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Mutulu Shakur is a former Black Liberation Army member and resistance leader who received a 60-year prison sentence in 1987 for his role in the 1981 Brinks bank robbery. He's also the stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
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To fund their movements, the groups combined forces and began planning elaborate robberies—the black members would rob the bank while the white members drove the getaway cars. Federal law enforcement agents believed that Shakur was using his acupuncture school as a front for these and other resistance activities. Despite having a lack of evidence, police shut down the institution in 1979.
In August 1980, Shakur moved to Harlem, New York,
where he began the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America. He soon became internationally known in the medical community for his treatment methods, and many community leaders, political activists, lawyers and doctors came to him seeking treatment. He also became known for helping the poor, homeless and drug-addicted members of the community get back on their feet.
In October 1981, Shakur and several other men—including Kathy Boudin and other members of the Weather Underground, in conjunction with the Black Panthers and the RNA—held up a Brinks bank truck. Armed with illegal weapons, including M-16s, they shot and killed a Brinks guard. The incident led to a shootout with police, which resulted in the death of two police officers and the wounding of another. Most of the perpetrators escaped, including Shakur. With the help of underground revolutionaries, Shakur went into hiding, and managed to evade authorities for nearly five years.
Shakur remained No. 1 on the FBI's Most Wanted list thereafter until his arrest on February 12, 1986. According to law enforcement agents, Shakur had been involved in 12 robberies that occurred between December 1976 and October 1981. In addition to robbery, he was charged with participating in the 1979 prison escape of his sister, activist Assata Shakur, who had been indicted on murder charges after a gun battle with police. Assata fled to Cuba, where she continues to live in exile to this day.
Shakur went on trial in 1987 and was ultimately sentenced to 60 years in prison for operating a criminal enterprise, among other charges; despite a lack of eyewitnesses or physical evidence linking him to the crime scenes, as well as the judge's declaration that Shakur had been unfairly targeted by the federal government, the jury found Shakur guilty on all counts. He is currently serving his sentence at the ADX Florence Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado, and is scheduled for release in 2016.
Mutulu Shakur is the father of six children. His stepson, famed rap artist Tupac Shakur, was assassinated in 1996. Mutulu has stated his belief that Tupac's murder was related to the late rapper's involvement in the New Afrikan movement, and to the continued surveillance of Mutulu's family by the federal government.
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African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
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