Friday, August 10, 2018
Assata: An Autobiography New Edition Edition by Assata Shakur (Zed Books)
The quality of biographies and autobiographies is largely dependent upon the life lived by the individual and how the story is told. Someone could have lived a full and exciting life but tell about it in a drab, dull way. Whereas someone could have lived a mundane, boring life but narrated it in a colorful and interesting way.
Assata lived a very interesting life, much different than the majority of us, and she told her story in an uncomplicated and intriguing manner. I had never heard of Assata Shakur until I saw her named mentioned in another book I was reading. Now I'm quite upset that I didn't know about her sooner or that I hadn't read her story when I was younger.
Assata's simple yet powerful story of her life in New York as a young woman searching for a way to best serve her people is amazing. I absolutely love her toughness, her mindset and her ability to think for herself. Although she joined the Black Panther Party she was not hesitant to point out its flaws and what they needed to do to improve. She took a critical thinking approach to everything she did though her actions weren't completely devoid of emotion.
What happened to her as an adult is eerily similar to what happened to so many other freedom fighters/Black activists in the 60's and 70's: they were either killed or imprisoned. Fortunately, she wasn't killed though it wasn't for lack of trying. That night of May 2, 1973 had death sentence written all over it. But she survived and fought one legal battle after the next until the system finally succeeded in putting her away. It was a matter of: "we have the resources and the means and you do not."
Assata was an amazing woman and it literally radiates from the pages. And she tells her story in a straightforward way. She's not trying to exhibit how much she knows or even how much she's done. It is not a verbose book with $10 words in there to wow the reader. It is a simple no-nonsense telling of what her life was like in the Black urban areas of New York as a child, how she became the pro-Black woman she became and how a system of institutionalized racism ran her over with their 20 ton train.
She conspicuously and wisely omits a lot of names and details when it comes to some of her movements and meetings during her Panther days and, of course, of her escape from prison. Still, you learn all you need to know about Assata and the powers that she was up against. But she named herself Assata Olugbala Shakur for a reason:
"Assata means 'She who struggles,' Olugbala means 'Love for the people,' ...Shakur means 'the thankful.'" I would say that she embodied all of that and I'M thankful she lived the life she lived, told the story she told and I'm thankful I got a chance to read and appreciate it.