Fragments of Autobiography by Afeni Shakur

I was born in Lumberton even though my mother and my father and my sister were living in Norfolk, Virginia at the time, but my grandmother who lived in Lumberton got sick, so my mother went to Lumberton to see about my grandmother and I was born while she was there. A midwife delivered me. My mother almost died when I got here because the midwife didn’t want to take the afterbirth out. I think I went back to Virginia, I’m not sure. I know I spent most of my early childhood between North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia—there wasn’t anything different about it, it was fucked up like everybody else’s is, all the rest of my comrades and all the rest of my friends, their lives and my life are not really that different.

I’ve been what you might call “race conscious” for a long time, because I came from North Carolina, you know. I mean, it would have to start from there. I used to be walking down the North Carolina street and white people would ride down the highway or the road and then we would become a bunch of motherfuckers, you know, a bunch of the filthiest names that you could say, and I was from five and six and seven years old, I guess. I was very young at that time and they didn’t give a damn what they were doing. And there was my family; like, my grandmother, she had married this dude who was half-Indian and half-white. When they got married his family disowned him, but not only did they disown him, they tied him to a wagon and just dragged him all the way through the town. It was all over you, it was all around you, this shit. So of course I had to be aware of it because it was stuff that existed in my life, it wasn’t foreign to me. I never called it discrimination or prejudice. I called it hate and that’s what it was. Like the Ku Klux Klan. While I was living down there, the Ku Klux Klan came out and decided that they were going to put a curfew on the whole black community. The niggers had to he in the house by ten o’clock. It just so happened that in Lumberton, North Carolina, they have a fairly large Indian population and they weren’t going for it. The Ku Klux Klan came around the Indian community and the Indians kicked their ass and that was the reason why the niggers could go out after ten. The niggers weren’t going to do it, they were scared. But the Indians did it. Lumberton was famous for that one act. The fact that they delivered a resounding blow against the Ku Klux Klan, man, that was really right on.

They had three different bathrooms: bathrooms for the niggers, for the Indians, and for the white people. And they were all filthy. What was the point of it?

When I came to New York, I thought I was coming to the land of milk and honey, right? I remember that first of all my mother told me, you know; she wrote a letter to say that I shouldn’t expect too much because it’s not like they say. But we always referred to New York as “going up the road.” It was something that you always looked forward to because you figured that when you got to New York you would live in a house that was decent and have clothes that were pretty. Every time somebody came down there from New York, they looked so good. But the reason for that, I found out later because I did it myself, was that when you go down South you bring your whole wardrobe and you make people think that it’s only a small part of it. You borrow a car, a flashy, snazzy car, and you go down there and you pretend. But because of that and because of ignorance, up the road was always what was happening. Everything in the world was better up the road. Food was better, everything was better. White people didn’t call you a bunch of motherfuckers up the road. It was like heaven, it was the land of milk and honey up the road. And when I got up the road I was disgusted.

Up the road looked sick. It looked nasty and I wanted to go back down South. I couldn’t stand the smells. New York smelled terrible. And you couldn’t see the stars. I mean, I was ten or eleven years old and those are the things that I was really worried about, I couldn’t see the stars, I couldn’t run out at twelve o’clock at night and play hide and seek like I could down South—I was a tomboy first of all. In New York I had to he worried about somebody raping me and shit, I never thought that anybody would want to rape me when I was down South. Why in hell would somebody want to rape me? I never related to no sex, what are you talking about? I had to keep worrying about things like that. Then, the food was awful. My mother had a bill at the butcher, the Jewish butcher, and we couldn’t eat anything but kosher bologna and hamburger meat that was full of fat. His way of putting it was that he wouldn’t want her to overstep her means so he would only let her buy certain things on credit, and they were always scraps, It was never good food. She was doing the best she could. She wasn’t making but about $40 a week. And we were renting a room in another lady’s apartment; my sister and my mother and I all lived in one room. It was really bad.

