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More art featuring Assata Shakur

As part of a class project, some students posted these posters in front of Sawyer library last week.


Note in the second poster there are featured two quotes from Assata Shakur. Shakur was a prominent figure in the Black Liberation Army, which organized the assassinations of many law enforcement officers. Shakur herself was at one point on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist list and was later convicted of first-degree murder. She escaped prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she currently resides.

This is not the first time students have featured Assata Shakur in their artwork. She was previously featured on a poster outside Schapiro with the slogan, “Can you be too radical when the stakes are this high?”

While some students were presenting their posters and mentioned the quotes from Shakur, I asked, “Wasn’t she a terrorist?” I do not think all the students were aware of her criminal history. One student responded by saying, “The FBI also killed people.” I did not really know what to make of that response. A professor also responded that they did not believe that Shakur should be described as a terrorist. I do not know too many details about Shakur’s life or her political involvement outside of a few cursory articles I read, so maybe there is something I don’t know.

Interestingly, the day after these posters went up, the second poster featuring the Shakur quotes was removed and the other was left to stay. The previous poster of Shakur that was posted in front of Schapiro was also removed hastily. Perhaps administration was involved.

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22 Comments To "More art featuring Assata Shakur"

#1 Comment By Jim Jones On May 12, 2019 @ 9:19 pm

Assata Shakur remains one of the FBI’s “most wanted terrorists”:

https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/joanne-deborah-chesimard

Radical black nationalism really has become a thing at Williams College this year.

#2 Comment By Anon On May 12, 2019 @ 9:52 pm

– “We will not allow this institution to pacify us.”

Yeah, we’ve picked up on that. That actually seems to be your bottom line.

– “This institution must not conceal racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia”

I wonder if these activists have looked into Islam’s prevailing attitudes on, say, transgender folks. It’s always amusing how these activists are quick to bash Christian family values yet are surprisingly eager to come to the defense of an arguably more retrograde ideology. I understand being against Islamophobia when it’s a proxy for being racist towards Arabic people, but Islam by itself is horribly misaligned with the rest of their values (i.e., that it’s okay to be gay).

#3 Comment By John Drew On May 12, 2019 @ 10:13 pm

The Black Liberation Army was an extreme branch of the Black Panther Party.

The CARE Now leadership unveiled the black fist symbol of the Black Panther Party at their February protest.

As I have written elsewhere, the clenched fist symbol is a reminder of how members of the Black Panther Party tortured and killed 19-year-old Alex Rackley.

Hypocrites of Hate: Williams College Okay with Black Panther Party Symbol Despite Its History of Torture

Ideally, someone at the school should invite those who have suffered grevious losses at the hands of Assata Shakur and others who admire her dangerous, divisive, hateful ideology.

One of the most prominent leaders of CARE Now gave the whole world an opportunity to see the most contemporary version of radical black hatred at the April 9, 2019 College Council meeting.

Given the willingness of black activists to humiliate and verbally abuse white students, I think it would be healthy to take a long look at the ideology of Assata Shakur and trace out its predictable consequences including hatred, violence and political terrorism.

#4 Comment By 0xEph On May 12, 2019 @ 11:45 pm

For an interesting piece on the politics around Assata Shakur’s FBI most wanted designation, and future possible extradition, see: https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-cuba-assata-shakur-fbi-america-obama-perspec-1230-20141229-story.html.

#5 Comment By Caleb Smith On May 12, 2019 @ 11:56 pm

From the article oxEph shared:

At the time Shakur made the Most Wanted Terrorists list, Aaron Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark office, said, “While living openly and freely in Cuba, she continues to maintain and promote her terrorist ideology. She provides anti-U.S.-government speeches, espousing the Black Liberation Army’s message of revolution and terrorism.”

I can see how there is a good argument for her not being a true terrorist. That being said, I still find it sketchy to glorify a convicted murderer with black supremacist ideals. As JCD noted, the same thing has been happening with the Black Panther Party, and particularly Malcolm X, on campus.

#6 Comment By Caleb Smith On May 13, 2019 @ 12:04 am

In response to Anon, I think some of the religious biases are very interesting on campus. There seems to be a glorification of Islam without regard to any of its views. On the contrary, Christianity does not seem to be as cool.

