Sundiata Acoli

Sundiata Acoli was born January 14, 1937 in Vernon Texas. and is a former member of the Black Pather Party. Acoli was convicted in May 2, 1973, after a gun battle with New Jersey State Police exploded after Acoli and comrades were stopped as a result of what police say was a broken tail light.

In the battle, a NJ State Trooper and Sundiata’s comrade and friend Zayd Malik Shakur, were killed. Assata was also injured. Acoli was sentenced to life in prison plus thirty years and is currently imprisoned in White Deer, PA convicted in the death of the State Trooper. According to “officials” the actual initiation of the gun battle is disputed, with police claiming that Sundiata Acoli and company fired first. However Acoli’s supporters maintain that the stop was one of the first documented cases of racial profiling on the NJ Turnpike and that the police made racially divisive comments that led to aggravated conflict.

Both Sundiata and Assata were tried in an environment of mass hysteria as a result of the death of the police officer. Both Sundiata and Assata were beaten while being held. It has also become known that a number of the charges brought against them (which range from kidnapping to bank robbery) were generated solely by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Assata Shakur escaped her maximum-security prison in 1979 and lived underground until seeking political asylum in Cuba, where she remains today.

Sundiata Acoli was first eligible for parole in January 4, 2004, but was denied. Acoli is a mathematician and has written many articles from prison on the “New Afrikan Struggle.” As a NY Black Panther, Sundiata Acoli endured two years of prison awaiting trail for the Panther 21 Conspiracy Case in 1969. He and his comrades were eventually acquitted on all the bogus charges. The case was historic and a classic example of police and government attempting to neutralize organizations by incarcerating its leadership. As a result of this political attack and because of immense pressure and surveillance from FBI and local police Sundiata, and many other Panther leaders went “underground”.

Assata Shakur’s story was written about in her autobiography entitled Assata. Today’s generation of youth often celebrate her and Sundiata as heroes but many have no idea or real understanding of the price they have paid for their beliefs and activism. Sundiata was sentenced to life plus thirty years and Assata continues to live in exile isolated from family and friends with a 1 million dollar bounty on her as one of the FBI’s most wanted.

In the 60’s Sundiata left a brilliant career at NASA as a computer programmer to travel to the South to help register Blacks to vote. During his activism with the NY Chapter of the BPP, Sundiata contributed to various programs providing the city of Harlem with community control of schools, tenant control of slum housing, free breakfast for school children, free health care, legal clinics and political education classes. He also worked on community programs against drug dealers and police brutality.

The FBI soon labeled the Black Panther Party “the greatest threat to the security of the United States”, even above Russia. Soon, Party members were harassed, framed, and assassinated in an attempt to shut down the Panther Party. Numerous Panthers are still quietly languishing in prison but will soon come up for parole.

Sundiata and others have been illegally and unconstitutionally denied parole in the past citing their past political affiliations. Additionally, Sundiata has endured some of the harshest treatment a prisoner could experience. Most of the 30 years he has been incarcerated have been spent under lockdown for 23 hours a day with no contact from family or friends. He has been constantly shipped around the country, transferred to some of the nation’s harshest prisons and isolating him from lawyers and family support. He spent 8 years of his time at USP Marion in Illinois in a strip cell with a stone bed, visits from family by booth only, one 10 minute phone call per month, and outside recreation for 1 hour twice a week in a small cage.

Recently at the age of 65, he was sent to solitary confinement for 9 months after the 9/11 tragedy and was told he was a terrorist. Legally there are NO valid reasons to deny his release. Yet he has been denied twice after serving the terms of his sentence.

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One Response to “Sundiata Acoli”

  1. Thanks for putting this article up! Be sure to check out the new Sundiata Acoli site. http://www.SundiataAcoli.org

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