My girlfriend Sandra died when we were eighteen. And it was caused by heroin and by her being pregnant and her body being all fucked up. Earlier that year she had had a tube removed. She was supposed to have had a complete hysterectomy, but they didn’t do that, they just removed one tube and didn’t tell her that they had only removed one tube. So as soon as she felt like screwing, she did, and she got pregnant. And her body wasn’t well. She didn’t even know she was pregnant till she was about five months pregnant, because she was the kind of woman that had her period when she was pregnant and shit, so she didn’t think to go to a doctor to check it out. We don’t go to doctors often. We don’t go to doctors till we’re dead. So she hadn’t gone to the doctor. And when she finally went, she found out she was pregnant. She was snorting dope too—I think I found out later, you know, after she died, that she was also skin-popping. Well one morning she got up in the middle of the night, like about five o’clock in the morning and she was on her way to the bathroom and she just collapsed. She had water on the brain or hemorrhage on the brain or something like that. When she got to the hospital, they operated and the child was alive but they killed the baby. They wouldn’t put the baby in an incubator or something. You know, like the nurses told us that they just killed the baby. They just let the child die.

My friend died, she never recovered. Her brain or something was all fucked up. I can’t understand this stuff, but I know she died, and that really turned me off the drugs, off pot and coke and horse. It didn’t make me not like drugs, it just made it so that drugs made me puke at the sight of them. Because it was the only friend that I ever had. And I was very close to her. I remember that night I found out she was dead, I got a phone call from my mother saying come uptown and I walked in my mother’s house and my mother and my sister were sitting around looking all fucked up and sad and shit. I didn’t know what was wrong with them. And they said, it’s Sandra. I thought that she had the baby or had a miscarriage. And then my mother bust out crying and I found out she was dead. I walked out of the house and I didn’t go back for about twenty-four hours. I just walked the street. I was really fucked up. It was the first time in my life I’d ever felt somebody’s death, you know, because she was all I had.

After that I couldn’t relate to drugs. I guess that’s why I don’t feel any bitterness toward addicts. I feel bad because we haven’t done enough to help them, we haven’t come up with any solutions and we have to have one, man. I know that they’re fucking us around and conniving us and shit like that, but I can’t look at it like that. I look at all of those talents that people say are so fucked up, but I think they’re talents and those talents should be used in a positive way. If they can use up all of that energy to connive, there’s nothing wrong with them except that we haven’t done enough.

The school I went to when I moved to New York was very different for me. I was used to a school that was all black kids, and there were only about three or maybe five black kids at the most in the school, and I was fighting all the time. It was the white kids I was fighting with. One time we were going out for recess and a kid named Myron Cohen said that I looked like something from outer space and I kicked his ass. The teacher came and tried to stop it and I tried to kick her ass. Because I was just ferocious. I wasn’t bad, I was just ferocious because I didn’t know any better. I was trying to protect myself and I felt like I just didn’t belong there, you know. And I was very scared. I was really scared of all those white people all around me. I wasn’t used to that. When I got back in the class the teacher, Miss Beck, had both of us up and she was trying to figure it, she wanted to know why we were fighting. And this dude Myron Cohen said that I was fighting. He was just standing up there just lying; he was just telling unmitigated lies. And I just went up to him and I was prejudiced, and I just punched him. One of the white boys, this kid named Paul Gold who drew a lot—he didn’t do anything in class but sit and draw—he told the teacher that Myron Cohen had said that I looked like something from outer space. And everybody in the class just burst out laughing. They thought it was funny, and I tried to attack them again. Because I was very fucked up. I didn’t understand. I didn’t like it. But I got through that year anyway. I think I did.

I went to a lot of high schools because I was constantly moving. I was such a fuck-up around there. I was constantly moving.

Like I didn’t really mean to go to Performing Arts. I didn’t mean to go to anything like that, but I was in a journalism class, you see, in junior high, and I was kind of majoring in journalism, if you can do that in junior high, because I was very interested in writing. At the end of junior high in New York you start taking tests to see which high school you’ll be in. I wanted to take the test for Hunter College High School, and my English teacher suggested that I take it for Bronx High School of Science and for the High School of Performing Arts. I didn’t really know what Performing Arts was or why I should take it.

I couldn’t take the test for Hunter because my IQ was two points below the level for you to take it or some other nonsense like that. I took the Bronx Science test and I passed that but I didn’t want to go to Bronx Science because I didn’t think I could relate to all of those brilliant white rich kids, you know? I took the one for Performing Arts and I went there; I’d always thought that actors and actresses were uninhibited and it was easier to relate to them. I found out that that wasn’t correct. That’s why I left. I forced myself to be forced to leave. I mean, I would go, you know, and I would just walk up to white children and just hit them, and then I would get angry because they didn’t want to hit me back. Like these were rich kids. Performing Arts is the only high school that majors in dramatics. And these kids were just coming out of private schools all their lives, and they were being picked up by chauffeurs and all that nonsense, and you know I hated them. I hated them with a passion. First of all, every day I would come to school high off of some Thunderbird. I would get fucked-up with my friends behind some Thunderbird and then I would go to Performing Arts. I would go for part of the day—like I would go to acting classes. I refused to go to any other classes. And then I’d get down there and I would get uptight because I saw this white child who had all of these beautiful clothes and who was showing off. And I couldn’t stand this so I’d walk up to her and just call her a bitch and smack her, you know, and she would look at me like I was some kind of other life form. And I was.

