It was a day of both great joy and of deep, heart-wrenching sadness the final day of Dr. Mutulu Shakur’s confinement in the U.S. prison system on December 16, 2022.
“In any other situation, when a prisoner of war is returned home, there would be parades, trumpets, 21-gun salutes,” said Jackson Attorney Ishmael Muhammad, the spokesperson for Camp One Rootz. “But when it’s a prisoner of war of our community, of the Black community, this great welcoming ceremony is not allowed to happen.”
Shakur, the stepfather and mentor of the late Tupac Shakur, was granted a parole by the U.S. Parole Commission due to his terminal health condition. Diagnosed with stage-3 multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that destroys the immune system, bones, and kidney, he has been released from the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, KY.
“He was one of the longest held prisoners of war in the U.S., having been held for 37 years on a 60-year sentence,” Muhammad said. “He finally gained his release after years of being inside the walls suffering torture and humiliation at the hands of the prison. We want to celebrate his release, though he’s very sick at this time.”
A fundraiser for the extremely infirm Shakur, who remains at home in Southern California, was held Sun., Jan. 22, at the Medgar Evers Community Center to support him in his health and recovery.
The late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba was the defense attorney for Mutulu Shakur after his capture in 1986. Lumumba, who served as both Vice President of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika and its Minister of Justice, had already had a long string of victories in defending members of New York’s Black Liberation Army and the RNA.
The RNA headquarters had moved from Detroit to Jackson in 1971 while Lumumba was still in law school. He assisted in the defense of the Jackson 11, the top leadership of the organization, including then-president Imari Obadele, who were charged with the shooting death of a police officer during a raid on the RNA headquarters.
Lumumba successfully defended Fulani Sunni-Ali, the PGRNA Minister of Information, against charges of robbery and murder in the 1981 Brink’s truck robbery. He successfully defended Assata Shakur, who eventually found a home in Cuba, in 1977 charge of murder in the killing of a New York policeman. He was the defense attorney for Tupac Shakur in the 1993 shooting of two off-duty police officers in Atlanta.
Lumumba worked with Afeni Shakur in providing defense for members of the Black Liberation Army who had been arrested and charged in the Brink’s truck robbery and other robberies in New York. In May 1981, he, along with Afeni Shakur and Rev. Herbert Daughtry, spoke at a birthday tribute to Malcolm X.
Yet, despite the many successes Lumumba had in defending his fellow revolutionaries in the 1970s and 1980s, he was unable to win Dr. Mutulu Shakur’s freedom, and the good doctor was sentenced to 60 years in prison beginning in 1988.
Born Jeral Wayne Williams in 1950, Shakur was thoroughly convinced by his late teens that a Black revolutionary stance was unavoidable in the battle against racism and inequality in the U.S. He was politically active with the Maoist Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), headed by Deacons of Defense founder Robert F. Williams.
When the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PGRNA) evolved as an umbrella group for RAM and other similar organizations, the young activists leading the movement joined hands with the older, more programmatic leaders. But in doing so, they became the targets of the FBI’s newly revised Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and were subjected to the hard tactics, rigorous surveillance, and harassment the FBI had used to dismantle and destroy the suspected Communists and socialists of the 1950s.
Adopting the practices of a growing number of socially transforming self-help organizations like the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X’s programs for the Nation of Islam, Shakur and his associates helped to establish an anti-drug rehab program that condemned the use of methadone as a method of treatment.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Lincoln Hospital, known as the “Butcher Shop” by locals, was the only hospital serving the South Bronx. Built in 1839 to offer only minimal health services to ex-slaves and the extremely poor whites, it had become dilapidated over the previous century and had seen only a few minimum repairs.
After the Black Liberation Army (BLA) was formed in 1970, Mutulu joined it along with other members of the Black Panther Party and RAM and RNA. The BLA was concerned for direct action and “liberation” (stealing) of money and other items its members needed to advance their program towards the anticipated revolution.
In 1970, the Black Panther Party, the mostly Puerto Rican Young Lords, and other community activists took over Lincoln Hospital and demanded better health care for the people who, because of their lack of money, had to rely on the hospital.
