Farewell to Mutulu Shakur: Celebrating a Life of Activism and Advocacy

Farewell to Mutulu Shakur: Celebrating a Life of Activism and Advocacy

Mutulu Shakur’s passing leaves a vast void in the Black liberation movement. In this article, we will pay homage and celebrate his life of activism and advocacy.

As the stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, and an activist in his own right, Mutulu Shakur was an influential figure in the fight for justice and freedom. His life was tragically cut short due to a rare blood cancer, but his legacy remains strong in the hearts and minds of those who advocate for change. 

Who Was Mutulu Shakur?

Mutulu Shakur was born on August 8, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was a political activist and former member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), a group involved in armed struggle against racial injustice in the United States. 

In 1975, Shakur married Afeni Shakur, the mother of rapper Tupac Shakur. They had a daughter, Sekyiwa, and divorced in 1982. Shakur was a practitioner and advocate of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, who worked to use these treatments to address drug addiction in urban communities.

In 1986, Shakur was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery and the 1981 murders of an armed guard and two police officers, carried out during a notorious armored-car heist in Nanuet, New York, perpetrated by a group self-identified as the “Family,” which included members of the BLA and Weather Underground. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

While in prison, Shakur continued to work for justice, and in November of 2022, he was granted parole, after being told he had six months to live from a rare blood cancer. Serving nearly 40 years in prison, Shakur was released on December 16, 2022, where he continued his activism until his death on July 7, 2023. 

A Life of Activism and Advocacy

Mutulu Shakur had been a licensed Doctor of Acupuncture. His considerable contributions to the Black community were made apparent through his notable political activism. Shakur had shown a deep dedication to improving the welfare of the Black community in America, dedicating numerous years towards their liberation and progress.

Shakur’s political and social awareness had been sparked early in his life. His mother was Black, female, and blind, and had to navigate a social service system that Shakur perceived as unsupportive towards Black individuals. His direct involvement in helping his mother within this system awakened Shakur to the urgent need for Black autonomy over institutions that significantly impacted their lives.

Manifesting his desire for change, Shakur participated in the struggle of Black parents for control over their children’s education in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn. This had been driven not only by the community’s needs, but also by Shakur’s own personal experiences within the New York public school system. Shakur had likened this struggle to the 1976 Soweto uprising against the Bantu education system.

In addition to his activism, Shakur had been an acupuncturist and healthcare worker from 1971 to 1978, working for the Lincoln Hospital Detoxification Program in the Bronx, New York, Shakur had been instrumental in leading a program that utilized acupuncture for detoxifying thousands of drug addicts. This detox program had been acknowledged as the most effective and largest of its kind by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Acupuncture Research Society, and the World Academic Society of Acupuncture.

In 1978, Shakur co-founded the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA), and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture, where he served as Co-Director until 1982. At BAAANA, Shakur had continued his remarkable work against drug addiction, treating numerous patients, many of whom were poor or elderly and might not have otherwise received such treatment. Moreover, Shakur and his co-founder, Dr. Richard Delaney, had trained over a hundred students, including some licensed medical doctors, in the medical science of acupuncture through their affiliated Harlem Institute of Acupuncture.

In the late 1970s, Shakur had traveled to the People’s Republic of China, in collaboration with Dr. Mario Wexu, to study their primary form of medical care: acupuncture. Shakur’s efforts in drug detoxification and acupuncture had become known nationally and internationally, leading to invitations to various conferences where he had lectured on his work.

Shakur had also participated in the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a Revolutionary Black Nationalist group advocating for Black self-determination and socialist change in America. A significant part of Shakur’s political activism had been his involvement with the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika. This Provisional Government had sought to establish an independent New Afrikan (Black) Republic in the southeastern Blackbelt states: Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Shakur had been active in advocating against the political imprisonment of Black activists in America and had worked to expose secret law enforcement programs aimed at undermining the Black movement in America. He had served on various committees such as the Committee to Defend Herman Ferguson and the National Committee to Free Political Prisoners. Shakur had also co-founded and directed the National Task Force for COINTELPRO Litigation and Research, an organization investigating and instigating legal suits against the FBI and other American law agencies for criminal acts and repression against the New Afrikan Independence struggle.

In his roles in the Lincoln Detox Program and at BAAANA, Shakur had been recognized for his acupuncture and drug detoxification work. His dedication to advocating against the political imprisonment and convictions of Black activists in America was noteworthy, as was his work to expose and halt secret U.S. law enforcement programs designed to undermine the Black movement in America.

