Headquartered in the historically black Washington Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Assata’s Daughters (AD) was established by schoolteacher Page May in March 2015. “The specific spark really began with the protests after the cop who killed Eric Garner was not indicted,” May recalls, referencing the July 2014 death of a black Staten Island man following his …
Headquartered in the historically black Washington Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Assata’s Daughters (AD) was established by schoolteacher Page May in March 2015. “The specific spark really began with the protests after the cop who killed Eric Garner was not indicted,” May recalls, referencing the July 2014 death of a black Staten Island man following his physical altercation with several New York City police officers. AD initially identified itself as “a volunteer-based collective of Black women, femmes, and gender non-conforming people.” Its mission was to help members of those demographics “to carry on the tradition of radical liberatory activism encompassed by Assata Shakur,” the committed Communist, former Black Panther, convicted cop-killer, and longtime fugitive for whom AD professes unwavering “respect” and “love.”
AD’s “struggle for liberation” is informed by “a radical … approach to intersectionality,” the notion that the members of various demographic groups which allegedly are harmed by societal injustices – e.g., blacks, Hispanics, women, LGBT people, Muslims, and the poor – should draw a sense of unity from their shared status as victims of oppression and discrimination. Further, the concept of intersectionality maintains that the hardships experienced by people who can be classified into more than one of these groups – e.g., black lesbians – are greatly compounded.
In October 2015, AD helped plan and lead a demonstration at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Chicago, in an effort to “bring more attention to state-sanctioned violence.”
On February 16, 2016, AD joined a number of anti-deportation and immigrant-rights groups in a demonstration that blocked morning rush-hour traffic in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in downtown Chicago.
The following month, AD, citing what it described as the racist rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald Trump, participated in a protest against a Trump rally in Chicago; when the protest turned violent, the rally was canceled.
On April 20, 2016, AD joined Black Lives Matter-Chicago and other activist groups in a protest outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel‘s office, demanding that Chicago police detective Dante Servin, who had been found not guilty on manslaughter charges stemming from the 2012 shooting death of a young black woman named Rekia Boyd, should nonetheless be fired without benefits.
In July 2016, AD protested alongside Indigenous protesters in North Dakota, in an effort to block construction of the Dakota Access [Oil] Pipeline.
In 2018, AD dispensed with its collective-model framework and adopted a formal organizational structure with a board and staff. The group also broadened its scope by providing lessons to young men and boys on such matters as “toxic notions of masculinity” and “patriarchal systems of oppression.”
In an effort to achieve “the eradication of anti-Blackness and all forms of oppression,” AD’s top political priorities include increased funding for public schools nationwide; the implementation of a government-run “universal healthcare” system; the enactment of “restorative justice” policies that “make police and cages obsolete”; and the expansion of social welfare programs that promote “economic stability” for all black people.
In the pursuit of its radical agendas, AD seeks to “escalate, deepen, and sustain the larger Black Lives Matter movement” via three major programs:
(a) Escalate: Organizing: AD’s “core organizing training program” helps young black people “escalate their participation in the Black Liberation movement through year-long training” and ideological indoctrination.
(b) Deepen: Political Education: This AD initiative is divided into two age-based programs. The Akerele program aims — by means of “workshops that teach … about power and oppression” — to introduce black children aged 6-13 “to Assata Shakur and her revolutionary politic and love of Black people.” The second program, known as “Assata’s University,” follows a multi-year training curriculum consisting of classes and participatory workshops on topics like “Black feminist theory, the modern Prison Industrial Complex, toxic masculinity, patriarchy and [prison] abolition.”
(c) Sustain: Revolutionary Services: To help young people “sustai[n] their involvement in the movement,” AD provides them with “food to combat hunger, payment for their labor, access to assistance [in] navigating capitalism, access to mental health resources, and short-term [financial] assistance in critical times.”
Another major initiative of AD is its Copwatch program, which exhorts African Americans to videotape police officers while the latter are involved in contacts or altercations with civilians, so as to ensure that any mistakes made by the police can be widely publicized on Internet video forums. Copwatch also urges blacks to refrain from complying with police orders or instructions. Toward that end, the program provides small, wallet-sized cards to which people can refer if they are stopped and questioned by an officer. For instance, these cards remind the bearer that he should “remain silent” and “[does] not need to show an ID.” The cards also provide standard phrases that a person can say to a police officer who stops him, such as: “I do not consent to a search”; “I will not talk”; and “I want my lawyer.”
To supplement the various training methods and instructional materials that AD utilizes in its work, the organization also urges its ideological allies to learn as much as they can from two additional entities in particular:
- Training for Change, an organization dedicated to “movement building for social justice and radical change”
- Teaching For Change, which aims to transform America into a more “equitable, multicultural society” by turning K-12 classrooms into centers of political indoctrination
Former National Football League player Colin Kaepernick gave AD a $25,000 donation in April 2017. Ten months later, he announced that he had raised an additional $20,000 for AD through matching donations from some of his celebrity friends.
Further Reading: “We’re Assata’s Daughters” (ZedBooks.net, 10-19-2016); “The Assata’s Daughters Fall Fête” (11-16-2017); “Our Herstory” (AssasDaughters.org); “Why Did Chicago Activists Shut Down an International Police Conference?” (Truthout.org, 10-31-2015); “Activists of Every Stripe Unite in ICE Civil Disobedience” (People’s World, 2-17-2016); “How Black, Latino and Muslim College Students Organized to Stop Trump’s Rally in Chicago” (Los Angeles Times, 3-12-2016); “Fire Dante Servin, Demand Protesters …” (DNAInfo.com, 4-20-2016); “From #NoDAPL to #FreedomSquare: A Tale of Two Occupations” (Truthout.org, 8-25-2016, re: Dakota Access Pipeline); “Our Politics: What We Believe” (AssatasDaughters.org); “Escalate: Organizing” (AssatasDaughters.org); “Deepen: Political Education” (AssatasDaughters.org); “Sustain: Revolutionary Services” (AssatasDaughters.org); “Copwatch” (AssatasDaughters.org); “Colin Kaepernick Donated $25,000 to Group Honoring Convicted Cop-Killer” (Washington Times, 4-28-2017); “Kaepernick Raises $20K in Celebrity Donations for Group Honoring Convicted Cop-Killer” (Washington Times, 2-4-2018).