“The schools we go to are a reflection of the society that created them. Nobody is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that knowledge will help set you free. Schools in Amerika are interested in brainwashing people with Amerikanism, giving them a little bit of education, and training them in skills needed to fill the positions the capitalist system requires. As long as we expect Amerika’s schools to educate us, we will remain ignorant.” -Assata Shakur
“I became interested in television in the fifth or sixth grade. Or, rather, I should say that that was about the time television started to corrode my brain. You name any stupid show that existed back in those days and it was probably one of my favorites. ‘Ozzie and Harriet,’ ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ ‘Donna Reed,’ ‘Father Knows Best,’ ‘Bachelor Father,’ ‘Lassie,’ etc. After a while I wanted to be just like those people on television. After all, they were what families were supposed to be like.
Why didn’t my mother have freshly baked cookies ready when I came home from school? Why didn’t we live in a house with a backyard and a front yard instead of an ole apartment? I remember looking at my mother as she cleaned the house in her old raggedy housecoat with her hair in curlers. ‘How disgusting,’ I would think. Why didn’t she clean the house in high heels and shirtwaist dresses like they did on television? I began to resent my chores. The kids on television never had any work to do. All they did was their homework and then they went out to play. They never went to the laundromat or did the shopping. They never had to do the dishes or scrub the floor or empty the garbage. They didn’t even have to make their own beds. And the kids on television got everything they wanted. Their parents never said, ‘I don’t have the money. I can’t afford it.’ I had very little sympathy for my mother. It never occurred to me that she worked all day, went to school at night, cooked, cleaned, washed and ironed, raised two children, and, in her ‘spare’ time, graded tests and papers and wrote her thesis. I was furious with her because she wasn’t like Donna Reed.
And, of course, the commercials took another toll. I wanted everything I saw. My mother always bought Brand X. I would be so exasperated when we went shopping. I wanted her to buy Hostess Twinkies and Silvercup white bread. Instead, she bought whole wheat bread and apples. She would never get good cereals like Sugar Crunchies and Coco Puffs. She always bought some stuff that was supposed to be good for us. I thought she was crazy. If Hostess Twinkies were good enough for the kids on TV, then why weren’t they good enough for me? But my mother remained unmoved. And I remained disgusted. I was a puppet and I didn’t even know who was pulling the strings.” -Assata Shakur
“One day a friend asked me why I didn’t wear my hair in an Afro, natural. The thought had honestly never occurred to me. In those days, there weren’t too many Afros on the set. But the more I thought about it, the better it sounded. I had always hated frying my hair- burnt ears, a smoking straightening, and the stink of your own hair burning. How many nights had I sentiment trying to sleep on curlers, bound with scarves that cut into my head like a tourniquet. Afraid to go to the beach, afraid to walk in the rain, afraid to make passionate love on hot summer nights if I had to get up and go to work in the morning. Afraid my hair would ‘go back.’ Back to where? Back to the bevel or Africa. The permit was even worse: Trying to sit calmly while lye was eating its way into my brain. Clumps of hair falling out. The hair on your head feeling like someone else’s.
And then I became aware of a whole new generation of Black women hiding under wigs. Ashamed of their hair- if they had any left. It was sad and disgusting. At the time, my hair was conked, but the hairdresser said it was ‘relaxed.’ To make it natural, I literally had to cut the conk off. I cut it myself and then stood under the shower for hours melting the conk out. At last, my hair was free. On the subway the next day, people stared at me, but my friends at school were supportive and encouraging. People are right when they say it’s not what you have on your head but what you have in it. You can be a revolutionary-thinking person and had have your hair fried up. And you can have an Afro and be a traitor to Black people. But for me, how you dress and how you look have always reflected what you have to say about yourself. When you wear your hair a certain way or when you wear a certain type of clothes, you are making a statement about yourself. When you go through all your life processing and abusing your hair so it will look like the hair of another race of people, then you are making a statement and the statement is clear. I don’t care if it’s the curly conk, latex locks, or whatever, you’re making a statement.
It was a matter of simple statement for me. This is who I am and this is how I like to look. This is what I think it beautiful. You can spend a lifetime discovering African-style hairdresses, there are so many of them, and so many creative, natural styles yet to be invented. For me, it was important not just because of how good it made me feel but because of the world in which I lived. In a country that is trying to completely negate the image of Black people, that constantly tells us we are nothing, our culture is nothing, I felt and still feel that we have got to constantly make positive statements about ourselves. Our desire to be free has got to manifest itself in everything we are and do. We have accepted too much of a negative lifestyle and a negative culture and have to consciously act to rid ourselves of that negative influence. Maybe in another time, when everybody is equal and free, it with only matter how anybody wears their hair and dresses or looks. Then there won’t be any oppressors to mimic or avoid mimicking. But right now I think it’s important for us to look and feel like strong, proud Black men and women who are looking toward Africa for guidance.”
“It had never occurred to me that hundreds of Black people had got together to fight for their freedom. The day I found out about Nat Turner I was affected so strongly it was physical. I was so souped up on adrenaline I could barely contain myself. I tore through every book my mother had. Nowhere could I find the name Nat Turner.
I had ground up believing the slaves hadn’t fought back. I remember feeling ashamed when they talked about slavery in school. The teachers made it seem that Black people had nothing to do with the official ’emancipation’ from slavery. White people had freed us.
You couldn’t catch me without a book in my hand after that.” -Assata Shakur
“Only a fool lets somebody else tell him who his enemy is…It’s got to be one of the most basic principles of living: Always decide who you enemies are for yourself, and never let your enemies choose your enemies for you.” -Assata Shakur
“A lot of people don’t know how many ways racism can manifest itself and in how many ways people fight against it. When I think of how racist, how Eurocentric our so-called education in amerika is, it staggers my mind. And when I think back to some of those kids who were labeled ‘troublemakers’ and ‘problem students,’ I realize that many of them were unsung heroes who fought to maintain some sense of dignity and self-worth.” -Assata Shakur
“Of course, our schools were segregated, but the teachers took ore of an interest in our lives because they lived in our world, in the same neighborhoods. They knew what we were up against and hat e would be facing as adults, and they tried to protect us as much as they could. More than once we were punished because some children had made fun of a student who was poor and badly dressed. I’m not saying that segregation was a good system. Our schools were inferior. The books were used and torn, handed down from white schools. We received only a fraction of the state money allotted to white schools, and the conditions under which many Black children received an education can only be described as horrible. But Black children encountered support and understanding and encouragement instead of the hostile indifference the often met in ‘integrated’ schools.” -Assata Shakur
“The injured have no blame. Let it fall on those who injure.” -Assata Shakur
“Black revolutionaries do not drop from the moon. We are created by our conditions; shaped by our oppress=ion. We are manufactured in droves in the ghetto streets.” -Assata Shakur