Everything’s a gray area about the Panther era in America.
I mean, what’s known is why the Panther’s were founded – as a political self-defense organ for the Black community – but their reception was mixed; mostly favorable among the younger and more progressive crowd, mostly negative among the older and more regressive crowd.
And what you know about Barack Obama if you bothered to crack Dreams From My Father, was that as a younger man, his search for identity included checking out a Kwame Ture né Stokley Carmichael speaking engagement.
That fact that Obama eventually considered Mr. Ture a total whack job is incidental. What’s important is that in seeking out the man that had once been appointed the Honorary Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party, young Barry demonstrated the willingness to consider as a possibility the Panther route towards salvation.
That’s more than most would have done. Especially anyone that was even faintly considering any kind of eventual future in politics.
And it’s in this spirit that I hope that while President Obama is down in Cuba during this historic visit – the first for a sitting President to the island-nation since 1928 – that he looks up political asylum-finder and one-time Black Panther Assata Shakur.
Assata, as you may know if you read her book Assata, escaped from prison in 1979, two years into her sentence after being convicted of murder for her involvement in the 1973 shooting death of state trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike.
In the book, Assata was either deliberately or unfortunately vague in her description of the events of that night.
All I clearly remember her writing was “Zayd was dead.” She never even got too descriptive about who exactly Zayd was.
And like I wrote, that could have either been deliberate or unfortunate.
I mean, if you know exactly what happened, why self-incriminate?
And if you don’t – and Assata got all banged up so there’s a good chance that she really doesn’t – then she told us all she knows.
In either event and like I wrote in the beginning, gray area.
It’s tough to call her Assata a “cop killer” because of the infinitesimal possibility that a car full of Black Panthers pulled over a cop car and not the other way around, and also because of all the entire history of recorded Panther-police clashes, the only one that was certainly Panther initiated was that fanatical lunatic death mission orchestrated by Eldridge Cleaver that cost Bobby Hutton his life.
So it’s in the same spirit of Hope that got him elected, that I’d like to see President Obama – even or perhaps especially if it’s outside of his official capacity as President – reach out to Ms. Shakur while he’s down in her adopted homeland.
I mean, we live in a country where Dylann Roof, a white young man who’d admittedly gunned down 9 Black church parishioners was taken to Burger King by his arresting officers.
There was no gray area there.
And since the climate at the time of her actions at least as much as the actions themselves were the real cause of Ms. Shakur’s clandestine run for freedom, who should understand that kind of gray area better than our current Commander-in-chief?