I don’t know how old I was. I can’t get all those ages together. Tenth grade, maybe. You know Angie Dickinson? You know her daughter Charlotte? Well we were there together. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen her and that’s where it was. We went to Performing Arts together.

When I was at Performing Arts I had Eartha Kitt’s acting teacher. She used to take me aside and try and talk to me, and she knew that I was just rejecting everything—it must’ve been awful for her. She used to take me aside and try and talk to me. Her story was that Eartha Kitt was just like me and she had many problems, but together they solved them, you know. But I wasn’t going for it because I didn’t want to talk to that woman. I didn’t want to tell her shit, because as far as I was concerned I didn’t have any problems except that I didn’t have money, and she wasn’t going to give me money; all I needed was some clothes and some lunch money. I couldn’t even eat lunch there. That was one reason why I went to school just part of the day, because I didn’t have the money to go to the Automat and buy food to eat. My mother just didn’t have it. And to go to Performing Arts costs money: you have to have leotards and all kinds of shit. You have to go to all kinds of little plays and they don’t have any cafeteria so you have to go to restaurants to eat. For a high school kid, are you crazy? From 169th Street and Washington Avenue, are you kidding? It was enough to get to school—to buy bus or train passes, that was enough.

I couldn’t even relate to the kids in the school who were black. Most of the kids were white, and they were just totally other. I tried to relate to a black kid named Glenn—he’s the dude that plays the son on Peyton Place now—but I couldn’t because he had been in drama, I think he had been in Raisin in the Sun, the original play, so I couldn’t relate to him but so much. And then like hell, he didn’t understand anything about me because he lived in Greenwich Village. So I had problems. I remember I had a fight with him because he slapped me and the next day I brought every knife that I had and a zip gun to school and put them in my locker and I was going to kill him. But I was like that—I couldn’t relate to talking about anything. When somebody hit me or somebody hurt my feelings, all I wanted to do was kill them. I just wanted to hurt them. I wanted to hurt them physically because it was all I could do. I couldn’t sit down and be sophisticated or any of those things, you know. I couldn’t look pretty—you know, outslick them—or outtalk them or anything. The only thing I had, the only defense I had was the things that I did in the street. I was in a gang called the Disciples, in my neighborhood, at the same time I was going to Performing Arts.

I was president or some old shit of the Disciple Debs, which means the female Disciples, you know, and we used to just run around beating up people, shooting people with zip guns and nonsense like that. Or taking antennas off parked cars and whipping people. I remember they had a pool in Cretona Park and every summer that pool used to just be red. The water is blue but the pool would be red with blood because it was right in the middle of the borderline. On the other side there was a Puerto Rican gang called the Horsemen, La Cabeza, or whatever the Spanish word is for horsemen. We used to all go to the pool, and we would go there for no other reason at all except to knife each other. We fought each other furiously. It was just really something. It wasn’t even funny, it was really very serious; a very serious situation. I didn’t like the Puerto Ricans because I couldn’t understand what they were saying, and because I didn’t like the smell of garlic. That’s all I had against Puerto Rican people. I didn’t understand what they said so I always thought they were talking about me and I didn’t like the smell of garlic so I thought that they were foreign. I didn’t know why they didn’t like us, but I’m sure there was something as simple as that. It wasn’t based on anything at all except some simpleness, you know, and it just had us fighting each other constantly and we were righteously fighting. We were killing each other. I mean every week there was a body in Cretona Pool. Every week. It wasn’t funny … and at the same time that I was going to Performing Arts and my mother was bragging about me for that, I was running around shooting and cutting people.

