Nothing enrages the American injustice system more than an escaped slave. When Harriet Tubman was liberating Black people from institutionalized genocide, rape and servitude, the state offered a reward of $40,000 to any bounty hunter who could bring her to “justice.” And if you think $40,000 goes a long way now, imagine what it did in 1875. Tubman was so vigorously desired by the state, not only because she broke the laws of chattel slavery (she was legally a thief, who ran away with thousands of dollars worth of what they considered to be stolen property), but also because she represented a revolutionary ideology. In many ways, her impact on the minds, hearts and souls of African American people was more damaging to the system of enslavement than the hundreds of African people that she emancipated physically. Same bed, new sheets.
Former political prisoner and member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, Assata Shakur is still being aggressively perused by her former captors, over three decades after her escape from prison. Utilizing the same tactics as their slave holding predecessors, the New Jersey Police and U.S. Justice Department offered a $1,000,000 reward for her capture in 2005 – the largest reward placed on an individual in the history of New Jersey. Like Tubman, Shakur is being hunted not only for her alleged crimes against the state of New Jersey, but also because of her unwavering revolutionary opposition to imperialism and injustice. Shakur has spent the past thirty years of her life living in Cuba with political asylum.
In their newest attempt to imprison Assata Shakur, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram and State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes have announced that they will write to President Barack Obama to request Assata Shakur’s extradition. Milgram said President Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba is a perfect opportunity to push for the return of the state’s “most wanted fugitive.” Joining the call for Shakur’s capture is Jersey Senator Sean Kean (R-Monmouth), who asked the President to delay normalizing relations with Cuba until they agree to the extradition. “She’s your classic urban terrorist, and she should be in jail,” he said. “Anybody who tells you different is a liar.” Interestingly enough, similar statements were made about Harriet Tubman who was was, indeed, a terrorist. She was a radical, guerrilla revolutionary who marched towards freedom with a double-barreled shot gun in-hand. The question is: to what extent does President Obama work on behalf the plantation owners? Will he use his power and influence to try to force Cuba to extradite Assata Shakur? Or will he champion the legacy of Harriet Tubman by giving her diplomatic immunity as a citizen of Cuba? I hope he makes the right decision.