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Hands Off Assata Shakur

Solidarity

Forty years to the day she and her comrades were targeted by New Jersey State Troopers, Assata Shakur was again targeted when the FBI added her to its Most Wanted Terrorist List.

“In addition,” explains Democracy Now, “the state of New Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture.”

Hands Off Assata Shakur

Photo credit: Mickey Z.Photo credit: Mickey Z.

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

May 4, 2013

Forty years to the day she and her comrades were targeted by New Jersey State Troopers, Assata Shakur was again targeted when the FBI added her to its Most Wanted Terrorist List.

“In addition,” explains Democracy Now, “the state of New Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture.”

Why now?

"It seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of terrorism," says Angela Davis. "I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems like it was a long time ago. In the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues -- police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison."

A few years ago, I began writing a screenplay about Assata and this seems as good a time as any to re-visit and finish the script. For now, I’ll share its opening scene…

***

WE OPEN

On white words and numbers, super-imposed and sterile on a jet-black screen: May 2, 1973.

A distant police SIREN is heard -- low at first, and then LOUDER until:

ASSATA
(O/S)

My name is Assata (she who struggles) Shakur (the thankful one), and I am a 20th century escaped slave.

The SIREN is louder now -- mixed with SOUNDS like screeching tires, muffled voices, and a scratchy police radio.

VOICE
(O/S)

Hold on - two black males, one female.

A FLASH – almost like lightning – and we can see THREE FIGURES in a white two-door Pontiac LeMans as it cruises down a highway. Just as suddenly, we return to BLACK.

ASSATA
(O/S)

I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one.

MORE FLASHES: Each time the black screen illuminates – for a few seconds – we see glimpses of an all-too-familiar late night episode on the New Jersey Turnpike.

We see the Vermont license plates on the Pontiac. We see the two New Jersey State Trooper vehicles on the scene. We feel the inevitable tension when…

FLASH: Scuffed black trooper boots hit the pavement as STATE TROOPER JAMES HARPER steps from his vehicle.

ASSATA
(O/S)

In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party.

To the AMPLIFIED SOUND of Harper’s boots on the pavement as he approaches the Pontiac, we see longer flashes of images.

FLASH: A black and white photo of the BLACK PANTHERS, fists in the air.

FLASH: State Trooper WERNER FOERSTER watching from the second patrol vehicle.

FLASH: Familiar images like Fred Hampton, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver.

FLASH: The concerned expressions on the THREE PASSENGERS in the Pontiac: Zayd Malik Shakur, Sundiata Acoli, and Assata Shakur..

The SOUND of the trooper’s boots now melds into the SOUND of a heartbeat. A pounding heartbeat..

ASSATA
(O/S)

Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it the "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.

INTERCUT: We see archival footage of HOOVER mouthing the exact words Assata is speaking: “greatest threat to the internal security of the country.”

Trooper Harper is seen speaking to Zayd Shakur but their conversation cannot be heard over the SOUND of the heartbeat. Sundiata gets out of the car.

CUT TO

ASSATA SHAKUR, seen from behind, as she looks today.

CUT TO

State Trooper Harper: as he questions Sundiata Acoli at the rear of the vehicle.

FLASH: A car passes, going north on the Turnpike.

The heartbeat SOUND reaches a crescendo: the loudest heartbeat you’ve ever heard -- until it is transformed into a more staccato sound: GUNSHOTS.

We cannot see who is firing or who is being hit but we can HEAR the screams, the voices, the chaos.

CUT TO

Assata Shakur, as the CAMERA BEGINS A SLOW PAN. We still cannot see her face but we can hear her calm voice.

ASSATA
(O/S)

Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism. and violence that dominate the U.S. government's policy towards people of color.

CUT TO

Assata -- on that night in 1973: bloody arms raised (her right arm clearly not functioning properly) as she walks towards a group of WHITE STATE TROOPERS and is promptly and roughly arrested.

CUT TO

Rapid-fire images of Assata’s life: as a child in Queens and then North Carolina, as a student activist, and as a leading member of the Harlem branch of the Black Panthers.

The images slow as we see her again -- bloody arms raised, being arrested, lying in the gutter. Then: on trial. Then: in prison.

And finally, today: looking directly -- and defiantly -- into the CAMERA.

ASSATA

I advocate revolutionary changes -- an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism and the elimination of political repression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty.

The word “guilty” ECHOES until we hear the sound of a JAIL DOOR being slammed shut and the screen returns to BLACK.

After a beat, these words (in white) appear:

"The only way to live on this planet with any human dignity at the moment is to struggle."

- Assata Shakur

FADE TO BLACK

***

Assata sez: “No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that knowledge will help set you free.”

#shifthappens

***

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

© WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.

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