Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, was convicted for the 1973 slaying of Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike. In 1977, Assata Shakur was convicted of the first-degree murder of Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the shootout. Shakur, who was a member of the Black Liberation Army and a former member of the Black Panther Party escaped prison in 1979, and is now living in asylum in Cuba. On November 2, 1979 she escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey, with the help of three members of the Black Liberation Army that were visiting her. The visitors drew concealed .45-caliber pistols, seized two guards as hostages and commandeered a prison van. The offenders transferred from the van to a blue-and-white Lincoln and a blue Mercury Comet that were waiting nearby for the escape.
After rapper Common was invited to the White House for an arts poetry event, Wednesday night; conservatives and the New Jersey State Police union have pointed out their aversion to Hip-hop artist Common’s recorded tribute to Assata Shakur, “A Song for Assata”, on his album Like Water for Chocolate. He was inspired to create the song after traveling to Havana, Cuba to meet with Assata Shakur personally and after listening to her account of her arrest and conviction.
Some of the lyrics in question?
In the spirit of god.
In the spirit of the ancestors.
In the spirit of the black panthers.
In the spirit of assata shakur.
We make this movement towards freedom
For all those who have been oppressed, and all those in the struggle.
Yeah. yo, check it-
Common tells a story of Shakura’s innocence, and of her mistreatment by the police after she was wounded in a shootout. The shootout mortally wounded Zayd Shakur and wounded Assata Shakur with non-life-threatening injuries. They were apprehended about five miles down the turnpike. A third offender, Sundiata Acoli, was captured 36 hours later after a manhunt. Assata Shakura was convicted on two murder charges and six assault charges without proof that she fired any shots. Her defense argued that she was shot with her hands up, but her conviction and sentence stood because being an accomplice to murder carries an equivalent life sentence under New Jersey law. The details of the shootout are murky because the original police report by Trooper James Harper involved retracted statements — namely Assata was not seen with a gun, and that she did not shoot Harper. Acoli was convicted of shooting and killing Trooper Werner Foerster. However, a petition by New Jersey Senator Sean T. Kean (11th District) requesting President Barack Obama to extradite “JoAnne Chesimard” before signing relations with Cuba states Chesimard killed Foerster “execution style” — shooting him in the head as he lay wounded by previous gunfire. Chesimard’s FBI WANTED profile states that “Chesimard and her accomplices opened fire on the troopers, seemingly without provocation.”
Additional lyrics …
Seemed like a bad dream, she laid in a blood puddle
Blood bubbled in her chest, cold air brushed against open flesh
No room to rest, pain consumed each breath
Shot twice wit her hands up
Police questioned but shot before she answered
One panther lost his life, the other ran for his
Scandalous the police were as they kicked and beat her
Comprehension she was beyond, tryna hold on
To life. she thought she’d live with no arm
That’s what it felt like, got to the hospital, eyes held tight
They moved her room to room-she could tell by the light
Handcuffed tight to the bed, through her skin it bit
Put guns to her head, every word she got hit
‘who shot the trooper? ‘ they asked her
Put mace in her eyes, threatened to blast her
Her mind raced till things got still
Opened her eyes, realized she’s next to her best friend who got killed
She got chills, they told her: that’s where she would be next
Hurt mixed wit anger-survival was a reflex
They lied and denied visits from her lawyer
Complete lyrics available from lyricsfreak.com …
Common’s 2007 poetry rap, “A Letter to the Law,” talks of Uzi submachine guns, “the black strap to make the cops run,” and includes a call to “burn a Bush.”
Def Poetry – Common – A Letter To The Law, which supporters of Common say this is an obscure, rare rant by the rapper that usually expresses love.
“The young people who read this stuff, hear this stuff, are getting a very dangerous and deadly message.”
— David Jones, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association union
Assata Shakura had an extensive criminal history (between 1973 and 1977, in New York and New Jersey, she was indicted ten times, resulting in seven different criminal trials), but was acquitted or had charges dismissed in the trials for bank robberies, armed robbery at a hotel, kidnapping of a Brooklyn heroin dealer, murder, and attempted murder or a police officer and another male. In cross examination for the Turnpike murders, Assata Shakur said she was unable to explain how three clips of ammunition and 16 live shells had gotten into her shoulder bag; she also admitted that she knew that Zayd Shakur carried a gun at times. She also admitted seeing a gun sticking out of Acoli’s pocket while stopping for dinner at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant shortly before the shootout.
Assata Shakur is the step-aunt (sister of stepfather) of Tupac Shakur, who was shot four times and killed near Las Vegas, Nevada in September 1996.
Common has been associated with the White House before. He was featured in the video for “Yes We Can”, a song in support of the candidacy of Barack Obama, which made its debut on the Internet on February 2, 2008. Common also sang at the 2009 Obama Home States Inaugural Ball on January 20, 2009.
Common was born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. on Chicago’s south side. He is known to be Christian, and has been a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright since his childhood. He has been critical of the American news media’s coverage of Rev. Wrights controversial sermons, saying the media has “an agenda.”