This article was originally published in Workers World Aug. 4, 2021. Dr. Mutulu Shakur was granted parole Nov. 10, but remains in prison as of this writing.
Despite being imprisoned for 35 years, the revolutionary and aging Dr. Mutulu Shakur remains a steadfast beacon in resistance to the oppressive capitalist system.
Born in Baltimore in 1950 to a Black woman who was blind, he learned early that the existing social system was not set up to benefit Black and other oppressed peoples.
After moving to Jamaica, Queens, New York City, with his mother and sister, Dr. Shakur worked with the Revolutionary Action Movement, a Black nationalist group fighting for Black self-determination and socialist change in the U.S. He worked closely with the Black Panther Party and the Puerto Rican Young Lords, among others.
Dr. Shakur was especially known for his critical work at Lincoln Hospital, built in 1839 to receive formerly enslaved people migrating from the South. “By 1970, it was the only medical facility in the South Bronx. It was a dilapidated brick structure from the previous century that had never been upgraded. It was known as the ‘butcher shop of the South Bronx.’ . . . The Young Lords, with the participation of some Black Panthers, took over Lincoln Hospital and demanded better health care delivery for people in that community.” (The Abolitionist, March 15, 2013)
Lifesaving community medical work
Mutulu Shakur became a political education instructor for the Lincoln Detox Community Program, which he eventually managed, introducing acupuncture to treat withdrawal symptoms from substance abuse. Interested in news accounts of success by Hong Kong doctors applying that treatment, he was stirred by the work of the so-called barefoot doctors providing basic, low-cost, grassroots medical care in revolutionary China. (tinyurl.com/5atfnp8s)
The Lincoln Detox Community Program was recognized as the largest and most effective of its kind by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Acupuncture Research Society and the World Academic Society of Acupuncture.
“From 1978 to 1982, Dr. Shakur was the co-founder and co-director of the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture . . . [and cared for] thousands of poor and elderly patients, who would otherwise have no access to treatment of this type.” (mutulushakur.com/about)
In a 2008 interview Dr. Shakur explained, “[then-President Richard Nixon and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller] implemented what they called a Methadone Maintenance Intervention Program . . . theoretically to get a person off of heroin but onto methadone monitored by methadone clinics and allegedly . . . to detoxify a person addicted to chemical warfare off the methadone. . . .
“But Methadone Maintenance came into the community as a requirement for aid to dependent children, a requirement if you wanted to get on welfare, a requirement for parole and requirement for probation. . . . [The government] brought methadone into the community. In New York City, 60% of the illegal drugs on the street during the early 1970s were methadone . . . coming in through Eli Lilly [pharmaceutical corporation] and the Brinks trucks delivering the drugs to the various methadone clinics. And instead of people being detoxified off of methadone, they were being increased in dosage.
“So acupuncture, in the hands of revolutionary-thinking Puerto Rican, Black, progressive white people, was an intervention that the government was not willing to accept, because that attacked and exposed the intention of the government to impose chemical warfare on a certain segment of the community. . . . It wasn’t only that we were providing medical care, we were providing medical care and exposing chemical warfare.” (Sundiataacoli.org, July 2008)
Politically motivated arrest
Dr. Shakur was arrested in 1986 and charged with eight counts under the U.S. conspiracy law known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. His alleged crime was that he was part of a Brinks armored truck robbery in 1981, when a guard and two police officers were killed — the same Brinks implicated in bringing drugs into oppressed communities. The facts are “[a]t no time did the evidence show that Dr. Shakur killed anyone. At two trials the evidence indicated others were responsible for the deaths. (One witness [alleging his guilt] became a government witness in return for a sentencing deal).” (mutulushakur.com/case-facts/)
In the year 2021, incarcerated for 35 years, Dr. Shakur faces what many imprisoned people face — life-threatening medical neglect. This was already severe when Family and Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur released a 2019 legal and medical report on his case: “We know that Mutulu is suffering from extensive painful bone lesions, caused by a rapidly growing bone marrow cancer. . . . In 2014, he suffered a stroke. . . . He has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and vision problems from glaucoma.
“We fear for his survival and his life. Dr. Shakur’s legal team has filed a compassionate release petition because now his very survival depends on his release. He meets the conditions for compassionate release under federal law. He is a recognized advocate for human and civil rights, who poses no danger of committing any crimes against anyone. As evidenced by widespread support for his parole, he will be welcomed back into a community that will also provide for his financial and medical support.” (mutulushakur.com, December 14, 2019)
Dr. Shakur began receiving stem cell-irrigation treatment in October 2020, the same month he was up for mandatory parole. He was given notice in January 2021 that he was denied parole and will not have another hearing until 2022. This was his ninth parole denial. (mutulushakur.com, February 24)
Demand immediate release
Workers World understands that the only treatment for Dr. Shakur’s life-threatening illnesses — as in the case of other prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal — is immediate release. As with many political prisoners who aim to build a better world, Dr. Shakur has dared to expose the U.S. capitalist system’s harm to oppressed communities and dared to oppose that. After having stolen several decades of Dr. Shakur’s life from him and his loved ones, the death-making apparatus of the prison industrial complex would rather kill him than release him to continue his work.
The Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Workers World Party calls for the immediate release of Mutulu Shakur and all political prisoners, particularly those who are aging rapidly.
Free Mutulu Shakur! Free Sundiata Acoli! Free Ruchell Magee! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free all political prisoners!