Shaka Shakur on Black Agenda Radio: Audio and Transciption

Margaret Kimberley, host of Black Agenda Radio and Executive Editor and Senior Columnist of Black Agenda Report, interviewed Shaka from the Virginia facility the state of Indiana is currently imprisoning him. Released March 15, 2024, the interview provides an overview of the past and present of his case and the many struggles in which he is involved.

Below the audio is a transcription done by volunteers with Free Shaka Shakur and the Indianapolis Liberation Center. You can find the petition referenced in the interview here!

Transcript

Margaret Kimberly: You’re listening to Black Agenda Radio. I’m Margaret Kimberly. Shaka Shakur is a revolutionary New Afrikan Prisoner who has spent the past two decades incarcerated initially by the Indiana Department of Corrections on trumped-up charges. He has consistently been targeted for his courageous activism by prison authorities. For more information on his background as a political prisoner and to learn how to support his legal efforts, go to the National Jericho Movement. He has also been published previously in Black Agenda Report. His article is titled “I am for the right to be free.” Welcome Shaka Shakur.

Shaka Shakur: Thank you for having me on.

Kimberly: At the time that you wrote, you were in Indiana, but you’re now in Virginia. Tell us how you ended up in Virginia.

Shakur: Pretty much as a matter of a history of 30 years of struggle; organizing and politicizing other prisoners. I was a thorn in the Indiana Department of Corrections. I was politicized in the system. They used that past history as well as an incident where I had disciplined a Correctional Officer for spitting in my food, putting notes on my trays about “F*** Black Lives Matter,” amongst other things. I had went a year filing grievances, complaints, having my people call, etc., about this systematic targeting, harassment, and racism while being held on the SHU [Solitary Housing Unit, or the widely-recognized human rights violation: solitary confinement], all to no avail.

So, I took the matters into my own hands and disciplined him. I received another outside charge for that act, and as a result, they used that incident to illegally take 3,100 good days from me, which comes to the amount of 8.5 years, therefore extending my sentence by 8.5 half years, illegally. And I was later transferred to Virginia, swapped, or traded for Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, who was sent to Indiana in my place. And I’ve been out here for approximately a little over 5.5 years.

Kimberly: Tell our listeners why you are a political prisoner.

Shakur: One, also just to piggyback on that last statement too, prior to being sent to Virginia I was held as solitary confinement illegally for 13 consecutive years illegally: without due process, without hearing, based on past and current activities, including the paperwork which misidentified me as a current or confirmed Black Panther member when I’m a member of the New Afrikan Independence Movement. And They’ve used those  25 years of past history and political activity organizing to justify holding me to voluntary confinement.

So that leads to your current question as to why I’m a political prisoner. I first came into the system in ‘82 as a 16-year-old for attempted robbery. And met political prisoners like Zolo Oizania, Ajamu Nassor, and other political prisoners. At least initially I was affiliated—organizationally affiliated—but was politicized while in the whole and being transferred to various institutions.

Once I was politicized and introduced to the great Atiba Shanna, or Yaki as many know him, from the Spear and Shield Collective, currently the Re-Build Collective. Reading his writings and theories on the New Afrikan independence and the right of New Afrikan people’s right the self-determination, I became politically active, left all reactionary forces and organizations, and joined the New Afrikan Independence Movement. I actually moved towards joining the Spear and Shield Collective. I was always organizing, always on the front line, challenging viscous attacks by correctional officers, particularly racist C.O.s, and whatnot.

Indiana is known for being very racist, known for having organized structures and organizations within the system: the Sons of Light being one them, which has come to light today with the Pendleton 2 case. You had officers actually go on record and admit—under oath—that that they belong to white nationalists and white supremacist organizations that was targeting New Africans. And I just took responsibility for organizing, educating, developing structures, developing programs, etc., amongst my fellow prisoners.

And although primarily the focus was on New Afrikan prisoners, but it was also open to all prisoners, that means Latino prisoners, white prisoners, etc. And we developed a movement within the system, which led to many changes, which led to many reforms, which stopped, or put a stop to a lot of the vicious brutality and killings that particularly Black prisoners were receiving. And as a result, I was kept in transit. I think in 15 years I was moved from prison to prison 12 times. I was placed in the supermax without charges for 3.5 years, subjected to psychological torture, physical torture, and brutality. And I was able to rise above it.

This was not a result of so-called misconduct. This was not a result of so-called breaking rules, etc., but a result of expressing what’s supposed to be a constitutional right: to practice politics, religion, and the right of freedom, which we don’t have in America.

Kimberly: No, we do not have that. You know, there’s so many things that we could say about the prison system in this country: the fact that this country has the biggest prison system of any country in the world, more people incarcerated than any country in the world, a larger percentage of its population incarcerated than any in the world, and all of that tells us quite a lot.

What do you want people to know? There are many important things, but if you had to pick one thing that people need to know about the prison system, what would that be?

Shakur: As we say, it’s a Prison Industrial Complex. It’s not about crime; it never has been about crime or controlling crime. When you study the history of prisons, as well as so-called law enforcement, and trace it back to the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and the Black Codes, and so forth and so on, it’s always been about economics and social control. Social control of the other, the threat group, the threat population. After the Civil War, making the leap from the individual ownership of slaves to private ownership of slaves by the state, you know? So, it’s always been about economics, and it’s always been about controlling the other; mining poor communities, mining ghettos and so forth for that gold, you know? For the raw resources, the raw materials that go into prisons, that work in the factories, and so forth. And it’s the same today.

