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EDITORIAL This magazine –Panther Legacy - has been put
together by the Black Panther Commemoration Committee in time for the visit to London of Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party for SelfDefence, and Billy X Jennings, head of the Black Panther Alumni. It is an honour to welcome these Brothers in order to spread the legacy of the Panthers and to raise money for the Black Panther Alumni projects. It is the very least that the BPCC can do, indebted as we are to the example and sacri ce by the members of the Black Panthers on behalf of oppressed people in the US and across the world. Whereas many people will know something of the Panthers due to frequent references in popular culture, especially in Hip-Hop, many people do not necessarily have an understanding of what the Panthers stood for and what happened to the organisation. We hope that this publication will be a tool for learning as to the legacy of the Black Panthers, their commitment to ideology and struggle to better the conditions of their/our peoples. The Black Panthers in the US made an important contribution to developing the world struggle against oppression and racism in the late 1960s and 1970s. The post-Second World War period saw a massive upsurge in the worldwide struggle with the newly established socialist countries in East Europe, north Korea and China assisting by every means ‘Third World’ anti-imperialist struggles such as those in Vietnam, South Africa, Cuba, Algeria, Egypt, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and many other places. The Black Panthers were a part of this global struggle. The Black Panthers in the US were an example of a radical grassroots movement for revolutionary change within the ‘West’ itself. The Panthers along with many other movements in the Black Liberation Movement and their allies amongst the movements in the Native American, Hispanic, Chinese, and radical White left communities, had achieved the highest level of mass revolutionary struggle in the US. The Panthers understood hat they had a unique internationalist duty, as their struggle was positioned within the US, the country which was conducting a world o ensive against Third World peoples and socialist countries. As the Field Marshall of the Black Panther Party, George Jackson (murdered by prison guards in Soledad prison in August 1971) stated in his Prison Diaries in 1970; “The entire colonial world is watching the blacks inside the U.S., wondering and waiting for us to come to our senses. Their problems and struggles with the Amerikan monster are much more di cult than they would be if we actively aided them. We are on the inside. We are the only ones (besides the very small white minority left) who can get at the monster’s heart without subjecting the world to nuclear re. We have a momentous historical role to act out if we will.” The students and intellectuals who were rebelling were tamed in the 1960s and ‘70s. The white working class were also manipulated by the elites through racism to divide the masses. In contrast oppressed peoples in the West, such as those represented by the Panthers played and continue to play a fundamental role in developing the struggle for a people-centred society: one which treats working people with dignity and a society which compensates Third World peoples for the holocausts committed against them by the Western elites, and opens up a new era of respect and friendship with them. To those of us who are committed to progressive change, the Panthers remain an important experience to learn from. There are also other examples of struggle in the West. Some of these struggles and movements were crushed while others have steadily developed their socialist and antiimperialist strategies such as the people in Ireland, Ireland being a colony of England’s for over 800 years. For us in England, Scotland and Wales, the struggle of the Irish Republicans remains another primary reference for our struggles today. They are taking up the same challenges in their communities that we face in our communities. The di erence between us and them is that they have a political movement whereas we don’t. And this remains a central issue for us in England where the movement is next to non-existent for the masses of people in our communities: to learn the lessons of the Panthers, as part of the experience of oppressed people throughout the world, and apply it in our the present conditions. We also have important struggles from the Scottish, Welsh and Black and Asian working class struggles to learn from. The experiences in Brixton, Southall, Ladbroke Grove/Notting Hill, Toxteth, Bristol, Handsworth and many other communities as well as the Great Miners Strike of 1984-85 remain important recent histories whose lessons, both positive and negative, need to be returned to time and time again. For people today confronting problems of Islamophobia, war and racism in all its forms, homophobia and sexism, poverty and youthon-youth crime in our communities, the experiences and initiatives of the Black Panthers in the US deserved to be looked at very closely. The challenge remains today as it was in George Jackson’s time, as the former Field Marshall stated: “The whole world for all time in the future will love us and remember us as the righteous people who made it possible for the world to live on. If we fail through fear and lack of aggressive imagination, then the slaves of the future will curse us, as we sometimes curse those of yesterday. I don’t want to die and leave a few sad songs and a hump in the ground as my only monument. I want to leave a world that is liberated from trash, pollution, racism, nation-states, nation-state wars and armies, from pomp, bigotry, parochialism, a thousand di erent brands of untruth, and licentious usurious economics.” Indeed we in the BPCC salute those who struggled and sacri ced in the worldwide Black Panther movement. We will keep on keeping on. Sukant Chandan London, November 2008
ABOUT US The Black Panther Commemoration Committee in England consists of people from di erent political experiences and backgrounds who came together in the September 2008 united in the belief that the Black Panther Party for Self Defence was one of the most important experiences of oppressed people's social, political and cultural struggle in the West. AIMS The BPCC work towards keeping the experience and legacy of the Black Panthers alive for current and future generations. The BPCC support the excellent work of the Black Panther Alumni. The BPCC support and work towards campaigning for justice and liberation of political prisoners who were associated with the Black Panthers. The BPCC understands that the Black Panthers had an international impact, and we believe in raising consciousness about the experiences and legacy of the Black Panthers across the world, and especially here in England. firstname.lastname@example.org blackpanther1966.blogspot.com
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HONOURING THE RANK AND FILE MEMBERS OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY Honouring the Rank and File Members of the Black Panther Party
Elbert ‘Big Man’ Howard Elbert ‘Big Man’ Howard
le members and who were these members? The answers to these questions are found by remembering and giving recognition to those who actually did the work and who really made the Black Panther Party Programs happen. The reality is that the average Party member was between the ages of 18 to 20 years old. These young Party members worked long and very hard hours both day and night without any pay. They lived collectively and shared almost everything with their fellow Panther members. They owned nothing and for the most part their closest relationships were with their comrades. These young Panthers rose at dawn and worked until their assigned jobs were done. They functioned for the people and for their communities. They shouldered the tasks of cooking breakfasts for school children and working in the communities soliciting donations in order to keep those programs supplied. They went door-to-door, gathering signatures for petitions on issues that a ected their communities and educating those communities on those same issues. They collected clothes for the free clothing program. Very importantly, there was the job of selling the Black Panther Party Newspapers, which they did every day…doorto-door, on college campuses, in bars, restaurants, clubs, bus stations, and on street corners. This work brought on the harassment of the police, including arrests and time in jail. Even imprisoned they worked to politically educate and recruit inmates to join the Black Panther Party. At the end of the day, these young Panthers were expected to read the Black Panther Party Newspaper cover-tocover. They also had to attend political education classes as well as rallies and demonstrations. They were expected to memorize and understand the Party’s 10 Point Party Program and Platform, the Three Main Rules of Discipline, and the Rules of the Black Panther Party. The rank and le members of the Black Panther Party forged new revolutionary ways of thinking and demonstrated new ways of behaving. They developed and
Why honour the rank and
practiced the art of collective thinking by casting aside egotism and arrogance. The “We” became more important than the “I”. These were no easy tasks, but for the rank and le members of the Black Panther Party to accomplish them on a national level, among poor, Black, disenfranchised, and oppressed people, were monumental and astounding revolutionary achievements. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE AND ALL POWER TO THE RANK AND FILE MEMBERS OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY.
Elbert "Big Man" Howard, one of the original six members of the Black Panther Party, served as the Party's deputy minister of information and as a member of the International Solidarity Committee. He was the founding editor of the Party's newspaper, the Black Panther Party Community News Service. Howard’s Panther on the Prowl is available by sending a money order for 15 US dollars to him and the DVD A History of the Black Panther Party is available for $20 He can be emailed at: email@example.com
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WHY THE PANTHERS ARE NOT RACISTS
Taken from Bobby Seale’s Seize The Time
tions who want to move against the power structure. It is the power structure who are the pigs and hogs, who have been robbing the people; the avaricious, demagogic ruling-class elite who move the pigs upon our heads and who order them to do so as a means of maintaining their same old exploitation. In the days of worldwide capitalistic imperialism, with that imperialism also manifested right here in America against many di erent peoples, we nd it necessary, as human beings, to oppose misconceptions of the day, like integration. If people want to integrate - and I'm assuming they will fty or 100 years from now - that's their business. But right now we have the problem of a ruling-class system that perpetuates racism and uses racism as a key to maintain its capitalistic exploitation. They use blacks, especially the blacks who come out of the colleges and the elite class system, because these blacks have a tendency to ock toward a black racism which is parallel to the racism the Ku Klux Klan or white citizens groups practice. It's obvious that trying to ght re with re means there's going to be a lot of burning. The best way to ght re is with water because water douses the re. The water is the solidarity of the people's right to defend themselves together in opposition to a vicious monster. Whatever is good for the man, can't be good for us. Whatever is good for the capitalistic ruling-class system, can't be good for the masses of the people. We, the Black Panther Party, see ourselves as a nation within a nation, but not for any racist reasons. We see it as a necessity for us to progress as human beings and live on the face of this earth along with other people. We do not ght racism with racism. We ght racism with solidarity. We do not ght exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We ght capitalism with basic socialism. And we do not ght imperialism with more imperialism. We ght imperialism with proletarian internationalism. These principles are very functional for the Party. They're very practical, humanistic, and necessary. They should be understood by the masses of the people. We don't use our guns, we have never used our guns to go into the white community to shoot up white people. We only defend ourselves against anybody, be they black, blue, green, or red, who attacks us unjustly and tries to murder us and kill us for implementing our programs. All in all, I think people can see from our past practice, that ours is not a racist organization but a very progressive revolutionary party. Those who want to obscure the struggle with ethnic di erences are the ones who are aiding and maintaining the exploitation of the masses of the people: poor whites, poor blacks, browns, red Indians, poor Chinese and Japanese, and the workers at large. Racism and ethnic di erences allow the power structure to exploit the masses of workers in this country, because that's the key by which they maintain their control. To divide the people and conquer them is the objective of the power structure. It's the ruling class, the very small minority, the few avaricious, demagogic hogs and rats who control and infest the government. The ruling class and their running dogs, their lackeys, their bootlickers, their Toms and their black racists, their cultural nationalists - they're all the running dogs of the ruling class. These are the ones who help to maintain and aid the power structure by perpetuating their racist attitudes and using racism as a means to divide the people. But it's really the small, minority ruling class that is dominating, exploiting, and oppressing the working and laboring people. All of us are laboring-class people, employed or unemployed, and our unity has got to be based on the practical necessities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if that means anything to anybody. It's got to be based on the practical things like the survival of people and people's right to self-determination, to iron out the problems that exist. So in essence it is not at all a race struggle. We're rapidly educating people to this. In our view it is a class struggle between the massive proletarian working class and the small, minority ruling class. Working-class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class. So let me emphasize again - we believe our ght is a class struggle and not a race struggle.
The Black Panther Party is not a black
racist organization, not a racist organization at all. We understand where racism comes from. Our Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton, has taught us to understand that we have to oppose all kinds of racism. The Party understands the imbedded racism in a large part of white America and it understands that the very small cults that sprout up every now and then in the black community have a basically black racist philosophy. The Black Panther Party would not stoop to the low, scurvy level of a Ku Klux Klansman, a white supremacist, or the so-called "patriotic" white citizens organizations, which hate black people because of the color of their skin. Even though some white citizens organizations will stand up and say, "Oh, we don't hate black people. It's just that we're not gonna let black people do this, and we're not gonna let black people do that." This is scurvy demagoguery, and the basis of it is the old racism of tabooing everything, and especially of tabooing the body. The black man's mind was stripped by the social environment, by the decadent social environment he was subjected to in slavery and in the years after the socalled Emancipation Proclamation. Black people, brown people, Chinese people, and Vietnamese people are called gooks, spicks, niggers, and other derogatory names.
