Fearless, principled, selfless. These are a few of the words that describe Marilyn Buck who died on August 3, 2010 just two weeks after being paroled from a prison medical center in Texas. Ms. Buck spent the last 25 years of her life behind bars for her political beliefs and actions and will be remembered by the many movements of the oppressed she supported and defended over the years. A proud anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist, Buck fought all her life for Black, Native American, Puerto Rican and women’s liberation and for social and economic justice for the world’s afflicted.
As a young woman, Buck was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement and Students for a Democratic Society where she pressed the male leadership to take women’s freedom seriously. Later she supported the Black Liberation Army and took part in helping Black Panther leader Assata Shakur escape police custody. Today Shakur lives in exile in Cuba.
Targeted by COINTELPRO, the infamous FBI program that conducted a secret war against political dissidents in the 60s and 70s, Buck and other radicals were charged with involvement in an armored car robbery, and in a series of non-injury bombings at military and political sites protesting U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and Central America. Buck also faced charges relating to Shakur’s escape. As a result, she pled guilty to conspiracy and destruction of government property and was sentenced to 80 years in federal prison.
Despite this soul-crushing sentence, Buck continued to organize and write from behind the prison walls, denouncing any and all crimes of the U.S. government and helping other women inmates, especially Blacks and Latinas, to combat the U.S. prison plantation system.
Buck wrote magnificent and moving poetry. “I was a political prisoner … a censored person,” she wrote. “I turned to poetry, an art of speaking sparely, but flagrantly.” The PEN Prison Writing program bestowed a prize on her work in 2001 and a collection of her poems appeared under the title Rescue the Word. Buck’s love of literature included translating State of Exile by Uruguayan poet Cristina Peri Rossi.
The U.S. government locked up Marilyn Buck because she was a freedom fighter. Then it took her life in increments through grossly inadequate medical care for her uterine cancer–the condition which killed her. Through it all, she argued for the movement to see her as a comrade, not as a mere victim of a repressive system:
“Being a political prisoner is not my only work. We still have world views based on long years of experience. . . political subjects and comrades in an ongoing political struggle against imperialism, oppression, and exploitation. . . In many struggles many militants have been exiled yet they have still been considered part of their struggles, not merely objects. We here could be considered internally exiled. Don’t lock us into roles as objects or symbols.”
We remember Marilyn Buck with affection and pride. We are proud to have known her and appreciated her active support on many just causes.
Marilyn Buck presente!