#7 Comment By 0xEph On May 13, 2019 @ 12:39 am

@Caleb: the same sort of glorification happened with Che Guevera, who did some really awful things (although it’s been a bit since I last saw a Che shirt).

The truth of the matter is that these historical figures are far more complicated than most appreciate, both for better and for worse.

#8 Comment By John Drew On May 13, 2019 @ 1:39 am

Only the campus left glorifies terrorists and murderers. There is nothing similar to that among Republican/conservative students.

#9 Comment By 0xEph On May 13, 2019 @ 1:59 am

@John – sure there is. See the Right’s glorification of the Confederacy. Or of Christopher Columbus. (Although, in all fairness, there’s some glorification of Columbus across the political spectrum.) Or what about John Wayne who said “I believe in white supremacy?” Heck, even Churchill did a ton of evil — in his own words, he took part in “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples” in Africa, who he believed resisted British colonialism not because the British were invading their ancestral lands, but because the African people in question had a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill.”

There are all sorts of historical figures and movements that are complicated but are nevertheless glorified by the Right or by the Left. And there’s probably no better signal of dogmatism than believing that you have the market on morality cornered.

#10 Comment By John Drew On May 13, 2019 @ 2:23 am

oxEph

You’re not so good at coming up with relevant examples, are you? John Wayne never murdered or terrorized anyone.

Meanwhile, leftist students and professors at Williams are celebrating Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), who was convicted of the first-degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973.

I’m glad Caleb spoke up. Good for him.

#11 Comment By Williamstown Resident On May 13, 2019 @ 6:10 am

Joanne Chesimard murdered a police officer. I don’t care if you call her a terrorist or not. She deserves the death penalty or at least life in prison without the possibility of parole. She’s not a hero. She’s a criminal.

#12 Comment By Caleb Smith On May 13, 2019 @ 11:04 am

JCD,

I think oxEph is right in saying that the right has also historically glorified violent, or at least problematic, figures. But in my limited experience with conservative folks at Williams, I haven’t seen that kind of thing. Campus politics are not representative of the world outside the Bubble, though.

It’s nice to realize that radicals on campus aren’t doing anything we haven’t seen before. Che is a good example. It’s, in my opinion, nonsense, offensive to certain parties, and approaching the promotion of (real) violence, but nothing novel.

In my personal experience, I was surprised how aggressive some students reacted when I asked about Shakur’s criminal history. I wasn’t trying to be incendiary—more reacted out of a combination of genuine curiosity/confusion and a sort of ethical obligation I felt. My hope is that, even in the face of dogma, the average student still approaches these things with a healthy level of scrutiny.

#13 Comment By Caleb Smith On May 13, 2019 @ 11:10 am

Also, I realize I left out a part from my quote from the Chicago Tribune article.

In other words, even by FBI standards, Shakur was raised to terrorist level on pretty shaky grounds: for speaking and writing, usually protected activities.

A complicated figure indeed. Still, a murderer.

#14 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On May 13, 2019 @ 11:23 am

Great post! I have stuck this to the top of the page in order to highlight it further.

If you have a chance, more details would be great! Which class? Also, if you are around Sawyer, close up pictures of what the profs wrote would be interesting. I can’t quite read most of them.

#15 Comment By Caleb Smith On May 13, 2019 @ 12:20 pm

DDF,

I didn’t recognize the professor. I spent some time trying to find which class on the course catalog but couldn’t really figure it out. I may ask around.

Unfortunately, the poster was taken down. Maybe I can find another photo somewhere.

#16 Comment By John Drew On May 13, 2019 @ 1:49 pm

Caleb,

I’ve been involved in Republican politics for decades. I was active in the Tea Party movement.

I can’t think of a single time I thought to myself, “Wow, are we seriously honoring a terrorist/murderer?”

This is a phenomenon completely tied to the left. Check out the book, Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell. He does a great job of explaining the left’s tolerance for terrorism and violence.

#17 Comment By 89’er On May 13, 2019 @ 4:14 pm

I would think implementing and executing policies at the Border that create hundreds of orphans – while not murder – certainly qualifies as an egregious human rights violation.

Nixon’s sabotage of the peace talks prior to the 1968 election certainly cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of Vietnamese lives.

Lastly there are the thousands of Americans lynched – with a blind eye and perhaps the tacit support of Democrats and Dixiecrats who then went on to become celebrated members of the GOP post civil rights act.