What the Black Panther Party has done in essence is to call for an alliance and coalition with all of the people and organiza-
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A RISEN PEOPLE The Panthers and the Irish freedom struggle
40 years on
and the Black Panthers still provide inspiration and lessons for young progressive political activists.
Panthers stood up and where counted when their people needed them. This was a major factor in a huge upsurge in support for the edgling organisation which soon spread, empowering black people and communities across the USA.
national liberation, with Kathleen Cleaver of the Black Panther’s saying at the time, “All our sympathies were with the IRA -- even with the Provisionals -because they took such a clear-cut position on armed struggle,"
The 1960’s was a time of great social change and upheaval, with the Cuban Revolution in its infancy, the Cold War at it’s height, the daily massacres in Vietnam being ashed across television screens, and the black civil rights movement in the US steamrolling forward. In the north of Ireland, young people, students, workers and those who couldn’t get a job, joined together to demand civil rights, they where inspired by the positive and de ant actions of the black community in the USA. The fraternal links between the Irish and black American’s have historic links, with an escaped black slave Frederick Douglas arriving in Ireland in 1845, to campaign in support for the anti slavery movement in the US, receiving backing from Daniel O’Connell. The 1960’s was a time to take action, struggles across the globe showed that they could only be won by confronting the oppressor and making the demands felt loud and clear. Against this backdrop, an organisation in Oakland, California, the Black Panther’s arose in defence of the Black community and to ensure that civil rights be achieved and the racism that oppressed, and marginalised their people be confronted and ended. Throughout the civil rights movement in the USA, the white supremacists under state orders, and in state uniforms, baton charged, brutalised, jailed and even murdered those who marched in support of equal rights for the black community, a similar trait that would later manifest on the streets of Belfast, Tyrone and Derry. Defence for the black community was needed in such times, and the Black
The Black Panthers, where not simply a defence movement, yet placed community led socialism at the very heart of their struggle, they believed in organised empowered communities, where citizens where cared for and accommodated on a need’s basis. They soon began to organise many community projects, which enhanced and built a community spirit, and while providing training, and education, they also provided food kitchens, and refuge for the most needy in their communities. While many in the Black Panthers where Marxist-Leninist, they did not stick rigidly or dogmatically to Marx’s teachings, and very much applied their ideology in a modern pragmatic context. Irish Republican’s similarly organised their struggle through the oppressed nationalist ghettos in the north, and while our ultimate objective is a 32 County Socialist Republic, when the Provisional IRA arose in 1969, their primary role was in defence of the nationalist community who where being subjected to genocide, with whole nationalist streets being burned out and many being brutalised and murdered by unionist death squads aided by the unionist state. The similarities in the response by both the Unionist State and US authorities are shocking. Indeed the Black Panther’s kept a close eye to Ireland, the emerging civil rights and war of
The Black Panther’s received massive and sustained harassment and repression from the US authorities, and coupled with that it has been widely suggested that the State allowed and even directed a huge in ux of narcotics into black communities in order to destroy any attempt at an organised and empowered community, the same has been said of British Intelligence in Ireland, with drug dealer’s receiving immunity in return for their attempts at disempowering communities and passing on information. While the Black Panther’s no longer exist as an organisation, their ideology and legacy prevails, they stand as a monument to Black Power, and a risen people who confronted the state head on, exposing their institutionalised racism and ensuring that it could never happen again. The Black Panther’s played a huge role in building con dence and empowering of the black and working class communities not only in America, but across the globe.
Barry McColgan is national organiser of Sinn Fein Youth / Ogra Shinn Fein. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fredrick Douglas mural in West Belfast, northern Ireland
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OLIVE MORRIS: A PANTHER IN BRIXTON
Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre
was an active member of the Brixton Black Panther Movement until the group dissolved and reformed into a number of organisations working on speci c aspects within the Black struggle. The Black Panther and the Black Power Movements in Britain developed from the work of the Universal Coloured Peoples Association. Several American Black Panthers and radical activists visited the UK and gave lectures in London, including Malcom X (1965), Stokely Carmicheal and Angela Davis (both in 1967). Their message struck a chord in second generation Black youth, and gave impulse to the formation of a local Movement. The British Black Panther Movement, although inspired by the ideology of the US Black Panther Party, was a di erent type of organisation that responded to the speci c reality of Black people in the Britain. As an organised movement it was short lived, and its main period of activity was from 1970-1973. Don Lett, a member of the Movement explains the di erence in an interview by Greg Whiteld, published by http:// www.punk77.co.uk “It all seems so easy now, the very word just rolls o your tongue, “Black British”, but for awhile back there, it wasn’t so simple you know? Fundamentally the Black British and the Black American experience was di erent, right from source. Black Americans were dragged, screaming and kicking, from the shores of Africa to an utterly hostile America, whilst my parents, they bought a ticket on the ‘The Windrush’ bound for London! So, right o , you have it there, a major fundamental di erence. So even though I attended the Black Panther meetings, proudly wearing my Angela Davis badge, read “Soul on Ice”, there was still so much more that we needed to do. It’s true that we became aware, became conscious in many respects and that was partly due to those Panther ideologies, but the total relevance of that movement just didn’t translate into the Black British experience.” The Black Panther Movement organised itself in groups based around a particular location or area, and each group organised and run their work and activities independently but overseen by a common centre core. This central core the intellectual leadership of the movement made up of university students organised the setting up of local groups in areas with a large Black population, and recruited local working class youth that constituted the local core. Many members of the Brixton group went on to become inspiring community leaders and became notorious gures in their eld of work. The Brixton Panthers had their headquarters at Shakespeare Road in a house that was bought with money donated by John Berger when he won the Bookers Prize. Here are some of the members of the Brixton Black Panthers: Althea Jones - medical doctor Farukh Dhondi - broadcaster and writer David Udah - church minister Darcus Howe - broadcaster Keith Spencer - community activist Leila Hussain - community activist Olive Morris - community activist Liz Turnbull - community activist Mala Sen - author Beverly Bryan - academic and writer Linton Kwesi Johnson - writer and musician Neil Kenlock - photographer and founder of Choice FM London This quote from an interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson published in 1998 by Classical Reggae Interviews, describes the work and ethos of the Brixton Black Panthers: “It was an organization that came in to combat racial oppression, to combat police brutality, to combat injustices in the courts against black people, to combat discrimination at the place of work, to combat the mis-education of black youths and black young people. “The Black Panther movement was not a separatist organization like Louis Farrakhan’s ‘Nation Of Islam’. We didn’t believe in anything like that. Our slogan was ‘Black Power - People’s Power’… “…and we also realized that we had to live in the same world as white people and that if we wanted to make some changes we had to win some support from the progressive section of the white population. “We published a newspaper which we would sell on the streets. I used to do that myself. Every Saturday morning I had to go to Brixton Market, Croydon Market, Ballem Market, wherever…(…). “…We would organize campaigns around speci c incidents where there was some racial injustice involving the police and so on. We had educational classes for the Youth Section (I was member of the Youth Section) where we studied Black History, Politics and Culture.” And as a matter of fact it was through my involvement with the Black Panther movement I discovered Black Literature read a book called ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’ by W.E.B. Dubois and got inspired to write poetry. When in time the Black Workers Movement dissolved, its members used the experience they have gained to set up new organisations, such as Black Workers Movement, the Race Today Collective and the Brixton Black Women’s Group. Olive Morris was a founding member of the BWG and OWAAD, and maintained close ties to both organisations throughout her life, even while she was based in Manchester. If you or someone you know was involved with the Brixton Black Panthers and have stories or pictures of that time that you are willing to share please get in touch, in particular if you have any memories of Olive Morris work in the Movement.
Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre is an artist from Uruguay, based in London since 1996. Ana Laura is currently working on two public art projects in South London, where she lives. Ana Laura de la Torre is part of the Remember Olive Collective http://rememberolivemorris.wordpress.com and can be contacted at: lop email@example.com
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Olive Morris speaking at a rally against police brutality outside Brixton Library (ca. 1972)
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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BLACK AND BRITISH?
What does it mean to be black and British? Vanessa Walters Vanessa Walters
after Malcolm, they were looking across Atlantic too - to nd a point of reference Brits could understand. ‘ n all the places that I’ve been I think that West Indian people are probably the most abandoned people in the world. Abandoned by their host country and abandoned by their own country too.’ Michael X - 1967 We have always taken our idea of what it means to be black from the Americans. Right now we are all black and white waiting for Obama to de ne the meaning of Race in the world today. If he becomes president what will that mean – that being black is no longer a problem? If he doesn’t does that mean the West is still a racist place, that perhaps America - or any country is ready – will ever be ready for a black head of state. We’ve always looked across the Atlantic for understanding of identity and for solutions. In the 50’s and 60’s around the time of 'want a nigger for your neighbour vote labour ' and ‘No Irish, no dogs, no blacks’ black people took their cue from Publicised riots, lynchings and segregation in America in terms of their options. After meeting Malcolm X. A young Michael de Freitas, a pimp, Rachman [Ladbroke Grove landlordeditor] hardman and gambler, changed his name to Michael Abdul Malik and decided he was going to bring about social change in Britain. This was echoed by the media who immediately baptised him Michael X
It is interesting and it is very sad that we do this. Interesting because this is where Michael De Freitas found the inspiration to say some very important things about what it means to be a black man in Britain. He understood that it was a di erent experience to America, hence his thought provoking comment above, despite the fact that at that time he made it black American’s were sitting at the backs of buses. However, it is sad because our experience is not de ned by what happens in America. Black British people have very di erent histories, cultures and even languages compared to African Americans. We also live in very di erent societies. We need to look to ourselves for the answers. In America black history is well known and even celebrated through legendary works such as Amistad and Beloved and Colour Purple. Where are ours? We too had a rich and complex history. We too had our legends and our heroes. We also had a civil rights movement and important leaders. Unfortunately we don’t know it enough – don’t celebrate it enough. We know more about Martin Luther King than Marcus Garvey – never
mind that Garvey died in Kensington. Most of us don’t even know who Michael X, Claudia Jones or Anthony Lester.
