Permanent Black Man
Nehanda Abiodun, a radical black nationalist who was charged in the deadly botched robbery of a Brink’s armored truck in 1981 and then spent decades as a fugitive in Cuba, a hero to would-be revolutionaries and a criminal to many others, died on Jan. 30 at her home in Havana. She was 68.
...Self-described revolutionaries belonging to the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army committed a rash of domestic bombings and hijackings in the 1960s and ’70s in what they called resistance to the United States government. Ms. Abiodun (pronounced ah-BEE-oh-dun) was suspected of conspiring with members of both groups.
The radicals were charged with attacks against government targets and with helping another revolutionary, Assata Shakur (who was known as Joanne Chesimard before choosing an African name), escape in 1979 from an upstate New York prison. Ms. Shakur had been convicted in the killing of a New Jersey state trooper in a shootout in 1973. The groups supported their activities with armed robberies.
On Oct. 21, 1981, a group of radicals tried to steal $1.6 million from a Brink’s armored truck in Nanuet, N.Y., a little less than 30 miles northwest of Manhattan. Several gunmen ambushed three Brink’s guards while they carried money out to the truck, killing one of them, Peter Paige. During their escape the gunmen got into a firefight with police officers at a roadblock in nearby Nyack, N.Y., and killed two, Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown.
Some of the conspirators stole cars and fled, and some were captured right away; one of those seized was Kathy Boudin, who was driving a getaway car and had been on the run for about a decade. Others, like Mutulu Shakur (not related to Assata), who was said to have been the heist’s ringleader, were not apprehended for years.
...Ms. Abiodun was indicted in 1982 on conspiracy, racketeering and other charges in the robbery, though the authorities released few specifics about what they believed was her specific role. She went underground before she was indicted and was never captured.
Ms. Abiodun never admitted to taking part in the crimes, but she did defend the perpetrators.
...Ms. Abiodun hid out during most of the 1980s and had moved to Cuba by 1990, having received political asylum. There she joined dozens of American fugitives, including Ms. Shakur.
Ms. Abiodun was born Laverne Cheri Dalton in Harlem on June 29, 1950, to Wesley and Marge Dalton. Her mother worked for United Airlines, and her father was a bodyguard for Malcolm X for a time. Laverne grew up immersed in the black power movement.
...Ms. Abiodun said that once she had committed to revolution, there was no turning back.
“I don’t have the luxury of changing my mind,” she said in 2014. “Freedom is freedom, and I’ve been fighting for freedom since I was 10 years old.”