Governor Whitman:

Your grandstanding actions in seeking Assata Shakur's return by placing a $50,000 bounty on her head is an insult to all Black women and men who have devoted their lives to the freedom of Black people. In seeking her apprehension by methods that include "kidnapping," you have engaged in the kind of debased moralism that the former slave masters in this country resorted to when seeking the return of runaway Africans to slavery.

Your provocative and vindictive behavior is an insult to all Black women and men who have devoted their lives to struggling for the freedom of Black people. Is it by such means that you hope to gain national prominence or to retain your current position?

Assata, in leaving the dungeons of New Jersey where your predecessors had hoped to bury her for the remainder of her life, followed in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman, who instructed: "There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted ..." The stellar example of Assata's commitment to the liberty of African American people places her in the company of not only Harriet Tubman, but also, Paul Robeson, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Malcolm X.

We will never forget nor forgive the inhuman and barbaric conditions that Assata and her co-defendant Sundiata Acoli were subjected to following their arrests after a shoot-out on the New Jersey Turnpike, May 2, 1973. New Jersey State Police, having murdered Zayd Shakur, delighted in torturing Assata and Sundiata. While shackled and chained to a bed, arms paralyzed and bullet wounds in her chest, Assata was further forced to undergo the jabs of shotgun butts by New Jersey State Troopers shouting Nazi slogans and threats to kill her. **In the history of New Jersey, no woman pretrial detainee or prisoner has ever been treated as she was, continuously confined in a men's prison, under twenty-four- hour surveillance of her most intimate functions, without intellectual sustenance, adequate medical attention, and exercise, and without the company of other women for all the years she was in their custody.**

Moreover, while Assata and Sundiata were sentenced to life in prison for the death of State Trooper Werner Foerster after detentions and trials riddled with egregious human rights violations and constitutional errors (e.g. massive negative publicity and exclusion of African people from the jury), not one State Trooper, to our knowledge, was ever punished for the murder of Zayd and the torture of Assata and Sundiata. Twenty-five years later, Sundiata, now 60 years, remains in prison, and if your Parole Board has its way will be there into the next century.

Assata's strength and defiance in the face of her brutalization and torture by New Jersey State Troopers and her escape from the dungeon in which New Jersey imprisoned her are a source of continuing inspiration to us and to all who sincerely cherish and fight for freedom and justice. **Assata is Our Sister and We stand in absolute solidarity with her right to live free of bondage in Cuba. We applaud and thank His Excellency President Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba for their solidarity with the struggles of African people in Africa and the United States and for providing a safe haven for Assata from the viciousness and brutality of United States racism.**

In closing, we suggest that you focus your attention on the real problems confronting the people of New Jersey. The people of New Jersey, particularly people of African descent, other people of color and the poor, as well as your political aspirations, would be better served by your attention to reducing poverty, unemployment, underemployment, the incidence of AIDS, police brutality and corruption and improving housing, public education and health care.


S.E. Anderson
Soffiyah Jill Elijah, Esq.
Joan P. Gibbs, Esq.
Rosemari Mealy
Karen D. Taylor


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