Positive identity is the starting point for self-improvement and you can’t truly know yourself, unless you understand where and what you have come from. Vanessa Walters is a UK writer. She has written two novels, Rude Girls and Best Things in Life. She has had several plays staged around the UK. She has recently published 'Smoke! Othello!' a poetry collection about Afro-Caribbean experience in West London. Her latest play 'Michael X' is on at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill Gate, London from 6th November. www.carnivalvillage.org.uk for bookings or call box o ce on 0871 271 51 51
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POLYNESIAN BLACK PANTHERS
While Nga Tamatoa was
the radical group for young Maori in the '70s, the Polynesian Panthers was the outlet for young Paci c Island agitators. Director of Paci c Island Studies at Auckland University, Dr Melanie Anae, quoted this passage from Panther material, in a 2004 "Anew" article to highlight the group's outlook. Originally formed in Auckland in June 1971 as the Polynesian Panther Movement, the organisation was a fusion of young Paci c Island student radicals and their gang member cousins. “The revolution we openly rap about is one of total change. The revolution is one to liberate us from racism, oppression and capitalism. We see many of our problems of oppression and racism are tools of this society's outlook based on capitalism; hence for total change one must change society altogether.” Their Marxism was like that of their US based Black Panther heroes: Maoist oriented. The Panthers also reached out to variety of radical allies. The PPM (known the Polynesian Panther Party, after November 1972) allied with the Maori radicals of Nga Tamatoa and the Maoists of Roger Fowler's Peoples Union and the NZ Race Relation's Council, HART and the Communist Party. They also mixed with the Trotskyists from the Socialist Action League and with members of the Pro-Soviet, Socialist Unity Party. The Panthers worked closely with the Marxist controlled Citizen's Association for Racial Equality and the Auckland Committee on Racial discrimination (ACORD). In July 1973, PPP "Minister of Culture" Ama Rauhihi attended a Maoist "People's Forum" in Singapore and was selected to tour China with several Maori members of the Communist Party of NZ. In July/August 1974, PPP member Norman Tuiasau attended the 10th International Youth Festival in East Berlin. The conference was convened by the Soviet front, World Federation of Democratic Youth and the trip was organised by the Socialist Unity Party. Tuiasau heard US Communist Party leader, Angela Davis, speak in East Berlin and traveled on to Moscow where he saw Lenin's tomb. The Panthers delegated a young Melanie Anae to make contact with the real Black Panthers, during a trip to Los Angeles to stay with relatives. In September 1974 an article on the PPP was published in "Black Panther" magazine in the USA. In mid 1972, PPP leader Will 'Ilolahia toured Australia where he met Aboriginal Black Power groups. On his return he announced plans for "solidarity and co-operation" between the PPP, Aboriginal groups and black power supporters in Papua-New Guinea. At their peak, the Panthers had a busy HQ in Ponsonby, Auckland, several branches across the city, a shortlived branch in Dunedin and supporters in other centres.
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The PPP was very active for several years. They ran dances for youth, agitated for tra c lights at unsafe pedestrian crossings, ran food banks, organised prison visits and ran candidates for local high school boards. More politically, in 1972, the PPP worked with Nga Tamatoa, the Stormtrooper and Headhunter gangs to form a "loose Polynesian Front" In January 1974 the PPP participated in a meeting "amongst all Maori and Polynesian progressive organisations to form a united front". Understandably the PPP focussed on exposing racism, particularly by the police. In 1974, the PPP, jointly with Nga Tamatoa, CARE, ACORD and the Peoples Union organised the Police Investigation Group, which mounted "P.I.G. patrols" to monitor police dealings with Polynesian youth. The PPP's military wing also assisted in the Party's several campaigns against rack renters who allegedly preyed on the Polynesian communities at the time. The PPP was active until the late '70s and never o cially disbanded. Several cadres were arrested at Bastion Point in 1978 and some even played a role in the "Patu" squad during the 1981 Springbok Tour. The legacy of the Panthers lives on in Aotearoa today. Younger generations have bene ted from the struggle that our elders engaged in during the 60’s 70’s & 80’s. Still however there is much to do and still much oppression felt by our brothers and sisters in the Paci c and world-wide. Status in white society and the material comfort of some of us does not negate the fact that the majority of Paci c peoples live lives of racism & poverty. The best legacy we can leave for the Polynesian Panthers is to rekindle the struggle and ght against oppression in our communities & our islands. Sina Brown-Davis is a descendant of Te Roroa, Te Uri o Hau, Ngapuhi, Fale Ula & Vava'u tribes. She is an indigenous Activist, Mother & Blogger, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Polynesian Panthers Ponsonby Auckland 1970
Patu squad from the 1981 Springbok tour
Emory Douglas & Gary Foley ( long time Aboriginal Activist)
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‘THE HAMAS AND HIZBULLAH OF THEIR TIME’
Aki Nawaz of Fun-Da-Mental
the end of ‘White Supremacy’, although we continue to ght for its end. We can and should have a discourse about whether Martin Luther King or Ghandi for that matter were really non-violent paci sts. This depends if you see words as ammunition or the projection of these ‘giants of the civil rights movement’ as manufactured by those who have an interest in letting ‘people of colour’ know that they cannot be violent, that violence is a monopolised by "white folks". The notion that those oppressed, slaughtered and enslaved should somehow limit themselves to peaceful struggle whilst the oppressor has no boundaries to their violence is comical if not a repulsive. The price for dogmatic and rigid non-violence is always too high for the oppressed. When the arrival of something far more radical starts to emerge that's when an unjust system begins to shake and the emergence of the Black Panther Party was a turning point that did indeed shake the system. In the corridors of that despicable world power, the US government, the wind was really blowing them into a panic. It was inconceivable or incomprehensible that those they had murdered for years without any remorse might be able to defend themselves from their murderers, these murderers being usually the police. Turning the other cheek came at a high price for the African-Americans. White supremacy works on many levels and the US government were the masters of it along with the Brits, essentially perpetuating a cowardly system which works on continuing and increasing injustice. When it is faced with confrontation from the oppressed it runs behind a mask of compromise and negotiation, maintaining its privilege and position but giving the impression that it somehow has ‘seen the light’. In history you will not nd any white holocausts but many black ones. All the apparatus of the State went to work against the Panthers, yet the Panthers grew with great speed and that can only happen when there is a mass appetite for justice and also the mass feeling that there are scores to settle. “Enough is enough" and an "eye for an eye" really got those turkies in Washington working overtime. Cointelpro was put into action. The programme says it all, the deceit of the power structure and the paranoia. The Black Panther Party history is written but look in between the lines and you see an organisation and a movement that shook the established order far more than what was probably intended when Huey Newton and Bobby Seale set up the Party. The Panthers showed that just a little ‘playing outside of the box’ can move the biggest devils into panic. They were perhaps the Hizbullah or Hamas of their time! a romantic revolutionary brand - something to put on a t-shirt. However just like Brother Malcolm/Udham Singh/Tipu Sultan etc and many others, their appearance on the political scene caused a seismic change: it was the beginning of
For some the Black Panthers represent
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HUEY NEWTON: “WE SUPPORT THE PALESTINIANS 100%”
"We realize that some people who happen to be Jewish and who support Israel will use the Black Panther Party’s position that is against imperialism and against the agents of the imperialist as an attack of anti-Semitism. We think that is a backbiting racist underhanded tactic and we will treat it as such. We have respect for all people, and we have respect for the right of any people to exist. So we want the Palestinian people and the Jewish people to live in harmony together. We support the Palestinian’s just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live." (On the Middle East, Huey Newton)
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ANGOLA PRISON, LOUISIANA: MODERN-DAY SLAVE PLANTATION
Thirty-six years ago in rural Louisiana, a white guard was murdered in the State Penitentiary; then regarded as the bloodiest and most brutal prison in the United States. The violence wasn’t unusual in this deep pocket of Louisiana. Back in the 1800s, slaves worked on the plantation; now a predominantly African-American inmate population cultivates the crops grown on the sprawling expanse of the prison, also known as ‘Angola’, after the country that provided the Americas with most of its slaves. Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were at the prison – convicted on unrelated charges of armed robbery – on that April morning in 1972 when Brent Miller was stabbed to death. Born activists, Wallace and Woodfox founded the only recognised Black Panther chapter inside a prison to combat their degrading environment. Shortly after their arrival in Angola, they spoke out against inhumane treatment such as systematic rape; united inmates in solidarity; and attempted to put an end to racial segregation. They also organised a wellpublicised non-violent hunger strike with the aim of securing better conditions. ‘Our greatest campaign, I would say, was when we formed anti-rape squads, trying to protect the young men that was coming into the prison system…We just said ‘no more’,’ Woodfox told POCC Block Report Radio this year. ‘As dangerous as it was, we thought the risk of injury or death was worth it, and so we decided to take action. We fought against the open racism, the horrible conditions, lack of adequate clothing, lack of adequate food, the brutality, just about every form of corruption in this prison that was going on.’ As Woodfox and Wallace waged their campaign, they began to capture attention from the outside. The two men were subsequently convicted, in 1973 and 1974 respectively, of Miller’s murder, though no physical evidence has ever linked them to the crime. The men were charged on the basis of bribed testimony. Bloody ngerprints at the scene of the murder did not match theirs, and o cials have refused to check them against the prisoner ngerprint database to nd the real killer. Numerous alibi witnesses came forward in their defence, while prisoners who testi ed against them have recanted their testimony and admitted they were coerced by o cials to lie under oath. The men, known collectively with the now freed Robert King as the ‘Angola 3’, have languished in Angola prison ever since. The three have, however, succeeded in steering an international coalition to raise awareness of their cases and those of others in Angola and to secure their freedom. King, released in 2001 after his conviction for another murder at the prison was overturned, speaks around the world on their behalf. He has just released his autobiography, Cry from the Bottom of the Heap, about his time at Angola. Recent momentum in the campaign has been undeniable. Until March this year, Wallace and Woodfox were held in some of the most punitive conditions of the notorious 18,000acre complex by the Mississippi River, spending up to 24 hours a day in spartan cells, with little human contact or other distractions. However, after an upsurge in media attention and an unprecedented visit to Angola by John Conyers, chair of the US house judiciary committee, which oversees the justice department (including the FBI) and the federal courts, prison o cials swiftly moved the men out of solitary, after almost 36 years, into a maximum-security dormitory. One month later, Conyers wrote to FBI director Robert Mueller requesting FBI documents relating to the case. In his letter, he
