Coffee Rhetoric: Film: 'Eyes On The Rainbow: A Documentary With Assata Shakur'

May 13, 2013

Film: 'Eyes On The Rainbow: A Documentary With Assata Shakur'


The 1997 documentary, The Eyes on the Rainbow is a 47 minute film highlighting the embattled life of black activist Assata Shakur. The film visits Assata in Cuba, where she relays the details of the life she’s come to know as a political refugee, within an Afro-Cuban context. 



Brief background about Assata Shakur: Born Deborah Ann Byron (married name Chesimard), Shakur is a Black-American activist and was an active member of the NYC chapter of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. Assata and other BLA members were being surveilled by COINTELPRO--(which was par for the course for black civil rights groups and activists, including Martin Luther King and the black feminist groups, during the 50’s and 70’s).


During the early 70's, Shakur and two other black male BLA members (Zayd Malik Shakur and Zundiata Acoli) were allegedly involved in a shootout on the Jersey Turnpike after traffic stop gone awry, resulting in the deaths of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and BLA member, Zayd Malik; Assata and a second state trooper were injured.

During a strongly debated trial, Assata Shakur was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison. Assata served six years in prison, before escaping in 1979 (with the help of three BLA members posing as visitors). Assata Shakur lived as a fugitive, and eventually made her way to in 1984, where she was granted political asylum by the Cuban government and where she’s been living ever since.

Fast forward 40 years later... last week, to seemingly emphasize the anniversary of the deadly shootout, the United States government listed Assata Shakur as the first woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted terrorist list, and placed a bounty of $2 million on her head (half of the reward put up by the state of New Jersey). 

Decrying the 'terrorist' label, Assata supporters galvanized and launched a campaign, resulting in the Twitter hashtag #HandsOffAssata. Following the FBI’s announcement, noted activist, Angela Davis and Assata’s attorney, Lenox Hinds, publicly condemned the government’s decision to list Assata as a wanted terrorist, calling the move “politically motivated” and an act of terrorism in and of itself.