Mutulu Shakur was born Jeral Wayne Williams on August 8, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland. At age seven, he moved with his family to Jamaica, Queens, New York City. In Queens, he became radicalized and began working with the Revolutionary Action Movement and the Republic of New Afrika in his late teens.
During this time, Shakur was saddled with assisting his impoverished family navigate the treacherous maze of the American social services system, and helping to prevent them from starving to death or freezing in New York City winters. He worked very closely with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, working with and becoming a close friend to Geronimo Pratt.
Shakur also achieved renown as a health professional serving the black community, founding a network of black acupuncturists in 1980. Shakur served the Harlem community by offering his acupuncture services to heroin addicts to assist them in ceasing their poisonous habit as an alternative to conventional methadone treatments.
In 1969, Shakur and other RAM members became involved in a vicious armed fight against the police in Detroit, which left one officer dead and Shakur and 100 other comrades arrested. Upon his release from jail, Shakur’s family was dogged by ceaseless police harassment and surveillance.
In October 1981, Shakur was accused of assisting an armed expropriation attempt on a Brinks armored car, working as a member of the Black Liberation Army. Shakur went underground until he was arrested on February 12, 1986, when he was subsequently charged with assisting in the escape of his sister, Assata Shakur, and 12 robberies spanning 1976 to 1981.
Despite a lack of evidence, he was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in federal prison. It was later discovered that FBI’s COINTELPRO project had targeted Mutulu as well as many of his comrades. Nevertheless, those who were touched by his life, inspired by his teaching and work, and motivated to fight for revolutionary change remember him and tirelessly work for the release of this political prisoner.
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