Hack… hack.

#18 Comment By Williamstown Resident On May 14, 2019 @ 11:25 am

You dug pretty deep for these; shame they’re so far off base.

Border policy separating families was Obama’s.

Not sure many Republicans honor Nixon anymore. I sure don’t. He was a crook. He got what he deserved. Barry O and Felonious von Pantsuit are next.

Hillary slobbering all over Robert Byrd is way worse than any GOP celebration of the Jim Crow era in recent memory.

Also plenty of evidence of recent meetings between senior Dem leadership and the likes of Farrakhan and Sharpton both of whom are bigger racists than anyone in the GOP I can think of other than the congressman from Iowa. Who btw lost all of his committee assignments unlike Dems who dont hold their members to any standards whatsoever. Tlaib and Omar both deserve censure and loss of committee assignments for recent comments.

#19 Comment By abl On May 14, 2019 @ 2:45 pm

#20 Comment By Dal On May 14, 2019 @ 3:53 pm

Don’t they have any sort of budget for these projects? So often the junk duct-taped around campus just looks so tacky. I would prob stop and read if it looked better.

The CAREfree folks could prob also use the help of a digital designer and communications major. A web site would be the best way to get the word out. Assuming that’s the goal. Using Instagram as a communications channel renders almost any content null and void by definition.

#21 Comment By 89’er On May 14, 2019 @ 5:38 pm

Billsville Resident:

1) How many hundreds of orphans did Obama create at Border? Beyond the misleading talking point – lets stick with facts.

2) Glad you see Tricky Dick for who and what he was – of course that is easy with the benefit of 45 years and decades of released documents.

3) You ignored the last 50 years of GOP southern strategy.

4) Robert Bird is a bad one. So was Woodrow Wilson. Of course, what about’ism does not negate J Drew’s assertion that the GOP is clean as the driven snow. Dear old Strom, Jesse and Trent show that for the deluded thinking it is.

5) State sponsored torture by W. There is a new one for you.

6) Your partisan pap is unworthy of a debate. Sad. Weak. Pathetic.

Your response failed to support J Drew’s assertion that the GOP only honors and supports those who are worthy. Lots of talking points and nonsense though.

#22 Comment By Alum-Anon On May 17, 2019 @ 4:28 pm

abl says:

Border policy separating families was Obama’s.

Fact check:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/us/politics/fact-check-family-separation-obama.html https://www.npr.org/2018/05/29/615211215/fact-check-are-democrats-responsible-for-dhs-separating-children-from-their-pare

Fact check: The NYT piece is inaccurate. It’s a hit piece. Separation of illegal immigrant minors from adults they are travelling with (who may and frequently may not be their parents) became standard practice when a settlement was reached in Flores v. Reno between the Clinton administration and pro-illegal immigration advocacy groups in 1997 after an opposing Supreme Court ruling, was standard practice until 2006 and has been a reference point ever since. Flores mandated minimal detention for minors and also their speedy release, and was undertaken on its face for the benefit of the children concerned. How such a piece can be written without any reference to Flores is beyond me – it is grossly oversimplified and guilty of the revisionist history of which it accuses the current administration.

The Obama administration experimented with a number of different practices, a couple of which ended in failure. For a period of several years children were released in the care of adult sponsors without background checks, resulting in children being released to human traffickers and forced into slavery, as in this case:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/obama-administration-placed-children-with-human-traffickers-report-says/2016/01/28/39465050-c542-11e5-9693-933a4d31bcc8_story.html

Another is that family-based detention was subsequently tried in 2014 and 2015, and detained families sued, in one instance citing failure to adhere to the standards reached in the Flores agreement.

Ultimately what is salient are these facts. The numbers of adults accompanying children have increased faster than acceptable facilities can be produced – and there is apparently no facility arrangement which is acceptable to illegal immigrant advocacy groups. BP and ICE are extremely limited by law as to what they are allowed to do in order to detain these groups, and releasing them without background checks detailing the relation of the children to the adults is not an acceptable option and may endanger the well-being of the child. These limitations involve the separation of children from any accompanying adults, are legally binding, and are undertaken for the benefit of the child.

I’d almost say the piece you linked to is unworthy of the NYT, except the NYT has recently been setting that particular bar lower than I would have thought possible.