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stated that he was ‘deeply troubled by what evidence suggests was a tragic miscarriage of justice with regard to these men’. Amnesty International has also weighed in on the Angola 3. Last year, they described the men’s treatment as cruel, inhuman and degrading, and said that their prolonged isolation breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture. This autumn, the campaign has had what may be its biggest success yet. Last month, a federal judge made the spectacular decision to overturn Woodfox’s conviction, despite State appeals, on the basis of evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate representation, and racial discrimination, in his 1973 trial. The ruling acknowledged that Woodfox had been wrongfully imprisoned. Though that means that he is no longer convicted of the murder of Brent Miller, due to legal complexities, that decision does not automatically set Woodfox free. The State has appealed the judgement, and at time of going to print, Woodfox is waiting to hear if he will be released on bail. ‘Woodfox has demonstrated the deep aws in the state's investigation and prosecution of the case against him, and has presented evidence of his innocence,’ Chris Aberle, one of Woodfox's lawyers, said on hearing the ruling. ‘If the State of Louisiana appeals, it will bear the burden of showing the court of appeals that both of the judges [a magistrate judge previously ruled in his favour] were incorrect. As the facts and the law are so clearly on the side of Mr. Woodfox, we are con dent that the State cannot carry that burden. No further legal delay should deprive Albert of even one more day of his life.’ If Woodfox is released, campaigners hope that Wallace will also walk into freedom, given that the case against him rests on the same evidence. The International Coalition to Free the Angola 3 draws much of its support from Europe, where grassroots campaigners have been raising awareness of the men’s plight as well as that of another inmate at Angola, Kenny ‘Zulu’ Whitmore, a 54-year-old who has spent more than 31 years in solitary con nement. Zulu, also a liated with the BPP, was convicted of murder and armed robbery in 1977 and immediately placed in solitary at Angola. He believes he was framed for speaking out against police abuse in his community. On arriving at Angola, he was immediately placed in solitary, and has remained there ever since, barring interludes of months at a time in the crushing prison ‘dungeon’. Artist and activist Carrie Reichardt, aka The Baroness, serves as a spokesperson and tireless campaigner for the London chapter of the A3 Coalition and the Free Zulu campaign. In June this year, she unveiled a spectacular mosaic on the outside wall of her house and studio (called The Treatment Rooms) in the west London suburb of Chiswick to raise awareness of, and give honour to, the men, to whom she frequently writes. The colourful public artwork, which took four months to create, is the latest in a series of mosaics adorning The Treatment Rooms. She is also keen to expose her 11-year-old daughter to political activism. In August this year, Poppy stepped inside the gates of Angola to visit Woodfox and Wallace, eating fried chicken and ice-cream with men the State wishes would remain hidden forever. ‘Herman and Albert have been waiting for justice for nearly four decades,’ Reichardt said. ‘We won’t stop ghting until they are out. But there are many more men like them in Angola and across the US. Zulu has spent all of his twenties, thirties, forties and now into his fties locked in a 6x9 foot cell. As far as I’m concerned, the laws that keep him there do not equal justice.’ Helen Kinsella is a freelance writer in London, working in media and for non-pro t organisations. She campaigns with grassroots movements, including the Angola 3, whom she has represented at the United Nations. She can be contacted at : email@example.com
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Albert, Poppy and Herman
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TUPAC SHAKUR: "THE SON OF A PANTHER"
Extraxct from ‘Holler If You Hear: Me Searching for Tupac Shakur’
Michael Eric Dyson
ried of the aesthetic and economic imperatives it imposed. As he won fame and money, he brooked no ideological limits on what he could say and how he could live. But even as he exchanged revolutionary self-seriousness for the thug life, he never embraced the notion that the Panthers were emblematic of political self-destruction. To be sure, Tupac saw thug life extending Panther beliefs in self-defense and class rebellion. But he never balked at Panther ideals. The practices, as we shall see shortly, were another matter.' The boosters and critics of the Panthers alike agree that Tupac was problematic. It is an agreement, however, stamped in irony. Each side nds Tupac unacceptable for the same reasons they nd each other's views intolerable, even reprehensible. Panther purists claim thatTupac's extravagant materialism and de ant hedonism are the death knell of political conscience, the ultimate sellout of revolutionary ideals. Critics of the movement contend that Tupac's thug fantasies ful lled the submerged logic of Panther gangsterism, what with its sexual abuse of women nancial malfeasance, and brutal factionalism. In either case Tupac is the con icted metaphor of black revolution's large aspirations and failed agendas. Early in his short life he sought to conform practical survival to revolutionary idealism. Later he reversed the trend. To borrow W. E. B. DuBois's notion of dual consciousness, in Tupac two warring ideals were (w)rapped in one dark body. The question to ask now is: Could Tupac's dogged strength alone have kept him from being torn asunder? In hindsight a negative answer seems certain, though perhaps disingenuous. It was perilous enough for old heads to try to reconcile competing views of black insurgence, as proved by gures as different as Malcolm X and Huey Newton. How much wisdom could one expect from an artist who barely lived beyond his twenty- fth birthday, even though he was hugely talented and precocious to a fault? It is a testament to his gargantuan gifts-and to our desperate need, which after all, screams so loudly because of our failure to nd suitable answers-that the expectation existed at all. Our best chance of understanding Tupac's dilemmas, and his failures and triumphs, too, rests in probing the ideals with which he was reared and that shaped his life for better and for worse. What did it mean to be a child of the Black Panthers, to have a postrevolutionary childhood?' In explaining his ministerial vocation, Martin Luther K ing Jr. remarked that his father, grandfather, and greatgrandfather were preachers. "I didn't have much choice, I guess," he humorously concluded. Although Tupac's revolutionary lineage is not as long, it is equally populous and perhaps more storied. He was surrounded by gures that lived and died the struggle for black freedom. Afeni and her lovers Lumumba and Billy Garland were Black Panthers. Tupac's stepfather, Mutulu Shakur, an acupuncturist and black revolutionary, was sentenced in 1988 to sixty years in prison for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and murder. He was also found guilty of attempting to break Tupac's "aunt" Joanne Chesimard, later known as Assata Shakur, out of prison, where she was sent in 1977 after being convicted of murdering a New jersey state trooper. And Tupac's godfather, Geronimo Pratt, loomed large as a heroic gure. From the very beginning, Tupac was, as Pratt says, "fascinated with the history of that which he was born into.' " In the haunting footage of Tupac at school at age seventeen, he con rms Pratt's impression. "My mother was a Black Panther, and she was really involved in the movement," Tupac says. "Just black people bettering themselves and things like that." And from the start, Afeni's role in the movement was costly, limiting, in Tupac's mind, the time she spent with him. "At rst I rebelled against her because she was in a movement and we never spent time together because she was always speaking and going to colleges and everything," Tupac says. But after a period of intense movement activity, Tupac and his mother bonded. "And then after that revolutionary roots: When he was a few days old, Tupac was taken to his rst political speech, given by "Minister Louis Farrakhan at the 168th Street Armory in New York." That was the rst time I saw him says Karen Lee, then a black militant who, in another twist of fate, served as Tupac's publicist nearly twenty years later. "He was a little baby with big eyes. They were the rst things you could see." Those big eyes and the world they envisioned made Tupac the hip-hop James Baldwin: an excruciatingly conscientious scribe whose narratives amed with moral outrage at black su ering. Tupac imbibed his disdain for racial oppression from his mother's revolutionary womb. As Tupac's godfather, Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt remarks, the artist "was born into the movement That birthright of black nationalism hung over Tupac's head as both promise and judgment. Some saw him as the benighted successor to Huey, Eldridge, Bobby, and other bright stars of black subversion. In this light Tupac's career was best imagined in strictly political terms: Rapping was race-war by other means. Others see the Black Panthers as a strident symbol of political destruction turned inward. This would mean that Tupac's violent lyrics and wild behavior suggest the ethical poverty of romantic nationalism. Tupac initially embraced the former view, though he quickly wea-
he scene irresistibly evokes Tupac's
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was over, it was more time spent with me and R was] just like, 'You're my mother,' and she was like, 'You're my son.' So then she was really close with me and really strict on me." Even as a youth, Tupac discerned the price paid for revolutionary principles, especially when one had little money. "Being poor and having this philosophy is worse," Tupac says. But he brilliantly analyzes the di erence between nancial and moral wealth. "Because you know if money was nothing, if there was no money and everything depended on your moral standards and the way that you behaved and the way you treated people, we'd be millionaires. We'd be rich." Ever the realist, Tupac presciently sizes up his family's situation, especially the cost of critical thinking spurred by revolutionary beliefs. "But since it's not like that, then we're stone broke. We're just poor because our ideals always get in the way, 'cause we're not 'yup-yup' people." Tupac knows that taking critical inventory of one's surroundings does not make for job security, though he admits that he's bitter about being poor for his principles, since he missed "out on a lot of things" and because "I can't always have what I want or even things that I think I need." That does not keep him from dissecting the futility of many wealthy people's lives. "But I know rich people, or people just well-o , who are lost, who are lost." For that reason, his mother's sacri cial choices really have paid o . "She could have [chosen] to go to college and get a degree in something and right now [could have] been well-o . But she chose to analyze society and ght and do things better. So this is the payo . And she always tells me that the payo to her is that me and my sister grew up good and we have good minds and ... we're ready for society." … Tupac admits that his mother, by having gone " through the sixties," is coolheaded and more inclined to say, "Let me think about this rst and then do it, because I know how that happens." But he also recognizes that her noble e orts are often harshly repaid. Tupac claims his family moved from New York "because of my mother's [political] choices. And she couldn't keep her job because of her choices, because it was too much.... They gured out who she was and she couldn't keep a job. That should be illegal." It is almost impossible for those who have never been under surveillance by the government or had
their families shattered by political harassment to comprehend the veil of suspicion, skepticism, and of course paranoia that hangs between hounded political activists and the rest of the world. We now know that many government agencies covertly and corruptly tried to destroy the black freedom movement, from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to the Black Panthers.' The Panthers' example inspired Tupac to address racial con ict. Discussing a ght between skinheads and black youth at a party in Marin City, seventeen-year-old Tupac says he and his friends tried to " gure out what to do." Concluding that "this couldn't happen in the sixties" without a response from black activists, Tupac and his friends decided that "we'll start the Black Panthers again." Tupac says that unlike the Panthers of the 1960s, "we're doing it more to t our views: less violent and more silent." There would be "more knowledge to help" with the restoration of black pride. "I feel like if you can't respect yourself, then you can't respect your race, then you can't respect another's race. . . . It just has to do with respect, like my mother taught me." By starring the Black Panthers again, Tupac ,in(] his comrades would not only teach black pride but instil the value of education as a means of self-defense and as a safeguard against bigotry. By doing this, they would harken back to a turn-of-thecentury strategy adopted by DuBois The revived Black Panthers would function "as a defense mechanism [against] the skinheads, because that's wrong, and I hate to feel helpless," Tupac explains. "And so skinheads hate black people and ... I have this vision of us just growing, and them decreasing, because that's how knowledge works. It's contagious, you know. And if there [are] war and peace, peace wins out." Tupac says he will "learn from our mistakes. And I'm talking to a lot of the exmembers of the Panthers from the sixties now, because they're less violent. You know, they've learned." Tupac is quick, however, to underscore their virtues. "They did a lot of good things in the past, and we can do a lot of good things. . .. My mother was an ex-Panther, and [we'll be] talking to Geronimo Pratt, and a lot of ex-ministers of defense. So we're going to do a lot of good."
