Tag Archives: Attica Rebellion

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.


Our Experience at the 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference

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Last Friday the Freedom Archives led two sessions at San Francisco State University for the 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference geared to high school students. We brought two films – A Tribute to George Jackson and Attica is All of Us. The first session was packed while the second session was not as well attended however both workshops generated important conversations and the students were very engaged with the subjects of the films. Prior to our workshops, few students had heard of George Jackson and even fewer had heard of the Attica Rebellion.

It was quickly apparent during the opening conversations in both sessions that few students had much basic background information or had given thought to imprisonment on a regular basis, so it became important to talk about prison and mass incarceration in general to contextualize the Attica and George Jackson films. In one session, it was even necessary to teach a bit of US History to provide explanation concerning the beginning of the war on drugs. It soon became clear that the students wanted having their questions about prisons addressed rather than focusing solely on the videos. Topics included the parallels between the Oakland gang injunctions, which the students were definitely aware of, and the process of gang validations behind prison walls. They understood the centrality of racial solidarity as a strategy of resistance in prison as well as in their own lives and in their own neighborhoods.

Feedback from the students was very positive, and they were very engaged in the issues. Students willingly participated, brought interesting personal experiences into the conversations and were adamant that they were never taught about these topics in school, but should be, as mass incarceration and violent policing affects their communities and their everyday lives.


Engaging Youth at the 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference

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Sparked by the release of a new book on the creation of ethnic studies by Martha Biondi entitled The Black Revolution on Campus, narratives of struggle for ethnic studies have once again found their way into the mainstream and academic press. Ethnic Studies is an intellectual challenge to traditional disciplines such as Anthropology, History, English amongst others that are constructed and inherently promote Eurocentric perspectives, intellectual traditions and frameworks, often ignoring and marginalizing peoples of color. Ethnic Studies teaches the stories, histories, struggles and accomplishments of peoples of color in their own voices. Struggles for ethnic studies were fueled by Black Power, international anti-imperialist solidarity and militant calls for culturally relevant education in the late 1960s.

In 1968, a student led coalition of ethnic organizations united as the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) and initiated a student strike at San Francisco State University (SFSU). A couple of months later, students at the University of Berkeley, united under their own Third World Liberation Front, organized a student strike at Berkeley. Despite violent police repression and administrative resistance to engaging student demands, prolonged student strikes, dedicated organizing and large protests forced the administrations at both SFSU and Berkeley to meet student demands and by March 1969, both universities had Schools of Ethnic Studies.

This Friday, October 19, 2012, SFSU will hold their 11th Annual Ethnic Studies Conference whose major goal is to promote and introduce high school students to ethnic studies and provide the space for consciousness raising and alliance building amongst students. The Freedom Archives will be presenting a workshop at the conference on entitled The Struggle Against Mass Incarceration: Prison Resistance from Attica to Pelican Bay.  We will show our documentaries on George Jackson and the Attica Prison Rebellion and then discuss why George Jackson and Attica matter in our lives, current strategies of prison resistance being utilized around the country and the importance and potential of ethnic studies to sustaining prison resistance. We look forward to engaging youth about these issues and participating in a space commemorating the struggle to decolonize the nations’ universities.



Attica Means Fight Back

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September 9-13th mark the 41st anniversary of the Attica Rebellion. This massive prison takeover by hundreds of inmates and the callous repression and murders by the state of New York are part of a unique moment in US history. The legacy of Attica and the fight for human rights is carried on in the prisons of Georgia, Ohio, California and wherever people are caged for years on end. Since Attica, prison conditions have steadily worsened and state repression in the form of control units and solitary confinement continue to proliferate. The exponential growth of prisons, largely comprised of people of color makes for a vastly different political climate today. Prison rebellions and prisoner resistance look very different today than they did in 1971. The struggles for human rights utilizing hunger strikes, clearly demonstrate that the spirit of the Attica Rebellion is still very much alive throughout the US, in Palestine and throughout the world. Check out our video on the Attica Rebellion that commemorates this legacy.


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