In Harlem every day at about seven o’clock, Sandra and I would put on our clothes, comb our wigs and zanzy up our eyes with black eyeliner, eyebrow pencil and multicolor eye shadow. When we were satisfied that we looked fly we would prance around the corner to the bar. First we’d go over to the jukebox and play a record (Nina Simone’s record, “Four Women,” was out at the time), then we’d sit at the bar and drink Hennesseys or 151 all night. Brothers would come by and we’d talk the nicest to the ones who we knew had the most cash.

One night in the middle of our gaming, a brother came in who Sandra knew. His name was Omar. I remember that I kept calling him Cheyenne, instead, and he kept calling me “All I See.” Omar was hustling roogie and coke and of course he was fly! That night I didn’t talk to anyone else—Omar and I rapped and got high until well after all the bars were closed. After that we found every afterhours spot in the Bronx. In less than ten days, we were living together. He bought me everything I looked at! I used to be walking down the street and he’d walk up to me and put everything from rings to $80 knits in my hand. At night he’d tell me about his life and I would snort cocaine, smoke reefer, and play the part of his queen.

He had been a Muslim under Elijah Muhammad for about five years. When Malcolm left, he went with him. He would tell me about those first weeks when most of Malcolm’s followers had to hole up in basements with guns in hand, not quite sure what the reprisals would be. The break was a bitter one, not so much with Malcolm and Elijah themselves, but with certain people whose loyalty to either of the men was so fierce that quite a few wounds and deaths resulted.

It was through Omar that I learned about both Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad. This dude was the first person who started teaching me about any kind of politics. The politics he was talking were apolitical, but it was the beginning of my having any knowledge at all of the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Well that shit just blew my mind. The dude was saying that it’s a whole thing that you have to learn, that black is the best color on the planet Earth. It was really a good feeling for somebody who has gone through all of that. It’s a very good thing—it’s an ego trip, you know. I wasn’t doing anything else except snorting dope and talking about how great Malcolm was and this drag about the misunderstanding he and Elijah had. I was very naive.

After Sandra died, I just wandered, you know. I graduated from smoke and cocaine to acid—used to trip about once every week or two. I went to some demonstrations and rallies, and I was reading some in the underground, black, and left magazines, and for a while, I went to peace demonstrations and be-ins with the hippies. I found dudes to take care of me, and I just wandered around.

It wasn’t too long after that, early in 1967, when I saw Bobby. I was walking down 125th Street and got to Seventh Avenue and saw the same old crowd, a lot of people standing around listening to somebody on the box. Now 125th Street and Seventh Avenue is the corner where everybody and his brother has to make at least one speech in his lifetime. Marcus Garvey, Malcolm, Kenyatta, all of them have used that corner as a meeting hall. There is never a Saturday that doesn’t find at least a small crowd gathered there.

But it was different. The people listening were a mixture of people, it wasn’t just cultural nationalists, the people dressed in dashikis, but it was niggers with processes too, and hustlers—I mean everybody was standing listening.

Up on a wooden platform was this little cute nigger. There were other cats on the platform: each one of them, including the little nigger, was dressed in black from head to foot, and they stood on either side of the little dude like they were soldiers or something. I found out from the people near me that the little dude was Bobby Seale—Chairman of the Black Panther Party. I don’t remember much of what Bobby said that day, but I do remember him saying that the Black Panther Party didn’t care whether you wore your hair processed or nappy or wigged. He said there were Panthers with processes (can you imagine?), Panthers with wigs, and they were some of the baddest niggers in the world. I knew he was right, because even though I didn’t know anything about the Black Panther Party, I knew I had more respect for them than I had for all the organizations in the world. I knew they had heart. According to Bobby’s speech, a chapter of the Party had just been started in New York and in another month or so, an office was scheduled to open on Seventh Avenue. Membership would be open then.

And everybody standing there listening seemed to love Brother Bobby. I didn’t know anything else about it, I didn’t know who he was. But some time after that, I read an old newspaper about the Sacramento thing. I didn’t read it when it happened; I found out about it after it happened. What impressed me at that time was a line that said a policeman had put his hand on one brother’s gun and he said, “Am I under arrest?” “No.” “Then take your hands off my motherfucking gun. I have a constitutional right to have this gun.” I mean in 1967 that in itself was enough to blow anybody’s mind.

All I did then was wait for the Black Panther Party to come to New York. Somebody told me they were coming; you know, I knew they just had to come, they just couldn’t stay on the Coast, I just couldn’t relate to that. Nothing that strong could stay in one area. I just knew from the beginning that it would branch out into something beautiful—it had to. I just knew there were niggers all over the place that felt like I did.

