Black and Third World people.
Although Black people supposedly comprise about fifteen percent of
the total amerikkkan population, at least sixty percent of murder
victims are Black. For every pig that is killed in the so-called
line of duty, there are at least fifty Black people murdered by the
Black life expectancy is much lower than white and they do their
best to kill us before we are even born. We are burned alive in
fire-trap tenements. Our brothers and sisters OD daily from heroin
and methadone. Our babies die from lead poisoning. Millions of Black
people have died as a result of indecent medical care. This is
murder. But they have got the gall to call us murderers.
They call us kidnappers, yet Brother Clark Squires (who is accused,
along with me, of murdering a new jersey state trooper) was
kidnapped on April z, 1969, from our Black community and held on one
million dollars' ransom in the New York Panther 21 conspiracy case.
He was acquitted on May 13, 1971, along with all the others, of 156
counts of conspiracy by a jury that took less than two hours to
deliberate. Brother Squires was innocent. Yet he was kidnapped from
his community and family. Over two years of his life was stolen, but
they call us kidnappers. We did not kidnap the thousands of Brothers
and Sisters held captive in amerika's concentration camps. Ninety
percent of the prison population in this country are Black and Third
World people who can afford neither bail nor lawyers.
They call us thieves and bandits. They say we steal. But it was not
we who stole millions of Black people from the continent of Africa.
We were robbed of our language, of our Gods, of our culture, of our
human dignity, of our labor, and of our lives. They call us thieves,
yet it is not
we who rip off billions of dollars every year through tax evasions,
illegal price fixing, embezzlement, consumer fraud, bribes,
kickbacks, and swindles. They call us bandits, yet every time most
Black people pick up our paychecks we are being robbed. Every time
we walk into a store in our neighborhood we are being held up. And
every time we pay our rent the landlord sticks a gun into our ribs.
They call us thieves, but we did not rob and murder millions of
Indians by ripping off their homeland, then call ourselves pioneers.
They call us bandits, but it is not we who are robbing Africa, Asia,
and Latin America of their natural resources and freedom while the
people who live there are sick and starving. The rulers of this
country and their flunkies have committed some of the most brutal,
vicious crimes in history. They are the bandits. They are the
murderers. And they should be treated as such. These maniacs are not
fit to judge me, Clark, or any other Black person on trial in
amerika. Black people should and, inevitably, must determine our
Every revolution in history has been accomplished by actions,
al-though words are necessary. We must create shields that protect
us and spears that penetrate our enemies. Black people must learn
how to struggle by struggling. We must learn by our mistakes.
I want to apologize to you, my Black brothers and sisters, for being
on the new jersey turnpike. I should have known better. The turnpike
is a checkpoint where Black people are stopped, searched, harassed,
and assaulted. Revolutionaries must never be in too much of a hurry
or make careless decisions. He who runs when the sun is sleeping
will stumble many times.
Every time a Black Freedom Fighter is murdered or captured, the pigs
try to create the impression that they have quashed the movement,
destroyed our forces, and put down the Black Revolution. The pigs
also try to give the impression that five or ten guerrillas are
responsible for every revolutionary action carried out in amerika.
That is nonsense. That is absurd. Black revolutionaries do not drop
from the moon. We are created by our conditions. Shaped by our
oppression. We are being manufactured in droves in the ghetto
streets, places like attica, san quentin, bedford hills, leavenworth,
and sing sing. They are turning out thousands of us. Many jobless
Black veterans and welfare mothers are joining our ranks. Brothers
and sisters from all walks of life, who are tired of suffering
passively, make up the BLA.
There is, and always will be, until every Black man, woman, and
child is free, a Black Liberation Army. The main function of the
Liberation Army at this time is to create good examples, to struggle
for Black freedom, and to prepare for the future. We must defend
ourselves and let no one disrespect us. We must gain our liberation
by any means necessary.
It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.