The Political Thought of Afeni Shakur

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afenishakurAfeni Shakur, known to most of us as rap icon Tupac Shakur’s mother, passed away last month (2nd May 2016).  In his 1995 song  “Dear Mama”, Tupac Shakur speaks about  the deep appreciation for his mother and the difficulties she faced with drugs and poverty when raising him. But what many people are often not aware of is that Afeni Shakur was a revolutionary thinker and activist who shaped the political discourse of Black Liberation movements in the 70s. She joined the Black Panther Party in 1968 and was a crucial member in the NYC chapter.  In April 1969, she was accused of conspiring with 20 other Black Panther Party members to carry out bombings in New York. Afeni Shakur  defended herself in the so-called Panther 21 trail, earning an acquittal on all charges after serving a total of 11 months in jail.

In remembrance of Afeni Shakur’s legacy as a revolutionary, mother and activist, I have digitized sound bytes from an interview with Afeni Shakur in 1972, in which she speaks passionately about why she joined the Black Panthers, lessons to draw from the Panther 21 trail, and what it means to be a political prisoner as well as how to foster racial solidarity within and outside of the prison. Listening to Afeni Shakur does not only provide insights into the political climate of the early 1970s and the Panther 21 trail, but also evokes memory and inspiration of a recently departed ancestor.

Afeni Shakur: Joining the Black Panthers:


Afeni Shakur: Solidarity during Panther 21 Trail:


Afeni Shakur: On Racial Solidarity:


Afeni Shakur: On Lessons from the Panther 21:


The Freedom Archives  is a space that has allowed me to discover and learn more about Black history, prison movements and other national and international political movements.  It is dedicated to honoring lesser known revolutionaries, such as Afeni Shakur. To enable us to continue doing this type of work help support the Freedom Archives.


Illuminating the Voices of Liberation

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Taken from BLU Magazine Issue 13

Today we honor the birthdays of Ho Chi Minh, Malcolm X, Yuri Kochiyama and Lorraine Hansberry. All were extremely important in their unyielding fight for self-determination, national liberation and against racism in all its forms. We’re happy to have all of their voices contained somewhere in the Freedom Archives along with other archival materials like Ho Chi Minh’s poetry and former political prisoner and member of the Angola 3 Robert King Wilkerson interviewing Yuri Kochiyama. Below are a couple of the many digitized materials we have featuring Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh.

An essential component of the Freedom Archives is to preserve and spread the wisdom and lessons of our movement elders. Connecting issues of today with historical content is an important task in building strong, sustainable and inter-generational movements. Your financial support plays a key role in making all this work happen, creating greater access for newer generations to use our materials and helping to broaden their vision for a more just future.

Ho Chi Minh Speaks to the US Anti-War Movement (in English):


Malcolm X on African Liberation:


Supporting the archives is easy. You can send us a check or click here to give online. You can also donate by clicking the donate button on our FB page.

Thanks so much and visit our search site to check out our entire collection.



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Tricontinental CollageTricontinental is a periodical founded by the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America and published in Havana, Cuba. While working on the these journals I was introduced to international liberation movements in South Africa, South East Asia, Palestine and countries throughout Latin America. These articles provided a critical supplement to the thematic overview of Latin America that I extracted from my college courses.

These periodicals also highlight Cuba’s pivotal role in the social and political history of the international community from the revolution onwards. Cuba inspired national liberation movements throughout the world; countries still under colonial rule now had an example of liberation and a means of receiving aid in their resistance movements. Cuba models an alternative society especially in the way it administers international aid. Cuba participates in medical internationalism where doctors are sent to developing countries around the world. The articles included in Tricontinental reminded me to contextualize myself and the lens through which I analyze certain events, to always keep in mind alternative perspectives.

Check out our full collection of Tricontinental.



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Color Images taken in Dheisheh Refugee Camp outside Bethlehem (March 2016); Black and White Images taken from Democratic Palestine (Sept. 1987).


Color Images taken in Dheisheh Refugee Camp outside Bethlehem (March 2016); Black and White Images taken from Democratic Palestine (Sept. 1987).


