This is the autobiography of one of the most influential women in the Black Power Movement. Though Elaine Cleaver and Angela Davis are famous due to t...moreThis is the autobiography of one of the most influential women in the Black Power Movement. Though Elaine Cleaver and Angela Davis are famous due to their outspoken natures and media attention they were able to garner as feminine spokespersons of the movement, Assata Shakur was a grassroots leader in New York who stayed out of the limelight - until the FBI attempted to portray the Black Panther Party as a criminal organization and the emergence of the Black Liberation Army. Being an active member during the decline of the Party, her story is one of what happened to the movement when the FBI waged a war on the Black community, which lead to the erasure of what was perhaps the last phase of positive grassroots leadership in the Black community (a void which was filled by the street gangs of the later 70s that are at present an inseparable aspect of youth culture). Her story is the story of Black feminism and its contribution to the community.
Though it has been a while since I read it, what I do recall is her criticism, both of the system and the movement she herself was apart of. I do also vividly recall her descriptions of what life on the run actually looks like - how isolating and depressing such a lifestyle actually is - as well as her prison experience, an experience which seems all too familiar for some in the post-Patriot Act America.
How one understands the history of that time is heavily dependent upon the social context which is often forgotten and the story of Assata is the story of the gross injustice, inequality and racism that plagued the North which lead to the emergence of something as seemingly radical as the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. While the Black Panther Party, Black Liberation Army, Communist and related "radical" organizations are looked upon with contempt and disdain in our times. People often neglect how the murder of Fred Hampton was reflective of race relations between the Black working class and the state apparatus. While the Klan was lynching people in Mississippi, the FBI, police and state troopers were outright murdering folks - including the attempt on Assata that made her famous.
Though most of the people who will or have read this book are those with sympathies towards the protagonist, I believe that this book is even more important for Assata's critics and people outside of the community, as the similarities between now and then in respect to the "War on Terror" are striking. It is important for otherwise well-meaning patriots to see what a "domestic terrorist" actually looks like. And with the false imprisonment and unjust conviction of Imam Jamil al-Amin - it would do us a great disservice to forget the lessons of Assata's life to contemporary critics of mainstream society.(less)
This is book is far better than I had originally expected. I was hoping it would give me some insight into the environment around which my parents gre...moreThis is book is far better than I had originally expected. I was hoping it would give me some insight into the environment around which my parents grew up that lead them to join the Black/Brown Power Movement - it did that and so much more. This book is a fascinating documentation of the generational shift that occurred as the Civil Rights Movement moved north and entered into metropolitan areas. It is not just a tale of corruption and violent revolution, but a city at a time when the racial tensions boiled over and exploded. The South had Jim Crow, the North had a system of racial oppression that was in its own ways more profound and devastating to the underprivileged communities. If this book does nothing other than debunk the continued social lie that the South is where racism was rooted, it would be enough. Though somewhat of a true-life crime novel, this book should stand alongside The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and other such works devoted to explaining how alive and well institutional racism still is in contemporary America. If people don't make the connection between then and now, they have missed English's entire point. The detail and thorough of this book is amazing and the way that English gives the living history of a generation through the real-life, personal experiences of three individuals is brilliant. It is an eye-opener and is definitively on my recommended reading list.(less)
It is Michelle Alexander's experience as a lawyer which makes this such a successful piece. It is not novelty that makes this book so profound, but th...moreIt is Michelle Alexander's experience as a lawyer which makes this such a successful piece. It is not novelty that makes this book so profound, but the authority upon which the argument is made: simple statistics and inarguable facts. In the very beginning, Mrs. Alexander states for whom this book was written: people who have a hard time convincing friends, neighbors and others that there is something oddly familiar with the current order. She has done this perfectly and thus I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a hard time convincing others that the current state of Blackamerica is not due to a mortal/cultural flaw, but instead stems from a perfect storm of institutional control that perhaps was initially well-intended, but at present insist upon maintaining a status quo that has decimated the African-American community and is doing the same to our Latino brothers and sisters.
I was both vindicated and saddened in finding evidence from a lawyer in confirmation of my understanding that the United States Supreme Court, particularly the current make-up, has been a friend to the political and economic elite of this country, an enemy to the politically impotent masses and a main obstacle against any meaningful change in society at large. It was both shocking and appauling to see that the chief justices in the land acknowledging the existence of corrosive racism that has become inherent in the criminal "justice" system, while refusing to do anything but maintain the status quo since the only viable solution would be to dismantle the system - something which they deemed impossible. Once we reach that level of protectionism by the very same institution that is supposed to be the ultimate check on executive and legislative authority, what is left but a complete overhaul of the system - dare I say "revolution"?
The only criticism I have is that in her initial summary of the chapter contents, she seems to often have simply copied key sentences word for word, which is rather annoying, but minimal (and easily forgotten). Stylistically, it made for a redundancy and the book perhaps would have been better off without any foreshadowing summaries at all (current and future authors take note).
It has always been my person theory that most conspiracies are not concocted in smokey backrooms, but simply come into existence when particular interests converge and work towards the same goal in a previously established order. In short, what you have before you is the anatomy of just such a conspiracy and an uncomfortable reality that needs to be first acknowledged before we can ever begin to talk about social, racial and economic justice in the United States in any meaningful way. (less)
This is hands down the best history on the creation and evolution of the Black Panther Party that has been written. Anyone interested in a straight-fo...moreThis is hands down the best history on the creation and evolution of the Black Panther Party that has been written. Anyone interested in a straight-forward history of the movement, this is the book to read.(less)
I read Volume 1 of this series when I was an adolescent and plan on re-reading the entire collection again. From the little that I do recall, my own e...moreI read Volume 1 of this series when I was an adolescent and plan on re-reading the entire collection again. From the little that I do recall, my own early childhood experience can testify to the truth of what this short work entails. The fact that the public school system has failed black men is obvious to any conscious observer. But at a time when the rate of incarceration of Black and Latin men is far beyond any reason, I would be curious to see how relevant this now 20+ year old critique remains.(less)
This has to be hands down one of the best and most insightful books that I have read in the past ten years. It is a must-read for every Muslim living...moreThis has to be hands down one of the best and most insightful books that I have read in the past ten years. It is a must-read for every Muslim living in the United States, as he has something to say to each member of our vast community. Though some will not agree with everything he has to say (including myself), he nonetheless needs to be heard. Just for his poignant critique of what he terms "Black Orientalism" alone, this book deserves to be on the shelf of every "Black Studies" section in every university library and Barnes and Nobles. After summarizing the history of Islam in the United States, he goes on to elaborate on a way forward for the future of Islam in America. Every aspect of this book is thought provoking and it actually caused me to take a radical departure from my previous views and roles regarding the early new age black religious movements of the past century. I also appreciated his decision to keep the discourse academic, instead of dumbed-down of mass consumption. If you are like me, you may need a dictionary from time to time, but I promise you will be better for it. This is a must read and a book that shall forever remain upon my shelf (once I replace my lent out copy).(less)