You may not agree with everything they say, think, or have done, but they are of us all who have struggled for justice. Speaking as a person who once was locked up in prison himself, I chastise myself and all of us for not doing enough to help and support these men and women. Those of us who have been locked away and then released realize that a part of us remains back in prison with those who are still there. Those who have never faced prison should know that it could have been you. Today I will introduce you to Sundiata Acoli who has been in prison for nearly forty years. Some of you may know that last year Sundiata was again denied parole and then the Board decided, what the hell, and added on another ten years.
The biography and update you find below are from Sundiati Acoli.org
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During the summer of 1964 he did voter registration work in Mississippi. In 1968 he joined the Harlem Black Panther Party and did community work around issues of schools, housing, jobs, child care, drugs, and police brutality.
In 1969 he and 13 others were arrested in the Panther 21 conspiracy case. He was held in jail without bail and on trial for two years before being acquitted, along with all other defendants, by a jury deliberating less than two hours.
Upon release, FBI intimidation of potential employers shut off all employment possibilities in the computer profession and stepped-up COINTELPRO harassment, surveillance, and provocations soon drove him underground.
In May 1973, while driving the New Jersey Turnpike, he and his comrades were ambushed by N.J. state troopers. One companion, Zayd Shakur, was killed, another companion, Assata Shakur, was wounded and captured. One state trooper was killed and another wounded, and Sundiata was captured days later.
After a highly sensationalized and prejudicial trial he was convicted of the death of the state trooper and was sentenced to Trenton State Prison (TSP) for life plus 30 years consecutive.
Upon entering TSP he was subsequently confined to a new and specially created Management Control Unit (MCU) solely because of his political background. He remained in MCU almost five years, … let out of the cell only ten minutes a day for showers and two hours twice a week for recreation.
In September 1979, the International Jurist interviewed Sundiata and subsequently declared him a political prisoner. A few days later prison officials secretly transferred him during the middle of the night to the federal prison system and put him en route to the infamous federal concentration camp at Marion, Illinois, although he had no federal charges or sentences. Marion is one of the highest security prisons in the U.S., also one of the harshest, and there Sundiata was locked down 23 hours a day …. In July 1987 he was transferred to the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.
In the fall of 1992, Sundiata became eligible for parole. He was not permitted to attend his own parole hearing and was only allowed to participate via telephone from USP Leavenworth. Despite an excellent prison work, academic and disciplinary record, despite numerous job offers in the computer profession, and despite thousands of letters on his behalf, Sundiata was denied parole. Instead, at the conclusion of a 20 minute telephone hearing, he was given a 20-year hit, the longest hit in New Jersey history, which dictates that he must do at least 12 more years before coming up for parole again.
The Parole Board’s stated reason for the 20-year hit was Sundiata’s membership in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army prior to his arrest, the receipt of hundreds of “Free Sundiata” form letters that characterized him as a New Afrikan Prisoner of War, and the feeling that the punitive aspects of his sentence had not been satisfied and that rehabilitation was not sufficiently achieved. The real reason for the 20-year hit is to attempt to force Sundiata to renounce his political beliefs and to proclaim to the world that he was wrong to struggle for the liberation of his people.
Write Sundiata Acoli:Sundiata Acoli #39794-066 (Squire)
P.O. Box 1000
Otisville, NY 10963-1000
P.O. Box 1000
Otisville, NY 10963-1000
120-46 QUEENS BLVD.
KEW GARDENS, NEW YORK 11415