Recently, the Freedom Archives was a part of the first US delegation to Palestine focused on political imprisonment and designed to strengthen the solidarity between Palestinian and US prisoners. During our ten day trip, we were empowered and humbled by stories of the ways many Palestinians maintain their culture and dignity while resisting the brutality of the Zionist colonial project. One of the methods of resistance is through revolutionary art, an example being the image of Handala.

Handala, created by political cartoonist Naji Al Ali, is a child refugee who always has his back turned to the audience as he watches policies and events unfold. Handala is now an icon of Palestinian defiance and is seen the world over as a symbol of resistance to oppression.


Top: The names of villages of origin are inscribed on the ceiling at the Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp (March 2016). Black and White Image taken from Democratic Palestine (Sept. 1987).

Al Ali spent most of his childhood in refugee camps and began sketching outside and inside of his family’s tent. He also developed his drawing skills in prison after he was arrested by the Lebanese military intelligence. His political cartoons are critical of the Israeli, Arab and United States governments. Al Ali’s cartoons effectively called for change and revolution, making him a threat to Israeli occupation.

Al Ali was assassinated on July 23rd,1987 by the Israeli military.

The following images weave the historical representations of Handala with some of what we saw during our trip. Truly Palestinian resistance is still alive!

You can learn more by visiting our collection on Palestine.

Oakland Induction Center

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Protesters at the Oakland Induction Center

Protesters at the Oakland Induction Center

It is our pleasure to introduce a new chapter in the Colin Edwards audio collection. Our catalog now contains dozens of reels recorded during anti-war protests, taken primarily from the Stop the Draft Week mobilizations in 1967 and 1968, outside of the Oakland Induction Center. The Oakland Induction Center served as a delivery point for draftees of the United States Armed Forces and would become a lightning rod that drew massive numbers of demonstrators who looked to disrupt the murderous cycle that fed the armed invasion of Vietnam. As a street reporter, Colin Edwards offered us not only a detailed visual of what these protests looked like, but a multitude of perspectives from individuals who made up the demonstrations themselves, through speeches delivered at rallies, interviews or simply recording the sights and sounds of chants, songs and observations made by onlookers. The power of these reels lies in this wealth of firsthand accounts, and the decision to record on the ground and allow the events to tell the story offers a glimpse into a tumultuous time period that is often opined over and criticized, but very rarely experienced in its actuality.

Reese Erlich on Stop the Draft Week

The reels also paint a picture of anti-Vietnam War efforts beyond the Oakland Induction Center, covering a wide array of protests, rallies, mill-ins and interviews around the San Francisco Bay Area, in locations like the campuses of UC Berkeley Campus and San Francisco State, the Alameda Court House, and Port Chicago in Concord (a large munitions plant).

Summary of Protests at Port Chicago

The audio on the reels themselves not only show the lengths demonstrators went in order to disrupt an unyielding war machine with risk to life and limb, but also the different conversations that took place between various organizations and voices within the movement, in order to halt the senseless violence. Rather than romanticize anti-War efforts, Colin’s reels show insight into what kind of practical and theoretical labor sustains such a movement. Beyond the rhetoric or generalized explanations others might provide for the motives of these protesters, in their own words you hear why they took to the streets in favor of direct action. Beyond the charismatic figureheads that often grow to represent whole movements, Colin’s interviews bring to the forefront individuals who history has a way of leaving out, and elevate voices that might not have ever been heard, offering a wide array of experiences, insights and reasoning for objecting to the Vietnam War and the draft process. From concerned parents and citizens to college students, musicians and clergymen, the range of people who protested at the site of the Oakland Induction Center is well represented.

Port Chicago Counter Protesters

Marines Rebuff Anti-War Demonstrators

For those looking to enhance their knowledge of the efforts against the Vietnam War and the draft, these reels are vital. The interviews are informative and thought provoking, while maintaining a level of accessibility and basic language that makes it easy to jump in and follow the thoughts and philosophy behind their efforts. The reels also contain a variety of different tactics employed against “the establishment”, such as the occupation of a campus lab in protest of the CIA’s presence at UC Berkeley, or the mill-in that was held in the Dean’s office to protest administrative actions against student protesters. I hope that these works are as informative for those who do decide to come check them out as they have been for me.


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