Contrary to the caustic criticism he later received, Tupac was not drawn to the Panthers because of their stylized violence, their hyper-masculinized images, or their alluring social mystique. His attraction to the Black Panthers was a practical attempt to answer racial oppression. The embrace of black pride was not for compensatory or therapeutic ends. Rather, its purpose was, rst, self-respect and, then, respect of others. It was self-regarding morality linked to other-regarding social concern. … For all of his reveling in Panther racial theories, Tupac was far less enthusiastic about their contradictory practices. Tupac was especially wounded because he felt the party unjustly abandoned his mother at her most needy moments. If Tupac grew bitter about the poverty Afeni's ideals brought about, he was equally bitter about the failure of the Panthers, for whom she sacri ced family and career, to o er help. As they touted anti-capitalist beliefs, some of the party's chief icons lived luxuriously, even dissolutely, at the expense of the proletarian rank and le. If such practices appeared distasteful from a distance, up close they were downright ugly. Afeni remembers that her children inherited her sacri cial spirit. "If they had too many [toys], they gave them away," Afeni recalls, "and I was not rich." Their practice re ected her belief that "everything should go to the community." She says that receiving
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her "training from the movement" made her believe that ... capitalism' was a dirty word." Tupac, however, had di erent ideas. He "had a logical mind," Afeni says, and thus examined her situation without the ideological trappings that bound her. But according to Afeni, Tupac "really resented the fact" of her betrayal by the party. Afeni remembers that Tupac wanted desperately to argue with godfather Geronimo Pratt, but out of respect he held his tongue. Tupac felt less favorable about other members. "Other people who were in the party, he really didn't have a lot of respect for," Afeni says. "Because he was a child who was there. He knew what they did and what they didn't do. And I never ed to my kids ... for better or for worse. That is basically the way we lived our lives, so they knew exactly what was going on in our lives as it was happening. And they knew who wasn't there and who left us and who never bothered to help." Afeni believes that Tupac saw the contradic-
tions, and "he did stand in judgment." But she quickly adds, "He loved the principles. It wasn't the principles that he was mad at." Instead, it "was the lack of courage in the face of " su ering that riled him, especially the hurt it caused the movement's female soldiers. Many male Panthers chose, or were forced, to leave behind children and women. The government's repressive techniques destroyed many activist black families, often dividing fathers and mothers from their kin. In fact, Tupac was constantly approached at school by FBI agents seeking the whereabouts of his stepfather, Mutulu Shakur. Tupac was grieved by the gruesome pattern of family abandonment he witnessed, perhaps reminding him of his own desperate plight. Afeni says that from the perspective of a child such events were surely painful. "When you talk about the pain that the child felt, especially when you realize that you can't change it, it is hard," she says. "It is such a deep place." A place so deep that it obviously left a permanent scar on his conscience, leaving Tupac with the belief that one could be-in fact, should be-a rich revolutionary. If revolution can't pay the bills-or, more precisely, if those revolutionaries who are the movement's bread and butter can't keep their heads above waterthen the revolution has already failed. Afeni says that in Tupac's eyes,--notonly was [the] revolution not paying the bills, but it was
causing a great deal of disaster for me." Tupac therefore taught Afeni to make peace with money. "I think I am learning how to live in a capitalist society, which I did not know how to do," she says. "But I learned that from Tupac. I didn't know how to do that. I just knew how to be mad with capitalism Tupac, according to Afeni, learned to rebel and make cash, a lesson she slowly absorbed. "It never occurred to me," she says. "I never gave myself permission to do that. . . . He released me from so much. . . . Tupac would challenge the [things] that I held sacred. He would make me think about them." If Tupac demanded that his revolutionary forebears consider the consequences of their failed practices, he also challenged artistic communities and the entertainment industry to face up to their equally heinous contradictions. Free from the bruising environment that trumped revolutionary ideology, Tupac appeared free to embrace its worthier elements. It was evident from the start of his edgling career that Tupac wasn't simply play-acting the part of a revolutionary, even if his excesses sometimes made him appear extreme, even self-destructive. "He made me think," says Danyel Smith, former editor of Vibe Magazine who was a twenty-four-year-old struggling writer when she met eighteen-year-old Tupac in Oakland. "Even before he was famous, and even more so after he was famous, and began to really write the kind of songs that were in his heart," Tupac made "you question whatever line you were riding on." Smith says that she would have been happy simply to have a job whether at Kinko's or the department store, and "Tupac would say, 'Why are you working for the white people?' Now you know, people have said that throughout history to black people: 'We were slaves to the white people; we need to start our businesses; why are you working for the white man?"' But the way Tupac would say it made it appear to Smith Eke a new, urgent, even inescapable quest don. 'And then I would be sitting there really saying to my~ self, 'Should I really be working for white people?... Smith says that Tupac had "an absolute truth for himself, which is appealing in anybody because it's so rare."
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BLACK PANTHER SOLIDARITY
Elbert “Big Man” Howard
protests and the programs that the Red Guard initiated, Chinatown’s citizens were enlightened and became open to more progressive politics.
Unity in the Community!
Black Power to Black People! White Power to White People! Brown Power to Brown People! Yellow Power to Yellow People! Red Power to Red People! These phrases were the cries that emanated from Black communities throughout this nation – they were initiated by the Black Panther Party in 1968. Many organizations were formed after hearing and rallying around those calls, including the Patriot Party, the Young Lords, the Brown Berets, the Red Guard, and the American Indian Movement. Who were these groups and how did they come into existence? The Patriots were a group of white workingclass and poor young people which originally formed in Chicago and many of them originated from street-turf gangs. Their chapters and Ten Point Program were modeled after the Black Panther Party’s and they were strong supporters of the Black Panther Party. They closely followed the Black Panther Party’s example and dedicated themselves to serving the basic needs of their communities, such as feeding hungry children with free breakfast programs. Many worked to establish free health clinics and other services in their communities. The Patriot Party, like the Panthers, published a newspaper. The Young Lords also followed, in purpose and actions, many of the examples set by the Black Panther Party. These young Puerto Ricans formed chapters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Boston Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico. Their female leadership strongly pursued the ght for women’s rights and formed and worked with prison solidarity groups for incarcerated Puerto Ricans. By 1976, the Young Lords had been all but destroyed by the FBI. However, their impact remained – other groups formed and continued to pursue their goals. San Francisco’s Red Guard was patterned closely after the Black Panther Party. In 1969, the federal government wanted to shut down a Tuberculosis testing center located in San Francisco’s Chinese community. At the time, Chinatown had the highest TB rate in the country. The young Asians in the Red Guard organized the community and staged successful protest demonstrations to keep that TB testing center open. Through these
similar social and economic conditions. We were being oppressed and exploited by the same perpetrators. These groups met with the Black Panther Party and discussed and set forth plans to resolve some of these issues. The Black Panther Party’s 10 Point In 1970, members of the Red Guard were part of a delegation that was invited to join Platform and Program was a basic plan of Eldridge Cleaver and they accompanied him action that spelled out clearly what we wanted and what we believed. This program in a visit to China, North Korea, and North and platform was so powerful and so onVietnam. After about two and a half years, target that many of those solidarity groups due to political and police repression, such as o ce raids, arrests without warrants, false drew up similar programs and tailored them arrest, and armed stand-o s with police, the to their communities’ needs. organization collapsed. Because of strong solidarity with these many di erent groups, the Black Panther Party Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers was able to amass great numbers of people brought attention to the plight of Hispanic farm workers in this country. Because of his to participate in demonstrations such as Free Huey, Stop the Draft, and End the Vietin uence, and that of the Black Panther nam War rallies, which occurred all over the Party’s, young Chicanos from the barrios came to realize that struggle against oppres- country. sive conditions was necessary for change, Included among these supportive organizaand the Brown Berets organization was tions were many splinter groups such as the formed in 1967. The Brown Berets had a 13 Gay Liberation Front, the Peace and FreePoint Party Platform similar to that of the dom Party, the Woman’s Liberation MoveBPP. In the summer of 1968, the Brown Berets marched with the Rainbow Coalition in ment, the Yippies, the Grey Panthers and the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, groups that formed for the rights of disabled people. These solidarity groups did not go DC. Among their many contributions, they unnoticed by the FBI and were also suborganized Vietnam War protests, exposed jected to the FBI’s dirty tricks and Cointelpro police brutality, and started the Chicano program. Their o ces and residences were movement for self-determination. Unfortubugged, they were in ltrated by governnately, this organization also met with a ment spies, and set-up for frame-ups and similar fate to that of the Black Panther false arrests. Although they were harassed Party. and brutalized, no other party, except for the Black Panther Party, was singled out for AIM was organized in the summer of 1968 complete extermination. when approximately 200 members of the Native American community met to discuss Many members of the Black Panther Party various critical issues and developments in were tortured, murdered, and/or locked their communities. These included police away in dungeons, where many still remain, brutality, slum housing, an 80% unemployhowever, they did not get us all. We, the ment rate, and racist and discriminatory survivors, have a duty and a responsibility to government policies. Today, after many continue to ght for those same 10 Points, legal battles and repressive actions on the for What We Want and What We Believe. government’s part, including the imprisonment of leaders such as Leonard Pelletier, So, on the occasion of this Black Panther AIM has grown and today still continues to Party 40th Year Reunion and Celebration on serve their communities from a base of Native American culture. In Minnesota, AIM’s October 13-15, 2006, we recognize and birthplace, organizations have developed to invite former members of solidarity groups, institute schools, housing and employment especially all those rank and le members, our friends, and all those community workservices. ers who continue to struggle for freedom In November of 1969, the world took notice and justice to join us. We will talk about the past, but most importantly, we will look at when young Bay Area Native American what we are doing today and explore the students and urban Indians occupied Alcapossibilities of what we can accomplish in traz Island for 19 months, claiming it as the future. I believe we have much to do, for federal land in the name of Native Nations. the struggle does not end with us and, perhaps, by coming together in solidarity again, In the 1960’s and 1970’s all of these diverse groups formed strong bonds with the Black we can set into motion the birth of a new beginning. Panther Party. They came to understand that we all had common problems; our communities were su ering from many
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HUEY NEWTON: ‘CHINA IS A LIBERATED TERRITORY’
Huey Newton’s auto-biography ‘Revolutionary Suicide’
the police in our country are an occupying, repressive force. I pointed this out to a customs o cer in San Francisco, a Black man who was armed, explaining to him that I felt intimidated seeing all the guns around. I had just left a country, I told him, where the army and the police are not in opposition to the people but are their servants.
The people who have triumphed in their
own revolution should help those still struggling for liberation. This is our internationalist duty. (Mao tse tung, Little Red Book)
Today, when I think of my experiences in the People's Republic of China - a country that overwhelmed me while I was there - they seem somehow distant and remote. Time erodes the immediacy of the trip; the memory begins to recede. But that is a common aftermath of travel, and not too alarming. What is important is the e ect that China and its society had on me, and that impression is unforgettable. While there, I achieved a psychological liberation I had never experienced before. It was not simply that I felt at home in China; the reaction was deeper than that. What I experienced was the sensation of freedom as if a great weight had been lifted from my soul and I was able to be myself, without defense or pretense or the need for explanation. I felt absolutely free for the rst time in my life completely free among my fellow men. This experience of freedom had a profound e ect on me, because it con rmed my belief that an oppressed people can be liberated if their leaders persevere in raising their consciousness and in struggling relentlessly against the oppressor. Because my trip was so brief and made under great pressure, there were many places I was unable to visit and many experiences I had to forgo. Yet there were lessons to be learned from even the most ordinary and commonplace encounters: a question asked by a worker, the response of a schoolchild, the attitude of a government o cial. These slight and seemingly unimportant moments were enlightening, and they taught me much. For instance, the behaviour of the police in China was a revelation to me. They are there to protect and help the people, not to oppress them. Their courtesy was genuine; no division or suspicion exists between them and the citizens. This impressed me so much that when I returned to the United States and was met by the Tactical Squad at the San Francisco airport (they had been called out because nearly a thousand people came to the airport to welcome us back), it was brought home to me all over again that
return, they probably would have done everything possible to prevent the trip. The Chinese government understood this, and while I was in China, they offered me political asylum, but I told them I had to return, that my struggle is in the United States of America. .
