Exiled in Havana

With the FBI in pursuit, black activist Nehanda Abiodun a decade ago fled to Cuba, where she still dreams of fomenting a socialist revolution in the United States

Such thinking is grossly out of touch with reality, said Dick Flacks, a onetime Students for a Democratic Society leader and now a sociology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The trouble with that kind of underground is that it is a closed framework that reinforces those views,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1995, drawing comparisons between the Weather Underground, its successor groups, and the upsurge of right-wing terrorist acts, such as the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh. “From the outside it looks totally irrational. From inside it looks like the logical path to follow.”

Living in Cuba, coming into contact mainly with those who are sympathetic to revolution -- both the island's and the viability of one for the United States -- Abiodun arguably also is trapped in a “closed framework.” Yet to her, Flack's view is typical of that held by many Sixties radicals who took advantage of their white skin when the going got rough and returned to working within the system.

Tom Hayden is a perfect example,” she said bitterly of the former SDS leader who is now a California state senator. “He was part of the Chicago 7. 'Blah, blah, blah, I'm a revolutionary.' When he got tired of it, what did he do? Put on a suit. And he can do that -- he was white.

Black Liberation Army cause célèbre Assata Shakur (center) during her 1973 trial for  the murder of a New Jersey state trooper
AP/Wide World Photo
Black Liberation Army cause célèbre Assata Shakur (center) during her 1973 trial for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper

“I don't think now is the time for armed struggle,” she continued. “Whether it's still the only way to change things in the United States depends on the United States government. Right now we're not equipped enough, we're not sophisticated enough to battle against the first line of defense -- the police, SWAT teams.”

That struggle, whatever its form, is something she sees herself taking up again one day in the United States. “For me to think that I will never go back is to say that my enemies are going to always win,” Abiodun said.

Her voice brightening, she added, “Yes, I do think I'm going to go back, and I'm going to go back free. I might be fooling myself, but that's the only way I can think.”

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