NYC Anarchist Black Cross mourns the loss of Russell “Maroon” Shoatz. Russell was a founding member of the Black Unity Council, as well as a veteran of both the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. Captured in 1972, he attempted escape twice, but was ultimately kept locked inside for almost 50 years, only being let out in the last weeks of his life as he was already dying of cancer. While inside, he remained committed to the struggle, and was a dynamic thinker and prolific writer, authoring the collection Maroon the Implacable and several other insightful interviews and articles as well.
As a collective, Maroon guided NYC ABC’s work and shaped the direction of the now-gone 1-2-3 Community Space, of which NYC ABC was a co-founder.
NYC ABC had back-and-forths with Russell prior to opening the space asking for his insight and ideas about opening an explicitly anarchist space and he was brilliant, engaging, and very helpful. His suggestions resulted in a lot of on the street engagement, talking with many folks and handing out a LOT of surveys to see what would be useful/helpful in the neighborhood. It is the response to the surveys that are the reason the space had such a focus on outreach to youth (the bike workshop, after school program, silk-screening program, and the NYC ABC co-organized “Rites of Passage” series) were among the things that were either youth-centric or had special sessions especially for younger folks.
We are comforted that he transitioned while on this side of the razor wire, but outraged that he was held captive for so long. Let’s keep his memory alive.