This is not an easy statement for me to write. Somehow, I thought that Martha would always be here. In my mind she was like Mt. Kilimanjaro, always strong, always solid, always standing tall. I met Martha about 30 years ago. She was a proud intelligent, irreverent black woman. She had a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. She wore her hair in a buck wild Afro, and she wore her clothes like she did not give a damn. She was never into trends and fashions; she wore torn jeans and sneakers with holes way before it became fashionable. She didn’t give a damn about appearances. She cared about the essence of people and the essence of life. Martha loved people. She had a deep special love for African people. She was always analytical, always critical, but she supported our struggle for freedom with all her heart and soul.
Martha Pitts was a revolutionary, and she loved revolutionaries. She was a revolutionary who trusted her instincts, trusted her own eyes and listened to her heart. She hated hypocrisy, and she hated empty rhetoric. She despised injustice, she despised oppression, and whenever she was confronted with them, she felt righteous indignation.
Martha was a woman of action. She had little patience with idle chatter. She put everything on the line to live up to her convictions. Shortly after I met Martha, I was forced to go underground. Even though she didn’t know me that well, she didn’t hesitate when I asked for her help. She gave me the keys to her apartment and vowed to hide and protect me. Those were repressive and hellish times, when many revolutionaries were faced with the terror of COINTELPRO. She was tightlipped, she was serious as cancer, and she was not afraid to take a stand. It is an understatement to say that I loved her with all my heart.
During my years as a political prisoner, Martha Pitts did everything she could to fight for my freedom and the freedom of other political prisoners. She loved her some Sundiata Acoli, and she fought like hell for his freedom too. Year after year, she endured humiliating searches, police surveillance and police harassment to make sure that we had a visitor, to make sure that someone cared, to make sure that in the oven of that burning hell, there was a beautiful black angel of mercy.
During all my trials and tribulations, Martha was there. When we needed someone to do research, Martha did research. When we needed someone to coordinate visits, Martha coordinated visits. When we needed someone to analyze medical data, Martha analyzed medical data. Martha worked full time as a nurse and she worked full time as a political activist. She was totally committed to the struggle for social justice and totally committed to the revolutionaries who were committed to the struggle for freedom.
Martha Pitts was always about keep it real. As we waited for the verdict in New Jersey, a verdict from an all white jury, after a legal lynching trial, Martha stroked my hair and told me, “Assata, you know those white folks gonna convict you, you never had a chance.” I didn’t cry, I couldn’t express what I was feeling right then, but Martha held my hand and looked deep into my eyes. “You gonna be freed one day, Assata. You gonna be free.” It was a miserable time in my life. It was a miserable time in her life, but she made me believe it. What were my choices? Freedom or death. What were her choices? Freedom or death. What were our choices? Freedom or death.
Martha Pitts was a great human being. She received no Nobel Prize for Peace, she received no freedom awards. But I can testify about how much blood, sweat and tears she shed in our struggle for liberation. I know how deeply Martha Pitts was loved. I know how lovingly she will be remembered.
Please, carry on her work! Please, carry on her legacy! Please, carry on her love!
Liberate this planet from injustice! Liberate this planet from oppression! Liberate this planet from exploitations! Liberate this planet from pain!