The Party got here around April. Bobby came to organize, to get some people to organize or something like that. I can’t remember what it was, because I never knew, I guess. But I know that after Bobby left, these people were walking around and they were concerned as I was, but they knew what to do, because they’d been in other organizations before. They started getting people together. I found out later that it was Ali that was doing it, and some more brothers. Ali and Dharuba and some others—all those brothers were around then.

I think it was August when I found out that they were having a rally in Mount Morris Park in Harlem. Eldridge was there. Somebody told me that I should go hear him. I wouldn’t have known about it if somebody hadn’t told me to go, because just to know the man’s name, Eldridge Cleaver, didn’t tell me who the hell he was. But when I heard him it was the same thing—it was like, that was the dope, man. I mean, on top of listening to all of this, I would still be confronted with these dudes that were walking around there taking care of the crowd, and they were brothers—they were concerned about the people that were in the audience. They were concerned about something happening to them. I couldn’t understand all this danger—I couldn’t imagine all that much danger, I couldn’t see it, but they were concerned about it, and they were serious about what they were doing. And there were just so many people that said so many things that made so much sense, you know. They told you about love. It was just something different, it wasn’t like that same old thing that I’d heard and dismissed. It was different, because they were talking about fighting at the same time that they were talking about things that were relevant to me right now. I just had to relate to it. Eldridge dared people—he just said, I dare you to go to the political education class tomorrow, PE, and join the Black Panther Party. And I went. And I just never left. I just can’t see leaving, because I know that this is what has done it for me.

It’s like, all of the things that I used to do against my people or against people or against humanity, all of those traits that I had that I know are incorrect, they’ve been turned around and I just don’t use them against the people any more. I could use them against the enemy,

I know that basically I’m a very fucked-up person. I’m not a very good person, I’m not pure and loving like a lot of people are that I know. A lot of revolutionaries that I know are. I’m not great. I’m none of those things. All I am is an ex-Disciple. But I’m able now to use the things that I had when I was a Disciple, the desire to survive, you know. I’m able to use that desire in a manner that has nothing to do with just having fun and cutting somebody. It has to do with something greater than that. It has so much to do with this that I know that when the Party tells me that I cannot, I shall not, I could not, it’s not correct to do anything physically to anybody right now, then I won’t do it. I mean that has to come from respect because I know that I’ve always been impetuous enough to feel nothing at smacking people. It’s all I can do in court now to not smack Phillips—sometimes he says things and all I want to do is smack him. But I’ll transform it: I won’t smack him, I’ll just look at him very hard. I still have that same desire to jump up and hit him in the face. I just don’t like him. The shit he does is incorrect and I still want to do that same old gang-style shit of striking back, impetuously, with everything I have without thinking, but that’s not what the Black Panther Party is about. Man, it’s about stopping the source of that evil, that whole evil, not half of it or part of it, but the very root of the evil so that it never comes back any more. So it’s never there again. It’s all over. You can live now, you can walk down the street and you can run through some grass and you can eat apples off the ground. I mean that’s beautiful. That’s basically what it is. We’re all here for different reasons, but that’s why I’m here in the Black Panther Party. I just like the feeling of looking forward to something like that, knowing that I’m helping to make that possible. I don’t understand things like Huey does, you know. I’m not a Huey P. Newton or an Erica or a Kathleen. I’m just a little pebble. I’m a shit, a nothing. But I want some things to happen. And I love them; it’s just good; it’s just very good.

When I walked in the door to that Panther class—it was really amazing how you got into the Party at that time. It was just so easy, all you had to do, you went to the PE, like I went there and Joudon Ford—the Deputy Minister of Defense in New York then—was chairing the meeting. In the middle of it he said, “How many people in here are Panthers or plan to become Panthers?” And I raised my hand and I was a Panther. It was really that simple, you know. All of a sudden I was a Panther. He introduced me to the person who’d be my section leader, Sekou, one of the 21 who’s now terribly, terribly free in Algeria. They told me to come to the office at eight o’clock that night and I went. When I got to the desk, the person that was on the desk didn’t want to let me in the meeting. And Sekou looked back and Sekou told them that I was a Panther. That was really funny—curious—but that’s where our minds were at then. We really didn’t know what we were protecting ourselves against too much.

