He Helped Incarcerated Youth Free Their Minds

black panther demonstration
Zain Murdock
May 12, 2023

84-year-old Black Panther Sundiata Acoli served a life sentence for murder until 2022,  stemming from the same situation that forced Assata Shakur to seek asylum in Cuba.

He served decades; why wasn’t he released earlier? According to his attorney, “...because a state trooper was killed.”

According to the parole board, he didn’t apologize or admit to the crime, and hadn’t received enough psychological counseling to get free. But that didn’t add up – he’s taught classes to youth inside prison for years.

His classes focus on how to avoid recidivism, or the tendency for formerly incarcerated folks to end up back in prison. In other words, Acoli knows he might be in prison forever – so he decided to teach our youth how to avoid that same fate.

Acoli, who now suffers from dementia, always had his mind focused on helping our people. And even though there was no evidence to support his remaining imprisoned, the parole board denied him for over 50 years, even as his health declined.

Acoli dedicated decades of his life to our people. Not only do we need to dismantle the system that works to incarcerate people for their entire lives, but we can also take notes from Acoli himself. He challenged the criminal legal system by educating Black folks around him even while in prison.

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