Viva logo

Warrior Tough Don't Rub Off

Lioness to the bone

By The Dani WriterPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
Archive photo from Assata: An Autobiography, 1987.

Kindly note that key identifiers may have been changed to protect personal privacies.

March 26, 2021.

Friday 3:09 pm

To my Legendary Lead Lioness Assata Olugbala Shakur,

Been too long and far too much distance dividing us, but I always knew our connection defied time, space, and reason. Not all conversations need words. The hugs our arms would give if able couldn’t begin to capture a love soaked in generations of yearning for better anyhow. Current crazy world chaos means we women warriors gotta close ranks. I’ve missed you, Sistah-girl. How you doing?


Just holding tight.

Separation from the water all these years has had repercussions. I’ve taken health hits. Don’t worry, nothing to write home about, just a flashing neon sign saying, "Your flight is boarding, get yo butt home."

It’s time.

There’s a science in synchronicity that sure served by putting both of us on islands. Living near the sea cleanses, daily rooting a person’s constitution in ease. Or who knows, maybe it’s the palm trees, lol! Those that ain’t lived it, don’t know it. We got saltwater in our veins, and inside us, that surging surf still carries secrets.

By Juan Rojas on Unsplash

I’ll bet the beaches in Cuba make Wilmington’s look like a backyard metal washer basin. Some lasting memories there in North Carolina with Grandmother and Grandfather, though, huh?

By Alexander Kunze on Unsplash

Sand, sea, and sun propelled us to life before we had a blinging clue of what existence would bring. Why didn’t anybody tell us that childhood was both long and short? Maybe we could have packed more in it.

Candace had to pinch me to stop me laughing so hard at work a few shifts ago after I told her about you and Mama going to the ‘whites only’ amusement park section that day. Your Mama, fooling the ticket attendant, speaking a mix of Spanish and English and going muy loco. A shoo-in for an acting award, your Mama. The fear on that man’s face, knowing he’d be facing the Spanish Embassy if they didn’t let you in. Priceless! Y’all made Jim Crow eat the shit they shoved Black people in day after day.

A young boy drinks from a segregated fountain.

Jim Crow Museum. Photo by Ferris State University, 2000.

The thing is, it seemed to me, that an annoying habit, adults called ‘pestering,’ could wear people down. You must have asked your Ma a hundred times easy to go on those amusement rides. You never accepted "No." I admired that. White folks were like fiendishly selfish toddlers who snatched any and every toy we picked up and tried to play with.

There is a sure-fire way to get what you want, just gotta have a good strategy, planning, and then war commando-style execution. I’ve nailed every job from the interview, project, and membership application I wanted with those tactics. Became a lesson ingrained. Consigues lo que quiero. I get what I want.

The Universe definitely, but your Mama, the wildcard seer, probably sensed even then that you’d wind up in a Spanish-speaking country. Elder wisdom. Love it, so love you.

Sistah, I know you’d try to brush it off all humble like if I were there and could tell you how your life experiences and energy traversed the darkest corners of my being when sheer agony threatened asphyxia and the end of all things.


Courthouse exit of Assata Shakur New Brunswick, New Jersey 1977, Associated Press.

The vilification campaign before your court trials back then. COINTELPRO moving with expert stealth and effectiveness. The police and FBI sanctioned harassment and torture. Not law-breaking but documented statute obliteration. They gave the finger to Articles 1–13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Funny, how they stopped short of Article 14 just for you and your unflinching adherence to our freedom and destiny as children of the African Diaspora.

Only when broken and bruised through the injustice of the family courts, did I then understand what it felt like to have a legal hammer wielded with whatever whimsy suited the powerful against the powerless. Right and wrong only mattered depending on the day and the judge, and I kept showing up on the wrong one. My lawyer’s shock was genuine when they took my daughter away rather than allow her to come with us to England. All the proper paperwork filed months in advance, and the courts waited until three days before our flight to tell me. It took six months of legal fight to resolve.

My Appeals Court Allowance Certificate, 2010.

My son never stopped asking for his sister. Rain couldn’t hide my tears.

I needed air. I breathed the thought of you.

The system was so enraged that you could be that strong as a scrawny little Black woman. Why, despite their best efforts, you didn’t die figuratively or literally like they wanted you to.

Mama died this morning.

We grow up knowing it’s coming but don’t dwell on such things.

Right now, my chest is a tourniquet tightened, sacrificing circulation to save what’s left of my life. The overriding effervescent fact: I have lots of life left.

Eyes of the Rainbow: Assata Shakur Documentary - A tribute given by Assata Shakur honoring her Mother on the day that she died

Mamas know. Mama bond is sacred.

When they took your baby away not long after she arrived on this plane, you found despair and hopelessness never meant to be yours for keeps. Authorities just being plain ol’ mean muthafuckas. Beat up the lady who just gave birth after being denied medical and prenatal care in hopes that her baby wouldn’t survive. Because how dare she get pregnant while in lockup facing charges we’re trying to frame her for. Pissed off to the heights of pissivity because you played the court game by their rules and won, so they had to cheat.