When I met Sekou and Lumumba it was the first time in my life that I ever met men who didn’t abuse women. As simple as that. It had nothing to do with anything about political movements. It was just that never in my life had I met men who didn’t abuse women, and who loved women because they were women and because they were people. They used to help me a lot because I used to sit around and they knew that I had what I thought then were important problems, with my family and stuff like that. They shouldn’t have been problems but they were to me because I was so totally fucked up. Sekou would help me to understand my mother. Things like that. Like he would sit down and tell me about how my mother was the people. It wasn’t abstract; he told me it was impossible for me to mistreat my mother and say that I loved the people. I mean, he would do that for me when I did something, like I would come to him with all my problems, you know, and he would just sit down patiently in the middle of my giddiness and say something as simple as that. He was sincere about what he was saying. He was just such a beautiful person. He didn’t talk much: when he said something to you, it was just good. Sekou wasn’t a rhetorician or somebody who knew all the theories, all he knew about was the basic love, and what you do when you love somebody, which is really what all deep feelings are about, anyway. He said everything springs forth from that. He was the most pure person I ever met in my life. That’s one of the things that put me so uptight when he started getting busted. He and Lumumba—when they got busted they were branded as arch criminals. I just couldn’t understand why they were being called all those names because you remember, I don’t have any politics, I’m not in the Party out of political awareness. I couldn’t relate to why they would be called all those names or why they would have manhunts and all that nonsense. It’s something else.

Anyway, at some point, Lumumba became my husband. He had a wife, and he was very deep into a cultural thing—he asked me to be his second wife and I didn’t care because I don’t think I ever cared about being an only woman. I never would give that much of my time to any one man anyway. It was a very welcome thing to me.

Lumumba and Sekou got busted in November 1968. First Sekou got busted for some kind of robbery or some old nonsense and he was supposed to go to court the next day. Lumumba is a very loyal person. I mean there was just nothing you could say to him to convince him that he shouldn’t go to that Connecticut court to see Sekou. He did go and he never got to court because when they got to a red light or something they put him in jail too—for the same robbery, I believe. Or for some old nonsense. A shotgun, that’s what it was. A shotgun that they said was in the car. Anyhow, Lumumba and Sekou were in jail and Cet and Dharuba and I were left alone to try and carry on the leadership. I didn’t have any leadership ability because I’m just not a brilliant person but they did, you know, and every time I’d tell them that I shouldn’t be in any position like that, they would just look at me and tell me there’s nobody else to do it. That’s how they justified it. Really something. Anyway, they made me section leader or some old nonsense. Yeah, I was section leader. But I was very happy to tell my husband that I had made some progress in the Party. I was very glad to tell him that when I went to visit him in jail.

Lumumba got out the 30th of December; or the last day of December, he got out of jail. The next to the last day? One of those days he got out of jail. But he went back to jail on January 17th. He was never really out on the street a long time. I know what happened: Sekou got bailed out of jail on the 10th of January. I remember it because the 10th of January is my birthday. His wife had their baby that day—as soon as he walked into the house his wife went into labor pains. She named the baby after me. Now, when Sekou had only been out of jail for seven days, on the 17th of January, he had to go into hiding because they wanted to put him in jail again. They put Lumumba in jail that day, you know, and they put Joan in jail. That’s when they tortured her and beat her up. This is the beginning of the 21 thing; the very beginning. What was really so fantastic about it is that that’s when it really occurred to me that I didn’t understand the pigs at all, because that’s when they started calling us murderers and stuff like that. Joan Bird—of all people—they called a murderer. I just didn’t understand it at all. But it was with that bust that I started to understand things, and I really think that it started to politicize me, that whole bust thing. Anyway, from January 17th up until now Sekou has never been able to walk the streets of Babylon without looking over his shoulder. And now he’s not in Babylon. It’s really a very cruel thing; his child now is almost two, and he’s only seen her when she was very small, when she was just born. This is the beginning of the many broken families, broken hearts and broken dreams, you know, in the Party. It was something else, something that I’ll never be able to forgive this government for. I think that that’s one of my biggest beefs—that Sekou is unable to walk the streets and talk to people like he’s supposed to because he’s so beautiful. I heard that in Algeria, the children come to the window and they’re just screaming, “Sekou, Sekou, Sekou.” They’re always around the house because they love that man. I understand it. I could just see it. I know that it happens. I mean it’s not hard for me to believe.

From Look for Me in the Whirlwind: The Collective Autobiography of the New York 21 (Random House, 1971)

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