SOFiA - Exploring Values, Meaning and Spirituality: Newsletter issue 164, Feb 2023
Magnificat from a New Jersey Jail
Thoughts from Assata Shakur (b. 1947 and member of the Black Liberation Army) on discovering that she is pregnant.
“I spent the next few days in a virtual daze. A joyous daze. A person was inside of me. Someone who was going to grow up to walk and talk, to love and laugh. To me it was miracle of all miracles. And deeply spiritual. The odds against this baby being conceived were so great it boggled my mind. And yet it was happening. It seemed so right, so beautiful, in surrounding that were so ugly. I was filled with emotion. Already I was in deeply in love with this child.
Already I talked to it and worried about it and wondered how it was feeling and what it was thinking. I would lie in my cell wondering about his or her life, wondering what kind of life it would have. What kind of people it would love, what kind of values it would have, and what it would think of all the madness that would surround it. Sometimes I felt so helplessly protective, wondering when my baby would be called nigger for the first time, wondering when the full horror and degradation of being Black in amerika would descend on my baby. How many wolves hid behind the bushes to eat my child?
But there were so many happy things that I thought about, too. I wondered when would be the first time my child would sit down and seriously appreciate the glory of a sunset and marvel at the wonders of nature. Or when he or she would smack lips and lick fingers over a sweet potato pie, or kiss strawberries and drink lemonade. It had always intrigued me how the world can be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time. I wanted, with all my being, for my baby to experience the many types and sides of love and friendship and to know and understand selflessness and generosity, struggle and sacrifice, honesty, courage, and so many of the sentiments that have given me strength and have made my life worth living. In those days I was in such a state of sensitivity and thought that I barely noticed what was going on about me”.
Note: There are full notes on Assata’s life in Wikipedia, and other Googled material. Assata Shakur lived in California in the sixties, and was a member and teacher with the Black Panthers. She is Step-Aunt and Stepmother to Tupac Shakur, a leading hip hop artist, assassinated in gang warfare in Los Angeles in 1996. His rap poem ‘Words of Wisdom’, found on his first CD, is dedicated to Assata. She believed that longterm political education, and not violence, was the only way for African-Americans to move forward. She was critical of the Panthers’ hierarchical structures dominated by men, and felt the movement neglected the needs of women and children. Along with other members of the Black Panthers, she was harassed by the FBI over many years, and brought before several court trials. In 1979 she escaped from prison and made her way to Cuba where she was granted political asylum and continues to live today.
Quoted by John Thornley in a Manawatu radio programme entitled “Every baby is a child of God”. This can be downloaded as a podcast from (www.mpr.nz/show/wesley. John interloaned Assata’sAutobiography from the Porirua City Library.