Photo by Associated Press, file source date not provided.

The FBI raised your capture reward to 2 million dollars. Still as mad as a castrated bull can be. Cried foul because you refused to submit to a cheat. Like we just supposed to surrender decades of our lives rotting in prison same as countless others did, so the powers that be could maybe, if they felt like it, choose to express regret later after flowers of beauty have long faded and resolve burnt away to blown ash.

You said, “Hell no!” not only escaping prison but the country, while they are still sulking after the longest tantrum ever because they don’t know how you did it.

Assata Shakur recounts police brutality before it was accepted as believable at face value

Could not care two cents about incontrovertible expert evidence that you were unable to fire a gun with your injury after you’d been shot. They hated that you lived and one of their own didn’t, plain and simple. Your stellar example of surviving all that vitriol encouraged me to become the tender grass no one considered, piercing and breaking through the concrete sidewalk against insane odds.

"It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up." —Babe Ruth

Real easy to love when favorable winds blow salty air across a clear blue sky in summer’s warmth. But from you lady, I grasped the ability to love through winter’s frozen gray, threat of frostbite, and an icy grave never to be found.

I can love beyond subterranean depths in ways unimaginable.

I am picture-perfect sprawling green savoring clear streams and chirping birds as the entire village gathers and the drumming is about to begin.

And my Mama’s love, like all others, doesn’t end simply because she stopped breathing.

Mamas know Mamas.

Advanced seminars you teach Sistah Assata. Know dat!

I picked up your autobiography from The Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore in Atlanta when attending FAMU. Promised myself not to read a page until after finals. Well, we knew with our love of reading that wasn’t gonna work! To my credit, I devoured it in a few days and aced finals.

Lioness defends the cubs, but she needs defending too. Trust the vanguard in your pride keeps sharp teeth and a watchful eye. We don’t go looking, but hey,”Don’t start none, won’t be none.”

It’s the velocity behind the bullet that kills you. Size doesn’t determine who wins. Unseen laws of physics can kick your ass.

People thought you crazy, but sometimes you have to go there. Self-control and power are ground zero. I got why you fired Aunt Evelyn mid-trial just as much as you reinstated her. System engendered apex frustration can be an insidious death wish.

Tamir Rice, 12. Breonna Taylor, 26. Michael Brown, 18. Stephon Clark, 22. Tanisha Anderson, 37. Philando Castille, 32. Atatiana Jefferson, 28. Alton Sterling, 37.

Trayvon Martin, 17. Damn.

Others too numerous to mention.

Playback of all the police brutality cases before Brotha George Floyd came along left me in a state of vile retching sickness. Putrid rage erupted from the depths releasing bloodthirsty demons.

"Who feels it knows it." —Robert Nesta Marley

Not to worry.

Amandla awethu! Betcha boots that power is ours.

Just like the jams we danced to, you gotta get the rift back to groove that rhythm.

Never felt the Black Liberation Army call you heard then like I did that day. But this generation recognizes. Take the spirit and essence of a thing and achieve the objective. Consigues lo que quiero. It delivered Havana to you and Kakuya by your side. It will get me through the Ancestral realm gaining Mama. It will see our people truly free.

Did I tell you my daughter is graduating from the University of Chichester in a little more than a month? She earned that.

Yep. Proud Mamas.

Still down for a collaboration, cuz I know you hold mad poetic lyrics dem hahaha! Grammar defying sentences. Verse connecting verse like vein connecting heart. Without oxygen, not even blood is life.

The poem you wrote when in prison, as a baby Kakuya was taken away from you still fills me with sub-zero chills. Writing is safe passage through pain, not just something to sit pretty in a published manuscript. Just repeating the wisdom you gave me—honest! I refuse to be so easily defined after relishing the fruits of your labor.

By elCarito on Unsplash

"A wall is just a wall. It can be broken down." —Assata Shakur

Whodathunkit, a stone-cold fighter emerged when you left Sis. Millions with me and behind. Bringing peace through all obstacles because, after all, “A wall is just a wall," might I also add, and nothing more at all. "It can be broken down.”

By Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash

Can’t wait to see you Sistah. Give Kakuya and the Grandbaby our blessings.

One Love,

The Dani Writer

Vocal Creator Note: Thank you for taking the time to read this story. You, as a responsible reader, are encouraged to thoroughly research and fact-check all information concerning Assata Shakur and her life as a freedom fighter as well as oppressed people everywhere. We can bring about the positive change we want to see in the world.

Remember to discuss, evaluate, like, and share this and every story of interest on Vocal.


About the Creator

The Dani Writer

Explores words to create worlds with poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. Writes content that permeates then revises and edits the heck out of it. Interests: Freelance, consultations, networking, rulebook-ripping. UK-based





Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.