Dear President Obama:
We are writing to urge you to commute the sentence of Dr. Mutulu Shakur. He has served more than 30 years in prison for his conviction arising from his participation in the social justice movement of the past century. He is recognized as a leading member of the movement for human rights for African-Americans. Granting Shakur clemency will be an act of grace and healing that is much needed in our racially divided society today.
Shakur is 66 and has served 30-plus years. He has spent these decades behind bars because of his political beliefs and the actions motivated by those beliefs. Shakur was targeted and victimized by the now infamous Counter Intelligence Program as early as 1968. Shakur comes out of a complex and turbulent moment in American history, when civil unrest fractured our country into pieces.
His beliefs center around the desire for fundamental human rights, a desire for equitable laws and policies and a world without racial, gender and class divisions – goals very much like those upheld by the entire movement for civil and human rights, as well as the young people who constitute today’s Black Lives Matter Movement. Shakur has taken full responsibility for his life and actions.
He has been a force for peace and for good during the many years of his incarceration, working against violence in the prisons and in his varied communities. He has developed hospice programs for incarcerated elders and created educational curriculums for young prisoners entering prison.
He has for many years publicly suggested that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of elected officials, faith based and community activists and experts be convened to explore current racial disparities and to seriously address the issues of historical violence and racism through entirely peaceful and democratic processes that rely on the goodwill and good faith of people.
His people and community, his children and his grandchildren want and need him back home.
He has suffered the U.S. Parole Commission’s abuse of its authority. He has been denied parole eight times in a documented discriminatory manner.
When he has appeared before the Parole Commission, he has been denied parole based on his use of language in signing his letters “stiff resistance,” a First Amendment right, not a call to arms, as the Parole Commission has misinterpreted it, and because he defined himself as a political prisoner during his original trial. Finally, he has been denied parole based on the nature of the crime – something he can never change, and something that was taken into account at sentencing all those years ago.
Mutulu’s family needs and wants him home. Here he holds a grandchild who’s been brought to the prison to visit him.
Shakur has faced serious health challenges and continues to struggle to maintain his own well-being. His health challenges include severe heart disease, advanced diabetes and glaucoma. These conditions are life-threatening and would much better be dealt with outside prison. We do not want to see Shakur die while in custody.
All of his co-defendants have been released and are living and working as fully productive individuals. They are teachers, writers, service providers, counselors and artists.
To grant the release of Shakur would be a stunning and far-reaching act of mercy and love. This action would challenge the existing paradigm of punishment and revenge that has been responsible for so much of our current crisis of mass incarceration.
His release would be a great step toward reconciliation. We recall your words when you walked out of Nelson Mandela’s cell in Robben Island: “The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”
We feel the same way about the men and women who fought for us, who to this day are still living behind the walls of America’s prisons. We urge you to take action, correct this long overdue injustice and release Shakur.
We the People in Support of Clemency for Dr. Mutulu Shakur
This letter was given to President Obama and has been endorsed by thousands of people. We are continuing to ask for support by signing his petition at https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/grant-mutulu-shakur-executive-clemency.
This story first appeared in the Amsterdam News.