‘The struggle was never about me, but for the will of the people,’ the longtime political prisoner once wrote.
Mutulu Shakur, the Black liberation movement elder and stepfather to the late rapper and actor Tupac Shakur who was incarcerated for more than 36 years before being released amid declining health last year, has died at 72.
Activist Kamau Franklin tweeted that Shakur died Thursday night. While no cause of death was immediately reported, Shakur had been suffering from terminal cancer. He was reportedly living with his family in Southern California following his release.
“Comrade Mutulu Shakur: veteran of the Revolutionary Action Movement, Republic of New Afrika & Black Liberation Army leader, fighter and political prisoner of 36yrs passes on to the ancestors,” the Malcolm X Movement confirmed on Twitter late Friday morning. “We stay loyal to your path.”
Shakur, who was given six months to live more than a year ago, was granted parole for an early release from prison late last year after serving decades for his alleged role in the “expropriation” of $1.6 million from a Brinks armored truck. He was subsequently sentenced to 60 years in prison but became eligible for parole in 2016 after serving 30 years in the federal system.
Mutulu Shakur finally freed
Last December, the U.S. Parole Commission finally felt comfortable enough to free the elderly man more than six months after doctors gave him half a year to live.
“Mutulu is deeply grateful for the broad expression of trust and support, and thanks everyone who has helped him over the years,” a statement posted to a website devoted to Shakur said in part. “We ask that he have the space and time to be with his family when he is released and to continue receiving medical treatment.”
Advocates were fighting for Shakur’s release for years.
Last summer, hundreds of faith leaders signed an open letter to officials with the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prison and United States Parole Commission urging the dying elder’s release.
“Our request is in no way meant to denigrate the victims’ families or ignore the loss of life,” the letter sent in July 2022 read in part. “It is our belief that Mr. Shakur has been more than adequately punished for those acts. The continued incarceration of this terminally ill senior citizen serves no useful purpose as Mr. Shakur represents absolutely no threat to public safety.”
Also last year, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement organized a virtual celebration to raise awareness around Shakur’s case as part of broader efforts to free movement elders.
“This country is not the same country it was at the time of my conviction and I have lived long enough to understand the changes the country and I have undergone. I will always care about freedom and equality for black Americans, marginalized people and the lower classes in this country and abroad. The struggle was never about me, but for the will of the people,” Shakur wrote in a petition for his release that was signed by nearly 20,000 people.
“I cannot undo the violence and tragedy that took place more than thirty years ago. But for several decades while incarcerated I have dedicated myself to being a healer, spreading a message of reconciliation and justice, and playing a positive role in the lives of those I come into contact with, in and out of prison,” Shakur also wrote.
“We are relieved that the Parole Commission now recognizes what has long been true — that Dr. Shakur’s release poses no risk whatsoever,” Brad Thomson, an attorney who represents Shakur, told the Intercept at the time. “It is tragic that it took until he was on the verge of death for that truth to finally be realized.”
Attempts at parole
Jomo Muhammad of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement previously told NewsOne that Shakur had been denied parole nine times despite having an essentially infraction-free time in prison. He also explained that Shakur petitioned for compassionate release earlier in the pandemic, given the various health issues and being diagnosed with an advanced stage of terminal bone marrow cancer. But he was denied essentially because a judge did not think his condition was severe enough to justify a release.
Another likely reason for the repeated denials of release is that Shakur was very active in the Black Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s and involved in exposing COINTELPRO, the FBI’s so-called Counter Intelligence Program that surveilled, infiltrated, discredited, and disrupted organizations like the Black Panther Party.
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