Between them, the occupying organizations demanded and saw the People’s Drug Program established at Lincoln Hospital. Shakur began working with the Lincoln Detox program after the takeover and their new plan was set in place.
In 1972, they began actively seeking alternatives to methadone. After finding a news article that reported in detail how acupuncture was used in Hong Kong and other countries to cure drug withdrawal symptoms, Shakur shared it with other staff.
Shakur had become aware of acupuncture when his son received it after a car accident. He went on to receive training and began to practice acupuncture as part of the People’s Drug Program and became well known for his critical work at Lincoln Hospital.
“Acupuncture, in the hands of revolutionary thinking, Puerto Rican, Blacks, and progressive white people, was an intervention that the government was not willing to accept at the time because it attacked and exposed the intention of the government to impose chemical warfare on a certain segment of the community,” Shakur said. “And it exposed the fact that the government wanted to control the flow of drugs into the community,”
After three years of study in Canada, China, and the United States, Shakur became certified and licensed to practice acupuncture. Now with his credentials in hand, he became known as “Dr. Shakur.” Shakur became assistant director of the Lincoln Detox Program and remained with it until 1978.
Shakur also opened the Lincoln Detox Acupuncture School. Without permission or consultation with Lincoln Hospital officials, Dr. Shakur and other degreed acupuncturists opened a three-year training program and held classes at the hospital. He went on to help found and direct the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture.
Two of Canada’s top experts on acupuncture came from Montreal to give lectures at the school. And on one occasion, the expert faculty, Dr. Shakur, and students from the Lincoln Detox Acupuncture School went on a trip to China to further their acupuncture study.
“Lincoln Detox was a hotbed for COINTELPRO,” Shakur said. “During the time from ‘70 to’77 we had suffered at least 3 or 4 assassinations.”
WITH AFENI SHAKUR
Alice Faye Williams joined the Black Panthers when they opened their Harlem office in 1968. She married Lumumba Shakur in November 1968 and changed her name to Afeni Shakur. She was a section chief of the Party chapter. When she became pregnant with the child who was to become known as Tupac Shakur, she admitted that Billy Garland, and not Lumumba Shakur, was the father. Garland only made two more appearances during his son’s life: The first time was when Tupac was shot and hospitalized in November 1994, and the second time was after he was shot in Las Vegas and lay in a coma for six days before dying. He tried to lay claim to one-half of Tupac’s estate.
One source reveals that Mutulu Shakur was the adopted brother of Afeni’s first husband, Lumumba Shakur.
Mutulu married Afeni in 1975. He says he was the father figure for Tupac. He had a daughter by Afeni, Sekyiwa. They divorced in 1982.
Tupac nevertheless maintained regular contact through letter or by telephone with his stepfather throughout the years.
Afeni had drug problems, notoriously with crack cocaine, during a big part of her son’s life. Tupac, however, was nurtured by the commune-like group that regularly viewed themselves as a family. That’s why Joanne Chesimard, Mutulu, Afeni, and a number of others adopted the family name of Shakur, meaning “thankful” in Arabic.
Mutulu said that he never pushed Tupac to embrace him as his father. He left the expression of such a sentiment completely up to Tupac, he said.
Tupac’s sister, Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur, the daughter of Mutulu and Afeni, had many fond memories of her brother, who was only two years older than her.
“We were our mother’s only children, and we grew up in poverty,” she told AllHipHop.com in September 2006. “Needless to say, it was a family connection; it was us two and mommy. We needed to survive out here. Besides that, in high school, in teenage years, we had the typical brother-sister relationship. Then, my mother went into drug recovery, and Pac started his career. He went to California to tour with the Digital Underground, and I went to New York to go to high school. We were separated for three years, and after that separation our lives were changed. We weren’t in each other’s daily lives; my mother was sober. “Poetic Justice” came out; our relationship had changed – but I was still the baby sister. He was always the man of the house. He’d never take advice, if he was doing an album or something; he’d tell me to get out of the room.