I received the invitation to visit China shortly after my release from the Penal Colony, in August, 1970. The Chinese were interested in the Party’s Marxist analysis and wanted to discuss it with us as well as show us the concrete application of theory in their society. I was eager to go and applied for a passport in late 1970, which was nally approved a few months later. However, 1 did not make the trip at that time because of Bobby's and Ericka's trial in New Haven. Nonetheless, I wanted to see China very much, and when I learned that President Nixon was going to visit the People's Republic in February, 1972, I decided to beat him to it. My wish was to deliver a message to the government of the People's Republic and the Communist Party, which would be delivered to Nixon when he made his visit. I made the trip in late September, 1971, between my second and third trials, going without announcement or publicity because I was under an indictment. I had only ten days to spend in China. Even though I had no travel restrictions and had been given a passport, the California courts could have tied me down at any time because I was under court bail, so 1 avoided the states jurisdiction by going to New York instead of directly to Canada from California. Because of my uncertainty about what the power structure might do. I continued to avoid publicity after reaching New York, since it was not implausible that the authorities might place a federal hold on me, claiming illegal ight. By ying from New York to Canada I was able to avoid federal jurisdiction, and once in Canada I caught a plane to Tokyo. Police agents knew of my intentions, and they followed me all the way right to the Chinese border. Two comrades, Elaine Brown and Robert Bay, went with me. I have no doubt that we were allowed to go only because the police believed we were not coming back. If they had known I intended to
Going through the immigration and customs services of the imperialist nations was the same dehumanizing experience we had come to expect as part of our daily life in the United States. In Canada, Tokyo, and Hong Kong they took everything out of our bags and searched them completely. In Tokyo and Hong Kong we were even subjected to a skin search. I thought I had left that routine behind in the California Penal Colony, but I know that the penitentiary is only one kind of captivity within the larger prison of a racist society. When we arrived at the free territory, where security is supposed to be so tight and everyone suspect, the comrades with the red stars on their hats asked us for our passports. Seeing they were in order, they simply bowed and asked us if the luggage was ours. When we said yes, they replied, "You have just passed customs." They did not open our bags when we arrived or when we left. As we crossed into China the border guards held their automatic ri es in the air as a signal of welcome and wellwishing. The Chinese truly live by the slogan "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," and their behavior constantly reminds you of that. For the rst time I did not feel threatened by a uniformed person with a weapon; the soldiers were there to protect the citizenry. The Chinese were disappointed that we had only ten days to spend with them and wanted us to stay longer, but I had to be back for the start of my third trial. Still, much was accomplished in that short time, traveling to various parts of the country, visiting factories, schools, and communes. Everywhere we went, large groups of people greeted us with applause, and we applauded them in return. It was beautiful. At every airport thousands of people. welcomed us, applauding, waving their Little Red Books, and carrying signs that read WE SUPPORT THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY, DOWN WITH U.S. IMPERIALISM, OR WE SUPPORT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BUT
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THE NIXON IMPERIALIST REGIME MUST BE OVER-THROWN. We also visited as many embassies as possible. Sightseeing took second place to Black Panther business and our desire to talk with revolutionary brothers, so the Chinese arranged for us to meet the ambassadors of various countries. The North Korean Ambassador gave us a sumptuous dinner and showed lms of his country. We also met the Ambassador from Tanzania, a ne comrade, as well as delegations from North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam. We missed the Cuban and Albanian embassies because we were short of time. When news of our trip reached the rest of the world, widespread attention focused on it, and the press was constantly after us to nd out why we had come. They were wondering if we sought to spoil Nixon's visit since we were so strongly opposed to his reactionary regime. Much of the time we were harassed by reporters. One evening a Canadian reporter would not leave my table despite my asking him several times. He insisted on hanging around, questioning us, even though we had made it plain we had nothing to say to him. I nally became disgusted with his persistence and ordered him to leave. Seconds later, the Chinese comrades arrived with the police and asked if I wanted him arrested. I said no, I only wanted him to leave my table. After that we stayed in a protected villa with a Red Army honor guard outside. This was another strange sensation-to have the police on our side. We had been promised an opportunity
to meet Chairman Mao, but the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party felt this would not be appropriate since I was not a head of state. But we did have two meetings with Premier Chou En-lai. One of them lasted two hours and included a number of other foreign visitors; the other was a six-hour private meeting with Premier Chou and Comrade Chiang ChIng, the wife of Chairman Mao. We discussed world a airs, oppressed people in general, and Black people in particular. On National Day, October 1, we attended a large reception in the Great Hall of the People with Premier Chou Enlai and comrades from Mozambique, North Korea, North Vietnam, and the Provisional Government of South Vietnam. Normally, Chairman Mao's appearance is the crowning event of the most important Chinese celebration, but this year the Chairman did not put in an appearance. When we entered the hall, a band was playing the Internationale, and we shared tables with the head of Peking University, the head of the North Korean Army, and Comrade Chiang Ching, Mao's wife. We felt it was a great privilege. Everything I saw in China demonstrated that the People's Republic is a free and liberated territory with a socialist government. The way is open for people to gain their freedom and determine their own destiny. It was an amazing experience to see in practice a revolution that is going forward at such a rapid rate. To see a classless society in operation is unforgettable. Here, Marx's dictum-from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs-is in operation. But I did not go to China just to admire. I went to learn and also to criticize, since no society is perfect. There was little, however, to nd fault with. The Chinese insist that you nd something to criticize. They believe strongly in the most searching self-examination, in criticism of others and, in turn, of self. As they say, without criticism the
hinges on the door begin to squeak. It is very di cult to pay them compliments. Criticize us, they would say, because we are a backward country, and I always replied, "No, you are an underdeveloped country." I did have one criticism to make during a visit to a steel factory. This factory had thick black smoke pouring into the air. I told the Chinese that in the United States there is pollution because factories are spoiling the air; in some places the people can hardly breathe. If the Chinese continue to develop their industry rapidly, I said, and without awareness of the consequences, they will also make the air un t to breathe. I talked with the factory workers, saying that man is nature but also in contradiction to nature, because contradictions are the ruling principle of the universe. Therefore, although they were trying to raise their levels of living, they might also negate the progress if they failed to handle that contradiction in a rational way. I explained that man opposes nature, but man is also the internal contradiction in nature. Therefore, while he is trying to reverse the struggle of opposites based upon unity, he might also eliminate himself. They understood this and said they are seeking ways to remedy this problem. My experiences in China reinforced my understanding of the revolutionary process and my belief in the necessity of making a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. The Chinese speak with great pride about their history and their revolution and mention often the invincible thoughts of Chairman Mao Tsetung. But they also tell you, "This was our revolution based upon a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and we cannot direct you, only give you the principles. It is up to you to make the correct creative application." It was a strange yet exhilarating experience to have travelled thousands of miles, across continents, to hear their words. For this is what Bobby Seale and I had concluded in our own discussions ve years earlier in Oakland, as we explored ways to survive the abuses of the capitalist system in the Black communities of America. Theory was not enough, we had said. We knew we had to act to bring about change. Without fully realizing it then, we were following Mao's belief that "if you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience."
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Huey Newton and Chinese Premier Chou en-lai
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REVIEW OF `WE WANT FREEDOM: A LIFE IN THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY' BY MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
the books that have come out by or about former members of the Black Panther Party for SelfDefence, We Want Freedom is one of the best. This review cannot cover the many angles from which Mumia approaches his experience in, the ideology, practice and legacy of the Panthers. There are a few things that stand out are worth highlighting in this book, more so than perhaps other books on the same subject. Panthers: "The history it sprang from" This book puts the Panthers in wider historical context. This context is one in which the one can track the continuing struggle of Black people today back to the time when Africans were infamously kidnapped en-masse and forcibly transported like animals into slavery in the Americas. Other books that have put Black revolutionary movements in historical context are Robert Williams's highly in uential classic `Negroes With Guns' (Williams and his book being one of the main inspirations domestically for the Panthers), and also the generally excellent biography of Williams called `Radio Free Dixie' by Timothy B Tyson.
Having read many if not most of
Mumia explains in some detail that the militant example of people like Malcolm X / Malik El-Hajj Shabazz and the Panthers is closer to the experiences of Black people than the paci st and class comprising stand of people like Roy Wilkins and other more reformist and milder leaders of the Black Liberation Movement. Mumia gives many examples of popular Black armed struggle (at times supported by working class Native Americans and whites), like the nineteenth century struggle of the liberated Fort Christiana. He explains in his book how the Panthers were a direct continuation of the militant struggle of Black people in the Southern states, something which Williams explains so graphically in ‘Negroes with Guns’. "A Women's Party" There is a whole chapter on the exemplary role of the women cadres of the Panthers who occupied positions from the rank and le to the local and national leadership. He explains that possibly against popular preconceptions most of the activities of the Panthers in serving and struggling with the people were undertaken and organised by women members. At the end of the rst year of the Panthers women comprised nearly 60% of the membership. The Panthers were the FIRST social organisation, let alone radical organisation, in the USA that had women in all levels of leadership. Mumia explains that there were inevitably problems of sexism in the party re ecting that which existed in society at large. Any organisation which recruits from the oppressed and exploited will have some of the problems that exist in the communities and homes of the people. Mumia quotes Buhkari: "there were three evils that had to be struggled with, male chauvinism, female passivity and ultra-femininity (the `I'm only a female' syndrome)." (p174) Figures such as Afeni Shakur (more famously known as the mother of rapper Tupac Shakur), Assata Shakur, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis and Elaine Brown were leaders in the party, and inspired revolutionary movements across the world, and were themselves respected immensely in the Party "The Empire Strikes Back - COINTELPRO" A group of radical activists broke into a FBI building and took a load of secret documents which revealed the level of black operations the US state was involved in against radical movements, the Panthers in particular as they were the cutting edge of working class revolutionary struggle in the country. This program of black-operations was and is known as the Counter Intelligence Program, or `COINTELPRO'. Snitches, frame-ups, the dirty and slavish role of the media were some of the roles employed against the Panthers and their supporters. Mumia explains how the increasingly successful e orts of the Party in organising people from the community and work therein was the main reason why the US elites wanted the Panthers shutdown by all the dirty and brutal tricks at their disposal. For example, the Panthers were having some success in bringing anti-social gangs into popular community work, but the US