Shakur has been instrumental in supporting African independence movements, traveling to Zimbabwe in 1980 at the invitation of the Zimbabwe African National Union. He also championed against political imprisonment of Black activists in America and worked extensively to expose and counteract illegal activities by U.S. and local law enforcement aimed at undermining the Black movement in America.

Shakur served on several committees and worked with organizations like the National Conference of Black Lawyers to develop defense committees for political prisoners and Black prisoners of war.

Shakur was also a vocal critic of the U.S. criminal justice system. He argued that the system was designed to oppress Black people, and he called for its transformation. Shakur’s work in this area helped to inspire the movement to end mass incarceration.

During his time in prison, Mutulu Shakur continued to be a vocal advocate for change, organizing fellow inmates and pushing for better prison conditions. He also developed a reputation for his skills as a healer, using his knowledge of acupuncture and other alternative therapies to treat his fellow inmates’ physical and emotional pain.

Despite being a nonviolent political prisoner, he faced extreme conditions and a lack of medical care that ultimately contributed to his death from a rare blood cancer. His release came after decades of sustained advocacy from his supporters and underscores the deep injustices within the US criminal justice system. 

Imprisonment and Release

During his time in prison, Mutulu continued to advocate for political prisoners and was active in the prison-based movement to improve living conditions for incarcerated people. He also worked to address the HIV/AIDS crisis among prisoners, creating a peer education program and promoting harm reduction strategies.

Federal parole was abolished in 1984, but Shakur’s convictions were exempt because the law didn’t take effect until 1987. This meant that he was eligible for a mandatory parole hearing after serving 30 years of his 60-year sentence, which came in 2016. However, the United States Parole Commission denied his release three times, in 2016, 2018, and early 2022. On November 10, 2022, the Commission reconsidered and granted Shakur parole, effective December 16, 2022, due to his declining health.

After nearly 40 years in federal custody, Mutulu was released on December 16, 2022. He had been serving his sentence at the Federal Medical Center near Lexington, Kentucky, where he had been receiving treatment for a rare blood cancer called bone marrow disease. 

Mutulu’s parole came with strict conditions, including home confinement and electronic monitoring. Despite these restrictions he still was active in movement building to ensure the release of others. He did not, nor believed his release meant anything, as Shakur lived on parole as he believed and preached, “We must keep going until all are free.”

Legacy of Mutulu Shakur

Mutulu Shakur leaves behind a legacy of activism, advocacy, and a commitment to justice that will continue to inspire generations to come. His contributions to the Black liberation movement are immeasurable and have played a significant role in shaping the discourse around social justice in the United States.

Throughout his life, Mutulu Shakur was a powerful advocate for the rights of marginalized communities. His work as a community organizer, health practitioner, and activist left an indelible mark on the communities he served. He was instrumental in the development of the Black Liberation Army, a militant group dedicated to fighting for the liberation of Black people in America.

Despite being incarcerated for over 30 years for his involvement in political activities, Mutulu Shakur remained steadfast in his commitment to fighting for the rights of his fellow citizens. He continued to inspire others to take up the mantle of activism and to fight for social justice in the face of immense opposition.

His work as a health practitioner is equally remarkable. He was a pioneer in the development of acupuncture as a means of treating drug addiction and helping individuals overcome trauma. He believed that health was a fundamental right that should be accessible to all, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

Mutulu Shakur’s legacy will continue to inspire and empower individuals and communities to fight for justice, equality, and freedom. He reminds us of the importance of standing up for what we believe in, even in the face of adversity, and of the power of collective action in creating real change. 

His commitment to the principles of Black liberation, community building, and healthcare access make him an influential figure in both political and social spheres. The legacy of Mutulu Shakur will be one of determination, sacrifice, and advocacy for justice.

His activism inspired countless individuals to join the struggle for social change, and his teachings continue to be a guiding light for those fighting against oppression today. Even during his final days, Mutulu Shakur continued to be an influential figure for activists across the country.

As the nation mourns the loss of a towering figure in the fight for Black liberation, it is crucial to remember the important lessons Mutulu Shakur taught us about the importance of collective struggle, dedication, and persistence in the face of overwhelming odds. His contributions to the struggle for social justice will never be forgotten.

Death and Impact on Black Liberation Movement

The impact of Mutulu Shakur’s life and work cannot be overstated. He was a symbol of resistance and resilience in the face of injustice, and his legacy continues to inspire people to this day. His death is a significant loss to the Black liberation movement, but his influence persists, inspiring a new generation of activists and advocates who will continue the work he began.

As we say farewell to Mutulu Shakur, we celebrate his life and his unwavering commitment to social justice. His legacy will undoubtedly continue to influence generations of activists and advocates fighting for a better, more equitable world.

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