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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."
In 1998, Democracy Now! aired Shakur reading an open letter to Pope John Paul II duringhis trip to Cuba. She wrote the message after New Jersey state troopers sent the Pope aletter asking him to call for her extradition.
I hope this letter finds you in good health, in good disposition, and enveloped with the spirit of goodness. I must confess that it had never occurred to me before to write you, and I find myself overwhelmed and moved to have this opportunity.Although circumstances have compelled me to reach out to you, I am glad to have this occasionto try and cross the boundaries that would otherwise tend to separate us.I understand that the New Jersey State Police have written to you and asked you to intervene andto help facilitate my extradition back to the United States. I believe that their request isunprecedented in history. Since they have refused to make their letter to you public, althoughthey have not hesitated to publicize their request, I am completely uninformed as to theaccusations they are making against me. Why, I wonder, do I warrant such attention? What do Irepresent that is such a threat?Please let me take a moment to tell you about myself. My name is Assata Shakur and I was bornand raised in the United States. I am a descendant of Africans who were kidnapped and broughtto the Americas as slaves. I spent my early childhood in the racist segregated South. I later moved to the northern part of the country, where I realized that Black people were equallyvictimized by racism and oppression.I grew up and became a political activist, participating in student struggles, the anti-war movement, and, most of all, in the movement for the liberation of African Americans in theUnited States. I later joined the Black Panther Party, an organization that was targeted by theCOINTELPRO program, a program that was set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to
eliminate all political opposition to the U.S. government’s policies, to destroy the Black
Liberation Movement in the United States, to discredit activists and to eliminate potentialleaders.Under the COINTELPRO program, many political activists were harassed, imprisoned,murdered or otherwise neutralized. As a result of being targeted by COINTELPRO, I, like manyother young people, was faced with the threat of prison, underground, exile or death. The FBI,with the help of local police agencies, systematically fed false accusations and fake news articlesto the press accusing me and other activists of crimes we did not commit. Although in my casethe charges were eventually dropped or I was eventually acquitted, the national and local policeagencies created a situation where, based on their false accusations against me, any police officer could shoot me on sight. It was not until the Freedom of Information Act was passed in the mid-'70s that we began to see the scope of the United States government's persecution of politicalactivists.