Do you know the circumstances?
Convicted of the murder of a state trooper in 1973, Joanne Chesimard was sentenced to life in prison; no parole. She escaped in 1979, fled to Cuba and has lived there in exile ever since.
But first, who was Ms. Chesimard? Born during Jim Crow (having to witness overt segregation, separate but ‘equal’ laws, the disparity in wages, earnings gaps between whites and blacks, having to live in government formed dilapidated ghettos, etc.), she grew up destined to be a part of the Black Liberation Movement of the Sixties (She was choice-ed with non-violence but deciding to not not fight back if someone spits in her face was too much to consider, she chose the BLM).
A rebel. What citizen of the United States is against the desire or the necessity to fight back against a system that is against you? Taxation without Representation.
She joined the Black Panther Party and immediately a target was placed on her back.
After her arrest for cop killing, she was formally charged in a slew of pending cases including murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery and kidnapping; receiving either and acquittal or dismissal on all charges. All after Angela Davis won her trial (The Morning Breaks), so imagine the temperature in desiring a conviction for a militant Black woman – yet she prevailed.
Now her being a target was confirmed with the FBI’s COINTELPRO information regarding the ‘take down’ of the ‘terrorist’ organization – The Black Panther Party. Remember, the BPP was formed to protect Black neighborhoods and its citizens from the occupying force of police departments. They used laws (carry permits and open carry displays of weapons) and weren’t afraid to die for freedom. Shootouts became common between The Panthers and the police so that night on the NJ Turnpike, a violent confrontation was sure to occur.
One trooper and one Panther was left dead. Officer Harper was wounded as well as Ms. Chesimard and he stated, on the record, that it was she that wounded him, which strengthened the case for her conviction. But forensics determined that she could not have shot him as there was no gun powder residue found on her hands and the gunshot injuries she received were consistent with her being seated and having her hands raised and her injury prevented her from being able to pull a trigger. Officer Harper then admitted to the jury that he lied (all of this is in the transcript).
So why was she convicted?
- An all-white jury convened solely by the prosecution.
- Being a Black Panther – the #1 organization on the FBI’s hitlist.
- She beat the system 6 times previous.
- Outspoken against the government, especially Vietnam.
- Media assassination with false imagery and public sway towards conviction.
- And being Unapologetically Black.
Now this country was formed under a rebellious spirit. Oppressed by Britain we fought for freedom. Who can honestly concede that that freedom includes Blacks? Through slavery, Jim Crow, Segregation, who can honestly say that Blacks did not have/does not have the right to demand equality? The term Civil Rights has become a noun but its essence of seeking rights that are civil should not be overlooked.
Rights that are civil…
If you can’t empathize with Assata’s plight, her story, you can’t empathize with the Black struggle. If you haven’t read her story, the transcripts of the case or understood the era (error) that led up to that night on the turnpike, you’re ignorance and lack of desire to gain knowledge is part of the hinderance to eradicating racism in America.
If all you conclude is – ‘she killed a cop.’ – you do not understand…