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state sowed distrust and paranoia between the Party and the gangs. Fred Hampton was a promising, highly intelligent and charismatic leader of the Chicago chapter of the Panthers who was making headway in recruiting gang-members into Panther work, but probably because of his progress in this eld he was drugged and shot dead in his sleep by the authorities. Other US State tactics included writing fake letters to the leaders of the Party from other leaders, such as that what happened between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton which led to the biggest and most debilitating split in the party. These letters stirred up ideological di erences into highly destructive splits and then many more splits thereof in the Party. Unfortunately the State succeeded in creating a situation between the Afrocentric Pan-Africanist organisation 'Us' and the Panthers in California, the two organisations had killed one member of the other. Many former Panthers now say that instead of this tragic dynamic that the two organisations should have been allies in struggle. COINTELPRO type state activities still goes on in the West both at home and abroad, as anyone involved in anti-imperialist or principled working class struggle can attest to. One has to study a little into the Irish and Basque independence struggles to know this is true, and in terms of foreign policy there is a mountain load of evidence in Western interference in Venezuela, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Bolivia and Muslim communities throughout the West. "A Panthers Life" Community dedication - serving the people As always, reading about the dedication to the people of the Panthers is an inspiration to any decent person, and eve more so to those struggling with working class and oppressed communities, Mumia writes: "The [Panther] o ces were like buzzing beehives of Black resistance … People came with every problem imaginable, and because our sworn duty was to serve the people, we took our commitment seriously … In short, whatever our peoples problems were, they became our problems. We didn't preach to the people; we worked with them" (p197) Mumia's open attitude towards the factions There are a number of reasons as to why the Panthers collapsed in the mid-1970s from being a growing dynamic revolutionary force established less than ten years earlier in 1966 by a few friends: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and David Hilliard, in Oakland, California. How did an organisation grow from a few friends to 10,000 within a few years, and then more or less was crushed in less than ten years? These reasons are too complex to go into here. A lot of the reasons may still not be adequately understood, but as increasing numbers of former Panthers publish their experiences one is able to gain an increasing understanding as to the reasons for the descent of the Panthers. Mumia entitles one chapter "One, Two, Too Many Parties" a play on Che Guevara's famous speech 'One, Two, Three, Many Vietnams' at his speech at the Tricontinental in 1967. The splits that occurred had bitter, sometimes very violent incidents that went along with them. This inevitably has created deep running resentments between former Panthers that comes surfaces in some accounts of Panthers about their experiences in
those intense years of struggle. Mumia avoids emotive denunciations of former comrades and explains in relatively evenhandedly terms the pros and cons of di erent tendencies in the Party. In terms of an ideological de nition of the Panthers Mumia clearly points out the class and political nature of the party as one that was uncompromisingly working class, inspired by the teachings of many revolutionaries. Mumia explains that the Party's ideology was, in his opinion, closest to being `Malcolmist' (as in Malcolm X), as well as been known as a Maoist party inspired by people such as Fanon, Che, Nkrumah, Castro, Kim Il Sung, Mao, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Giap, Williams, and many other Latin American, Asian and of course African revolutionaries. Mumia; "the voice of the voiceless" Mumia is still incarcerated in a frame up by the state. He has always been true to the revolution of oppressed, voicing their struggle in the US and across the world in his unique eloquent manner. If anyone can, please pass on thanks to Brother Mumia for his book and struggle from those still struggling with the people against oppression. Sukant Chandan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Extract from Assata Olugbala Shakur’s auto-biography 'She who struggles', 'Love for the people', 'the thankful'
alleged to be me in post ofces, airports, hotels, police cars, subways, banks, television, and newspapers. They have o ered over fty thousand dollars in rewards for my capture and they have issued orders to shoot on sight and shoot to kill. by shooting in the back, [Assata is a former Panther now living in political exile in Cuba. The tape of 'To My People' was made by Assata on July 4 1973, while she was being held in the Middlesex County workhouse under false charges of murdering a state trooper on a New Jersey turnpike. It went on to be broadcast by many radio stations. She felt compelled to make it to counteract the misinformation being spread by the mainstream media - Editor] I am a Black revolutionary, and, by de nition, that makes me a part of the Black Liberation Army. The pigs have used their newspapers and TVs to paint the Black Liberation Army as vicious, brutal, maddog criminals. They have called us gangsters and gun molls and have compared us to such characters as john dillinger and ma barker. It should be clear, it must be clear to anyone who can think, see, or hear, that we are the victims. The victims and not the criminals. It should also be clear to us by now who the real criminals are. Nixon and his crime partners have murdered hundreds of third World brothers and sisters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, and South Africa. As was proved by Watergate, the top law enforcement o cials in this country are a lying bunch of criminals. The president, two attorney generals, the head of the fbi, the head of the cia, and half the white house sta have been implicated in the Watergate crimes. They call us murderers, but we did not murder over two hundred fty unarmed Black men, women, and children, or wound thousands of others in the riots they provoked during the sixties. The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives. They call us murderers, but we were not responsible for the twenty-eight brother inmates and nine hostages murdered at attica. They call us murderers, but we did not murder and wound over thirty unarmed Black students at Jackson State - or Southern State, either. They call us murderers, but we did not murder Martin Luther King, Jr., Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, George Jackson, Nat Turner, James Chaney, and countless others. We did not murder, sixteen-year-old Cli ord Glover. They call us murderers, but we do not control or enforce a system of racism and oppression that systematically murders Black and Third World people. Although Black people supposedly comprise about fteen percent of the total amerikkkan population, at least sixty percent of murder victims are Black. For every pig that is killed in the so-called line of duty, there are at least fty Black people murdered by the police. Black life expectancy is much lower than white and they do their best to kill us before we are even born. We are burned alive in re-trap tenements. Our brothers and sisters OD daily from heroin and methadone. Our babies die from lead poisoning. Millions of Black people have died as a result of indecent medical care. This is murder. But they have got the gall to call us murderers. They call us kidnappers, yet Brother Clark Squire (who is accused, along with me, of murdering a new jersey state trooper) was kidnapped on April 2, 1969, from our Black community and held on one million dollars' ransom in the New York Panther 21 conspiracy case. He was acquitted on May 13, 1971, along with all the others, of 156 counts of conspiracy by a jury that took less than two hours to deliberate. Brother Squire was innocent. Yet he was kidnapped from his community and family. Over two years of his life was stolen, but they call us kidnappers. We did not kidnap the thousands of Brothers and Sisters held captive in amerika's concentration camps. Ninety percent of the prison population in this country are Black and Third World people who can a ord neither bail nor lawyers. They call us thieves and bandits. They say we steal. But it was not we who stole millions of Black people from the continent of africa. We were robbed of our language, of our Gods, of our culture, of our human dignity, of our labor, and of our lives. They call us thieves, yet it is not we who rip o billions of dollars every year through tax evasions, illegal price xing, embezzlement, consumer fraud, bribes, kickbacks, and swindles. They call us bandits, yet every time most black people pick up our pay-
Black brothers, Black sisters, i want you
to know that i love you and i hope that somewhere in your hearts you have love for me. My name is Assata Shakur (slave name joanne chesimard), and i am a revolutionary. A Black revolutionary. By that i mean that i have declared war on all forces that have raped our women, castrated our men, and kept our babies empty-bellied. I have declared war on the rich who prosper on our poverty, the politicians who lie to us with smiling faces, and all the mindless, heartless robots who protect them and their property. I am a Black revolutionary, and, as such, i am a victim of all the wrath, hatred, and slander that amerika is capable of. Like all other Black revolutionaries, amerika is trying to lynch me. I am a Black revolutionary woman, and because of this i have been charged with and accused of every alleged crime in which a woman was believed to have participated. The alleged crimes in which only men were supposedly involved, i have been accused of planning. They have plastered pictures
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checks we are being robbed. Every time we walk into a store in our neighborhood we are being held up. And every time we pay our rent the landlord sticks a gun into our ribs. They call us thieves, but we did not rob and murder millions of Indians by ripping o their homeland, then call ourselves pioneers. They call us bandits, but it is not we who are robbing Africa, Asia and Latin America of their natural resources and freedom while the people who live there are sick and starving. The rulers of this country and their unkies have committed some of the most brutal, vicious crimes in history. They are the bandits. They are the murderers. And they should be treated as such. These maniacs are not t to judge me, Clark, or any other Black person on trial in amerika. Black people should and, inevitably, must determine our destinies. Every revolution in history has been accomplished by actions, though words are necessary. We must create shields that protect us and spears that penetrate our enemies. Black people must learn how to struggle by struggling. We must learn by our mistakes. I want to apologize to you, my Black brothers and sisters, for being on the New Jersey turnpike. I should have known better. The turnpike is a checkpoint where Black people are stopped, searched, harassed, and assaulted. Revolutionaries must never be in too much of a hurry or make careless decisions. He who runs when the sun is sleeping will stumble many times. Every time a Black Freedom Fighter is murdered or captured, the pigs try to create the impression that they have quashed the movement, destroyed our forces, and put down the Black Revolution. The pigs also try to give the impression that ve or ten guerrillas are responsible for every revolutionary action carried out in amerika. That is nonsense. That is absurd. Black revolutionaries do not drop from the moon. We are created by our conditions. Shaped by our oppression. We are being manufactured in droves in the ghetto streets, places like attica, san quentin, bedford hills,
leavenworth, and sing sing. They are turning out thousands of us. Many jobless Black veterans and welfare mothers are joining our ranks. Brothers and sisters from all walks of life, who are tired of su ering passively, make up the BLA. There is, and always will be, until every black man, woman, and child is free, a Black Liberation Army. The main function of the Black Liberation Army at this time is to create good examples, to struggle for Black freedom, and to
prepare for the future. We must defend ourselves and let no one disrespect us. We must gain our liberation by any means necessary. It is our duty to ght for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but out chains. ... We must ght on.
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TOOKIE: FOUNDER OF THE CRIPS
December 29, 1953 – December 13, 2005 Extracts taken from Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams’ auto-biography ‘ Redemption’
thing. … The Crips mythology has many romanticized, bogus accounts. I never thought it would be necessary to address such issues. But I can set the record straight for Raymond Washington, for me and for others who fought and often died for this causeless cause. I assumed that everyone in South Central knew that Raymond was the leader of the East Side Crips, and that I the leader of the West Side Crips. A few published chronicles have Raymond attending Washington High School and uniting the neighbourhood west side gangs where he supposedly lived. In fact, Raymond attended Fremont High School on the east side, where he lived. A fundamental inquiry would have revealed that I lived on the west side, where I attended Washington High and rallied our homeboys and groups of local gangs. Even our former rivals have a better understanding about the Crips' origins than many social historians. Most of the public misinformation has been fostered by academics, journalists and other parasitical opportunists, stool pigeons and wannabe Crip founders who shamelessly seek undue pro t and recognition for a gang genocide. There is no honour in insinuating yourself as a player in this legacy of a bloodletting where your feet have never trod. Another version incorrectly documents the Crips as an o shoot of the Black Panther Party. No Panther Party member ever mentioned the Crips or Cribs as being a spino of the Panthers. It is also ction that the Crips functioned under the acronym, C.R.I.P., for Community Resource Inner-city Project or Community Revolutionary Inner City Project. Words such as "revolutionary agenda" were alien to our thuggish, uninformed teenage consciousness. We did not unite to protect the community; our motive was to protect ourselves and our families. There are people who say it was karmic justice that Raymond and I, who impinged on society in 1971 with our violent pact, deserved our exit from society in 1979 Raymond to the grave and myself to San Quentin Prison. They cry out that I am incapable of redemption. Would God have it that everyone has the right to transformation and to redemption ~ except for Stanley Tookie Williams? I cannot believe this is so. To avoid damaging others, certain names, nicknames and quite a few wellknown incidents have been excluded. For the same reason I have used pseudonyms for some of the people I depict in this book. Otherwise, the story I tell is true. South Central (Chapter 2) Though I loved my mother, I wouldn't listen to her. There were many things I kept from her to avoid punishment. There was nothing I had witnessed or experienced that I wished to reveal to my mother. Nothing! She is not responsible for my actions. Any of them. My mother exhausted every e ort to raise me properly, but she could not stand guard over me 24/7. She was in thrall to some handed-down black version of a Euro-American parenting philosophy in con ict with the environment I saw around me and its stringent requirements for survival. Not even my mother's intentions and religious guidance could have compelled or prayed me to conform to society's double standards. Her cordial instructions con icted with "the colony's" exploitation of the underclass. I was a member of that class. (What I call the colony commonly known as the ghetto - is a modern urban version of the plantations on which African slaves lived in America. Colony is a more accurate term than ghetto, i.e. a group of people who have been institutionalized in a distinctly separate area.) As a boy, I was incapable of articulating the contradictions I saw, or of dodging confrontations with the ominous in uences outside my home. Each time I stepped out into this society - rife with poverty, lth, crime, drugs, illiteracy, and daily, brutal miscarriages of justice - I inhaled its moral pollutants and so absorbed a distorted sense of selfpreservation. I was duped into believing that this toxic environment was normal. I was unaware of the violence being [Tookie was refused clemency by Californian Governor Arnold Schwarznegger, partly on the basis that Tookie dedicated his auto-biography to Black Panther prison leader George Jackson – Editor ]
