Made that Summer reading list yet?


Ah, summertime! ‘Tis the season for vacations, weddings, picnics, cookouts and some good old, down home reading.


Gregory Kane

That is, for those folks who still read and if you read this newspaper, I suspect that you’re among the dwindling number of Americans who also read books.

Now, since you do read, I assume that you’re dying to know what my summer reading list for 2013 is. OK, so you aren’t dying to know, but I’ll make a deal with you: I’ll share mine, if you share yours.

At the top of my summer reading list is “Inadmissible Evidence” by Evelyn A. Williams. Who, you might ask, is Evelyn A. Williams? And why should you care?

Williams is the aunt of a woman known as Assata Shakur, who is also known as Joanne Chesimard. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you need to think back to just a little over a month ago.

It was May 2. The FBI and the New Jersey State Police made a big deal about Chesimard being designated as the only woman on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Terrorists List. And that same FBI made an even bigger deal about the reward for Chesimard’s capture being increased from $1 million to $2 million.

Chesimard was a terrorist, the FBI assured us, who murdered Trooper Werner Foerster “execution-style” in the early morning hours of May 2, 1973, on the New Jersey Turnpike.

This is the same FBI that, only a few years earlier, had framed Los Angeles Black Panther leader Elmer Gerard “Geronimo” Pratt. So I figured that if the FBI had no problem in framing Pratt, why should I believe anything they told me about Chesimard?

More information, I figured, was needed. So I copped Williams’ book off of I learned that Williams was more than Chesimard’s aunt; she was also her lawyer.

As Chesimard’s lawyer, Williams was able to give readers a few more details about the woman also known as Assata Shakur that the FBI failed to mention. The most important of those details is this one:

Chesimard/Shakur was shot in a shootout with Foerster and another trooper named James Harper.

That is an important detail. When you’re trying to establish a narrative depicting a person as a terrorist, it doesn’t help the narrative any to tell people that the so-called terrorist was wounded in a shootout with cops.

Oh, there’s more. Williams lets readers know that Chesimard/Shakur’s median nerve was severed by a gunshot. The severing of the median nerve would have rendered her, incapable of firing a gun.

Chesimard/Shakur also had her clavicle shattered by another gunshot. Williams said expert witnesses testified at her trial that the clavicle wound was consistent with someone sitting in a car with her hands raised.

Tests for gunpowder conducted on Chesimard/Shakur after the turnpike shootout revealed no gunpowder residue, Williams informed readers, meaning her niece, in all likelihood, fired no weapons, much less killed Foerster “execution-style.”

Last, but by no means least, Williams said that Harper, the prosecution’s star witnesses, admitted under oath that he perjured himself in his grand jury testimony and that he lied in his official reports.

So, in the case of Assata Shakur, it’s not a question of “Who’s the terrorist?” It’s a question of “Who’s doing the lying?”

Do you, like me, think the year 1968 was probably the worst in the country’s history?

It started off with the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and went straight down the toilet from there. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June. Police rioted at the Democratic National Convention, and the year ended with Richard M. Nixon being elected president. Could there have been a worse year?

Actually, there was: 1919 and author/journalist Cameron McWhirter gives the sordid details in his book, “Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America.”

The year 1919 was especially bad for black Americans. There were a series of riots— they should more properly be called anti-black pogroms— and lynchings throughout the country.

In some cities— like Chicago and Washington, D.C.— black Americans fought back and resisted the pogroms. After you read McWhirter’s book, you’ll have to admit that a tip of the hat is deserved for any black person who could survive that year.

Those are just two of the books on what, for me, will be a lengthy reading list this summer.