And one of the things, too, I would like to throw out there like, well, you know, it’s another election year coming up. And then they get distracted by that, so pulled it into that. But one of the things that people that I would like to suggest that throw out there, are people that participated in that type of reformism:  need people to demand that the crime bill, the racist crime bill that Bill Clinton signed, Joe Biden supported, you understand, the anti-terrorist bill, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, be repealed.

That is hurting tens of thousands of prisoners. That is hurting and preventing tens of thousands of prisoners to have access to habeas corpus review, have access to appeals, to have access to review of death penalty and death sentences. And it’s already been acknowledged by Obama, by Bill Clinton, by Hillary Clinton, and so forth, that the bill was a racist bill that had a negative impact on communities of color. You know, I would like to just throw that out there.

Kimberly: Joe Biden, now president running for reelection, he was, as you point out, he was a senator when Clinton’s crime bill was passed. He was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and he bragged, when he’s not running for office, he would brag that he wrote the crime bill.And he once made a comment, he said, “it has everything except the death penalty for jaywalking,” which he thought was very funny. And yet he is the person that Black people are told is saving us from, from fascism, that there’s a choice between Joe Biden… it’s either Joe Biden or democracy, or Trump is a fascist; he’s the only fascist, we’re told, and that Joe Biden is the one who will save us from that. What are your thoughts when you hear things like that about Biden?

Shakur: Yeah, Biden’s a neo-fascist in sheep’s clothing, you know? And it’s no coincidence, and all those ones that don’t want to say it—was the same thing, one didn’t press Obama because he was the first so-called Black President, etc., so he didn’t really get challenged on a lot of issues or held accountable on a lot of issues like he should have. You know, Michael Eric Dyson spoke to that very well in the book, The Black Presidency: [Barack Obama and] The Politics of Race.

Once again, with these Democrats and people like Biden and whatnot, it’s smoke and mirrors. You have to do your own research.

We our own saviors. The people out are own saviors, like New Afrianks are our own liberators. Therefore, you have to take responsibility for organizing amongst yourselves; and cultivating and developing bases and infrastructures amongst yourselves and the communities and so forth; and curating programs that meet our needs, poor folks’ needs, oppressed people’s needs, and marginalize people’s needs, as opposed to depending upon the system, you know, depending on the state itself to solve our problems.

Biden is full of ish, like the rest of them is full of ish. The whole concept of Republican and Democrats is three-card monty, you know what I’m saying? Because they get up there, and they’re doing the same thing, and the system of capitalism never changes. This is what’s so disturbing that people don’t understand. We have to understand that the mode of production, the means of production of capitalism doesn’t change no matter who gets in office. And therefore, in order for capitalism to survive and maintain, it needs people to exploit, it needs colonies and colonizations, and so forth, to exploit. That doesn’t change. Only the narrative, and the way the narrative is presented has changed.

And the same thing for these prisons. While they talk about what’s going on in Ukraine, and other prisoners, and human rights violations, and so forth and so on: You conducted and doing the same thing in Amerika’s prisons you know?

If you look, for example, at the response to the protests and organizing around Cop City, which is being created and developed all across the country, you know… it responds in part to the rebellions and response behind George Floyd and young people taken to the streets, etc.

You’re charging people with the RICO Act, you’re charging people with federal crimes, you’re charging people with conspiracy—to set a precedent. So, what you’re saying is that, although you claim that we have a right to assembly, and the right to protest, and the right to freedom of speech, what you’re saying is that if we come together, we from out of state or different areas, you see different state license plates or whatnot, you can come in and charge us with conspiracy—a seditious conspiracy—conspiracy to overthrow the government, etc. and criminalize us, taking it out of the political context.

People need to understand the danger of that. That’s a dangerous precedent is being set. And again, it’s leading us right into the Prison Industrial Complex. That’s the point I want to make.

Kimberly: Yes, yes it does. I want to talk about your case. What is the status of your case now?

Shakur: Currently, I have a new attorney, Jenipher Jones out of Colorado, from A People’s Law Office [aka For The People], that’s reviewing my case: looking at possible civil rights, and human rights, and criminal rights violations. We soon plan to present a strategy on how to move forward.

I’m in prison for attempted murder of a Gary Police, a Gary cop, who, in fairness, who was not vindictive in terms of his response to the situation, who has not opposed—in the past 23 years—me receiving some form of relief, of being released, or a sentence modification, or time cut, etc. Nobody was injured in my case. The cop got hit by flying debris and whatnot.

I’ve been in prison for 23 years, but there’s no murder, no body: 23 years. I’ve done the time for the underlying felony, which was attempted murder. I was given 38 years. I’ve served 19 of those years. I’ve done on that part of my sentence. But yet my sentence was enhanced by 25 years based on a juvenile conviction that was waived to adult court 20 years prior.

So, we’re currently, uh, raising awareness about my case, trying to organize around my case. So, we have a petition on change.org that we’re asking people to sign. You can go to www.ShakaShakur.org and learn more about my case, and what you can do, and how you can support our efforts to organize around my case, raise legal fees for my case, etc.… But we post-conviction, in the post-conviction stage.

Kimberly: Thank you. And that was Shaka Shakur discussing prison conditions in the United States and his own case as a political prisoner.

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