The University of California Berkeley’s Black Student Union (BSU), pressuring the administration to make the campus more hospitable for blacks, has included an outrageous demand among the list of issues it wants addressed: renaming a building on campus after Assata Shakur, who killed New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster in 1973 and is wanted by the FBI as a terrorist.
Shakur, the aunt of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur and a member of the Black Liberation Army, fought with Foerster after a traffic stop, then grabbed his gun and shot him in the head twice while he was on the ground. Shakur, who was born Joanne Chesimard, was convicted in 1977, escaped from jail in 1979, and fled to Cuba, which gave her asylum. On the FBI’s Most-Wanted Terrorist list since 2013, she has elicited a $2,000,000 reward for her capture. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the students said of Shakur that she was “an icon of resistance within oppressed communities (who) represents Black resilience in the face of unadulterated state-sanctioned violence.”
Shakur says of herself on her website, “I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color.”
In addition to the demand for honoring Shakur by renaming Barrows Hall, which had honored a former UC president, the BSU wants a resource center for black student development, two full-time black admissions staff members, two black psychologists who are sensitve to “the racially hostile campus climate at this university,” more money, and a push for increasing the present percentage of black students, faculty, and senior staff, according to WND.
The BSU threatened, “If we do not receive a written response from Chancellor (Nick) Dirks addressing in detail each of our individual demands as they were presented, by 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, we will understand that the chancellor has not prioritized the dire needs of black students on this campus.”
But a spokesman for Dirks simply referred the BSU to a letter sent the week before which listed actions the university would take to aid black students, according to the Chronicle. There was no comment regarding the Shakur request.
Angered by the chancellor’s response, Gabby Shuman, co-chair of political affairs for BSU, said, “We will persevere until we get what we need and what we deserve,” adding that the circumstances at the university were “an emergency … requiring immediate attention.”