Mutulu was born on August 8, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland as Jeral Wayne Williams. At age seven he moved to Jamaica, Queens, New York City with his mother and younger sister. His political and social consciousness began to develop early in his life. His mother suffered not only from being a Black woman, but was also blind. These elements constituted Shakur’s first confrontation with the state, while assisting his mother to negotiate through the maze that made up the social service system. Through this experience, Shakur learned that the system did not operate in the interests of Black people and that Black people must control the institutions that affect their lives.
At the age of fifteen, Dr. Shakur joined the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM). One of the first struggles he was involved in NAIM was Ocean Hill Brownsville in Brooklyn, where Black parents were struggling for community control of their children’s education. His participation was fueled by his own experience in the New York public school system. “I was involved because I had been, miseducated, abused and disrespected. “Ocean Hill Brownsville was similar to the struggle in Soweto in 1976 in which the people struggled against the system of Bantu education.” In 1968, Dr. Mutulu Shakur became a founding member of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA). A year later, he, along with other New African Security Forces, placed their lives on the line to defend over 200 Black people from a violent police attack at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit MI. In 1970, Mutulu organized support for local struggles against racist violence in Cairo, IL and Wilmington, NC. He organized political rallies, material aid and legal support for New Afrikan political prisoners nationwide including the Panther 21, Geronimo Pratt, the RNA 11, Assata Shakur and Sundiata Acoli and the Wilmington 10. In 1974, Shakur coordinated the National Taskforce for COINTELPRO Litigation and Research which investigated the US government’s illegal and covert program against the Black Liberation Movement. Many believe it is the work of the taskforce that led to his arrest and trial. He also organized past memorials for Malcolm X in 1977 and 78 that drew thousands of participants. As a Pan Africanist and Internationalists, Shakur organized material aid campaigns for the liberation movement in Zimbabwe. His efforts won him an invitation from the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) the elected governing party to witness elections held after they won their independence in 1980.
Dr. Shakur’s work in acupuncture and drug detoxification is both nationally and internationally recognized. He was introduced to acupuncture by Asian activists from I Wor Kuen while seeking an alternative treatment for his children, who were critically injured in an accident. Witnessing the healing of his children and learning on how acupuncture being used in China by revolutionaries to combat imperialist-imposed opium addiction could be applied to combat the US government’s genocidal War on Drugs on the Black community, Mutulu became a doctor in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. In 1970 Dr. Shakur began working in the Lincoln Detox Community Program as its Political Education Instructor. While at Lincoln, Dr. Shakur organized the largest and most effective detox program of its kind, recognized by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Acupuncture Research Society and the World Academic Society of Acupuncture. He treated thousands of patients who otherwise would have been trapped by and criminalized for addiction, a strategy of the Nixon administration to discredit and destabilize the Black Liberation Movement. From 1978 to 1982, Dr. Shakur was the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA) and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture, where he continued his remarkable work. Through these two institutions, many community leaders, political activists, lawyers and doctors were healed and over one hundred medical students were trained in the discipline of acupuncture.
In March 1982, Dr. Shakur and two others were indicted by a federal grand jury, charged with conspiracy and participation in a clandestine paramilitary unit that allegedly carried out actual and attempted expropriations from several banks. The US government alleges the money was used to support a children’s camp in Mississippi, BAAANA and national liberation movements in Africa. In addition, he was charged with the participation in the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur who was now in exile in Cuba. After five years underground, Dr. Shakur was arrested on February 12, 1986. There is no physical evidence against him. He was convicted on the basis of the testimony of a former comrade who testified against him in exchange for a lighter sentence for himself and a cash payment from the government.
Thirty five years later, all of Dr. Shakur’s co-defendants and co-conspirators convicted as part of this federal conspiracy have been released. This leaves Dr. Shakur as the only person remaining in federal prison for these offenses, most of the white co-conspirators have been released from prison more than twenty years before. Dr. Shakur is now 71 years old, has suffered 2 strokes, glaucoma, and has been battling Stage 3 bone marrow cancer for the last 2 ½ years. Although he received a bone marrow transplant, his cancer is not curable — he will require continuing treatment and cancer management, until the end of his life. Yet, in January 2021 he received his ninth parole denial. And despite being diagnosed with life-threatening bone cancer and catching COVID, was denied compassionate release.
Dr. Shakur has six biological children and several grandchildren who he maintains loving relationships with despite his incarceration. He was an inspiration for many of the positive messages in his late step son, Tupac Shakur’s music.
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