In 1968, Safiya Bukhari witnessed an NYPD officer harassing a Black
Panther for selling the organization’s newspaper on a Harlem street
corner. The young pre-med student felt compelled to intervene in
defense of the Panther’s First Amendment right; she ended up handcuffed
and thrown into the back of a police car.
The War Before traces Bukhari’s lifelong commitment as an advocate for the rights of the oppressed. Following her journey from middle-class student to Black Panther to political prisoner, these writings provide an intimate view of a woman wrestling with the issues of her time—the troubled legacy of the Panthers, misogyny in the movement, her decision to convert to Islam, the incarceration of out spoken radicals, and the families left behind. Her account unfolds with immediacy and passion, showing how the struggles of social justice movements have paved the way for the progress of today.
Laura Whitehorn has been a political activist since the 1960s. She spent 14 years in prison for the Resistance Conspiracy case. Released in 1999, she lives in New York City. She is now a senior editor at POZ magazine.