“He always was the guy, the person in the family that was the lead; he was always the bossy kid. He was always the idol.”
She is the president of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, founded by Afeni and overseen by the 44-year-old since her mom’s death in 2016.
Because of his close association with the Black Liberation Army and its many suspected adventures in bank robbing and other acts of “liberation” of desired goods, Mutulu Shakur was indicted under the RICO Act in March 1982. Dr. Shakur and his political associates constituted a criminal enterprise, the feds charged. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act was created in response to the mafia and organized crime groups. Federal law enforcement officers are allowed to go after the leaders of a RICO criminal enterprise, although they might not have directly committed the alleged crime.
Charged with conspiracy in the robbery of six armored trucks and of helping Assata Shakur to escape prison and find a haven in Cuba, the U.S. government alleged that Shakur was engaged in a RICO enterprise. In addition, in the robbery of a Brink’s armored truck robbery in Nyack, New York, two police officers and a guard were killed.
“Assata Shakur was carrying on the battle from Cuba for many years,” said Muhammad. “The American government is still seeking her ultimate return to face the music of their tribunals. Dr. Mutulu Shakur was the one who allegedly masterminded her escape from prison and managed to gain her asylum in Cuba. The Cuban government has given asylum to Assata Shakur as well as Nehanda Abiodun for their work in the Black Liberation Movement and the Republic of New Afrika. Abiodun is sought for her involvement in the robbery of the Brink’s truck in New York in 1981. She is also believed to have helped Shakur break out of prison. She has been reported as a mentor to rap artists in her professional life in Cuba.
After her son’s death, Afeni was told that he had no real money left in his estate. In fact, Suge Knight and the lawyers for Death Row Records said Tupac was indebted to the company because of the large cash and material advances he had received on his recordings.
The truth was that Tupac had been under contract to Death Row Records for only one year, from 1995 until his murder in 1996. The real bulk of his royalties and record masters were in the possession of Interscope Records and Universal Music, where Tupac had been under contract for over five years before coming to Death Row. And Death Row was half-owned by Interscope during part of its short history.
Thanks to two true friends like Jasmine Guy, who wrote the first biography of Afeni, and Jada Pinkett Smith, who brought together a team of sharp lawyers, investigators, and accountants who knew the music business, Afeni found the treasure that Tupac had accumulated and had it placed in her hands, amounting well into the millions.
Afeni died on May 2, 2016 at age 69.
Jasmine Guy, the author of Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary, will co-produce the film of Afeni’s life.
“I was honored when Afeni asked me to author her biography,” Guy said. “Now, I have the opportunity to honor her life and her legacy on the screen, and I am very excited to share her remarkable story this way.”
DR. Mutulu’S LEGACY
Dr. Mutulu Shakur has stage-four cancer, said Muhammad.
“That’s as bad as it gets,” he said. “There’s a number of things that cost $15,000 a month to maintain his health and well-being. He’s losing his sight. He’s ailing in health. He needs a certain diet. He needs a home health assistant. He needs equipment. We don’t know how much time he has left. He’s in good spirit. He’s been hosting calls with community members, telling people to keep up the fight, to be in the street with the young people, to address the question of violence by looking at our real enemy and the real source of the confusion in our neighborhood.
“For his work in the Black Liberation Army, he was ultimately captured by the U.S. government, tortured, and imprisoned. They attempted to force him to give testimony against his comrades in the struggle. He refused to do that. And he suffered one of the longest incarcerations of any other political prisoner or prisoner in the USA. As we know, there are other prisoners of war behind the walls, like Mumia Abu Jamal. Now we wish to give a moment of silence for those who have not been released yet, because when Doc came out he said, ‘We have to free them all. We have to free them all.’”
Muhammad said that Shakur was not given the needed pain medication during his worse moments of suffering from the cancer. Now, however, he will have the loving care of his family, and that will offer a great relief.
“We are very happy that he is out now and is being able to be treated by family and friends,” Muhammad said.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur’s most directly involved support group is Family & Friends of Mutulu Shakur (FFMS). It can be accessed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.