Throughout my youth, I was hoodwinked by South Central's terminal conditions, its broad and deadly template for failure. From the beginning I was spoon-fed negative stereotypes that covertly positioned black people as genetic criminals - inferior, illiterate, shiftless, promiscuous and ultimately "three- fths" of a human being, as stated in the Constitution of the United States. Having bought into this myth, I was shackled to the lowest socioeconomic rung, where underprivileged citizens competed ruthlessly for morsels of the American pie - a pie theoretically served proportionately to all, based on their ambition, intelligence and perseverance. Like many others, I became a slave to the delusion of capitalism's false hope: a slave to dys-education (see Chapter 3); a slave to nihilism; a slave to drugs; a slave to black-on-black violence; and a slave to self-hate. Paralysed within a social vacuum, I gravitated toward thughood, not out of aspiration but out of desperation to survive the monstrous inequities that show no mercy to young or old. Aggression, I was to learn, served as a poor man's merit for manhood. To die as of street martyr was seen as a noble
done to my mind. Lacking any knowledge of African culture, there was a black hole in my existence. More than 500 years of slavery had left me with only scattered remnants of a broken culture. Exposed to a multitude of ambiguous, mostly negative in uences, I would pass through my young life with cultural neglect and a profound identity crisis. Though I knew I was black, I had no real perspective on being black. I absorbed common negative black stereotypes that eventually made me despise my blackness. Yet despite my envy of the privileges, wealth and comforts held by many white people, I never fantasized about being one of them. Without the cultural knowledge I needed to shape my identity, I was unable to give my mother the respect she deserved. Since I respected neither my mother nor myself, it was inevitable that I would grow up, as I did, to disrespect other black people. I blindly moulded an identity that was a classic product of corrupt in uences and my own vivid imagination. Though I was no angel, neither was I a child demon. Life deprived me of the blood of freedom and an equal opportunity to succeed. I was guilty by reason of colour, convicted and sentenced at birth. Like most of my peers, I stumbled through life "dyseducated," a very di erent quality than being merely uneducated. My options and opportunities were restricted. For me there were no Rotary Clubs, Yacht Clubs, Explorer Clubs, Boy's Academies, or any other privilege-bound associations. I was afforded equal opportunities on society's underbelly among street thugs, ex-cons, pimps, gamblers, con men, thieves, prostitutes and hustlers. Here, the prevailing motifs were violence and the daily battle to survive. Might was right, always. Seen through my adolescent eyes, everyone was at war: fathers battled their wives, neighbours were at each other's throats, criminals fought criminals. Sometimes at night I would -see birds of re soaring through the sky or crashing into a fence; I learned that gamblers were setting homing pigeons ablaze and then releasing them, wagering on which one would come closest to its destination. And we kids would imitate them. This was our culture: casually brutal, unspeakably cruel. The Art of Dyseducation (Chapter 5)
Back at school my skills were growing, thanks to Miss Johnson, my sixth grade teacher. She was a master motivator. I'm reminded of how she looked each time I read Ebony magazine. Often it carried a photo of a black woman to whom a literary contest was dedicated, Gertrude Johnson Williams. The resemblance to our Miss Johnson was uncanny. Our teacher was a husky black woman who seemed always to wear black clothing. She sported black-rimmed eyeglasses and her shoulder-length hair was curled underneath, all the way around. She had an imposing presence with a commanding voice, but exuded a maternal sensitivity that made the entire class feel special. Miss Johnson devoted ample time to each student and had no problem repeating herself until a message was driven home. Her classroom had no black curriculum, but when we were alone she talked about black greatness and the need for me to carry the torch. By then I needed more than Miss Johnson’s occasional chats. My cultural awareness was zero. I needed a complete black history course and a thorough deprogramming. I had been duped into believing that all black people were inhuman and inferior, that we had made no contribution to the forward thrust of civilization. Negative black stereotypes were broadcast or implied by the news media, magazines, institutions, television, newspapers, books, and every other medium you can think of, not to mention the countless deluded blacks I met who believed the myth of their inferiority. Their contempt for their own blackness was so ingrained they had subconsciously stepped outside themselves to assimilate with any cultural group but their own. Their dys-education was complete. The more I was indoctrinated with lies about my blackness, the more I grew to detest myself. Miss Johnson did try but was unable to provide enough information to help me reassemble my mutilated outlook on life. She was restricted to the school's curriculum and forbidden any extramural teachings, in particular black history. She deserves credit for recognizing my potential and for trying to reveal it to me. Little did I know how much I would miss Miss Johnson’s style of teaching. However, I
sensed that when I did enter junior high, it would be a turning point in my life with a downward trajectory. Adolescent Blues (Chapter 8) In spite of me being the most inconspicuous youth around, the cop swooped down on me because I was a “black youth walking”. Two white cops jumped out of the car with their hands poised on their guns and demanded I stand still. One asked, “Are you a Panther, boy?” I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. I knew nothing at the time about the revolutionary group called the Black Panthers. I thought the fool was trying to call me an animal, so I responded, "Of course not." His rough pat-down search was a legendary law enforcement procedure known to virtually all black males in South Central and involving undue intimate contact in the groin area. "I'll be watching you, nigger," said the cop, smiling, as he prepared to leave. This was his attempt to instil the fear of the law in me. I feared neither the law nor him - only his gun. The Institutional Shu e (Chapter I0) In 1970 I was largely unconscious of the battle being fought on a higher level for black survival by civil rights organizations: the Black Panthers, United Slaves organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
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the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Nation of Islam, the African National Congress, and others in the United States and abroad. I was brain-dead about the Soledad Brothers, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Malcolm X, Bobby Rush, Bunchie Carter, Bobby Seales, Martin Luther King Jr. and other black leaders. … At Central juvenile Hall, two detectives showed up to question me about the names of my two homeboys who'd eluded capture. One of the white detectives said, "Look, Stan, if you tell us who was with you in that stolen car, you can go home today." I could riot snitch under any circumstances, even if I were being accused of heinous crimes that others had committed. I was taught not to tell. I remembered vividly how when I was a little boy, Big Rock would become enraged when he talked about snitches being the lowest form of any animal. "Better for a mother to cross her legs during the moment of conception to choke the life out of that child than to give birth to a snitch," he declared. So when the cop asked again was I willing to give him the names of my homeboys, I said, "What homeboys? What stolen car?" Apparently I pissed the cops o , because they jumped up and stormed out of the room. Seeds of a Gang (Chapter II) I returned to the South Central colony to salutations all around from my homeboys. It was customary to pay homage to any one of us who had done time without snitching. Bub was the rst to shake my hand and comment on how bu ed up I had become. Mostly he was showing gratitude for my knowing how to keep my mouth shut. The' streets hadn't changed much. The gang problem still festered, and racial ferment was everywhere. The National Guard was called in to a riot in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Black Panther's Field Marshal, George Jackson, was shot and killed during an alleged escape attempt at San Quentin state prison. The political activist Angela Davis was still in Marin County jail, and a rebellion was in full swing at Attica state prison in upper New York State. Not to mention usual problems: poor education, few jobs, lack of youth programmes, broken families, all feeding the growing civil rights movement. While funding for black economic pro-
grammes was cut, the gangs and their levels of violence surged. This was a growth industry. South Central was full of both visible and latent street gangs with parasitical appetites. Contrary to popular belief, black gangs were not new. The older ones the notorious Slausons, Gladiators and the Business Men had become ethnicity-conscious and were absorbed into the Black Panther party or other active political groups. A few remaining older black gangs still hung on: the Chain Gang, Low Riders, Avenues, Brims, Figueroa Boys and Van Ness Boys, These gave rise to newer, more predatory street cliques: the Sportsman Park Boys, Denker Boys, Manchester Park Boys, Hustler Mob, New House Boys and many others. However, despite our lack of numbers, I had several trump cards over the other gangs. As I had moved from school to school, juvenile facility to juvey, and hood to hood, I had established ties in each area with certain key youth who held in uence over their circle of homeboys. Their homeboys became mine, and mine became theirs. I was catapulted to the helm of my group not by force or referendum, but by opportunity, conditions and selfpromotion. Simply, I stepped into a vacuum, an uncontested position tailormade for me. My homeboys' acquiescence allowed me to follow through, to expand. We were not a gang in the traditional sense, but as our rivals raised the bar with their increasing aggression and strong-arming, we morphed into a gang without a title. There was no turning back, not really, because the more we fought, the more deeply entrenched our vendettas became. Though we saw he black images across the barricades as our enemy, we had no notion that our true adversaries were the squalid living conditions, the vortex of powers con ning us to those conditions, and our own unwitting perpetuation of those conditions. Like countless other black gang members and criminals, we were unconscious accomplices in our own, subjugation - our own worst foes. Gang battles raged, and we picked up the pace in drive-by beatings. Often we'd bail out of a stolen car to beat down unsuspecting rivals and I'd let them know it was me, Tookie, Who was doing it to them. If they didn't remember anything else, they'd remember my name. As long as the local gangs were at each other's throats and didn't unite, we could stand up against any of them, even though we were outnumbered. They came to despise us and the name
they cursed most was mine. I became the neighbouring gangs' number one target, something I encouraged. I needed to be feared and known by all of them. It became a familiar sight for gangs to cruise the area and leave messages: "Tell Tookie we're looking for him." "Tell Tookie we're gonna kill him!" One evening at a dance at the Saint Andrew's park gym, the Chain Gang caught a few of us o -guard. The guy who approached me was Daven, a twenty-something loudmouth who wouldn't bust a grape with cleats on. Surrounded by a mob of other grown men posing as his back-up, Daven was bold enough to thrust a nger in my chest and ask, "Are you Tookie?" It was dija vu for me, reminding me of the time when Louis and his cronies stomped me in the dirt behind Manual Arts. This time I ipped the script and lunged at Daven, causing both of us to fall to the ground. The darkness in the gym allowed me to crawl out of the scu e while Daven's homeboys continued to punch and kick him, thinking that it was me they were beating. Meanwhile, Bub, in the gym's kitchen, held other Chain Gang members at bay with a starter pistol, until they realized it was a fake. Like me, he managed to escape a serious beatdown. We had constant reminders of our mortality, especially when shots were red at us. Guns were replacing sts as the fastest way to earn a reputation for youths who lacked the ability to ght and needed an equalizer. It took nerve to ght with your hands - it's much easier to pick up a handgun and brandish it. A child could do it, with deadly e ect. It's true that we had access to a cache of guns, but we wanted to beat our rival gangs into submission, not kill them. The horrors of gunplay disturbed me so much that for a long time, I refused to possess one. Guns represented death, and I feared their potential. Nevertheless, even while hot lead was ying in our direction, I didn't give death a second thought. I had a false sense of invincibility. I wanted to live a full life but faced a meaningless future with no dreams, no tangible hopes. I lived each day with reckless abandon not fearing tomorrow. God looks out for babies and fools. as the expression goes. The fool in me was running amok: perhaps that's why death passed me by. Also, most of my rivals and enemies didn't even know what I looked like. I
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was said to be tall, with a scarred face and let-black skin, a muscle-bound nut. I was pegged as a villain who harassed other gangs, didn't play fair, and needed to be taught a lesson. My street rep continued to grow, surpassing the leaders of all other local gangs. Although I wanted the notoriety, I didn't anticipate the headaches. The police and school administration were receiving complaints about a student named Tookie who was causing trouble on and o the grounds. Both authorities wanted to identify this person. Even some parents of local gang members were up in arms about this mysterious troublemaker, but none of them could nger me. In school, gang members and everybody else knew me only as Stan, and I wanted to keep it that way as long as possible. Our crew's fashion style was dissimilar to the other street gangs, but more and more we began to emulate them. My homeboys began to adopt gang names: Erskine became "Mad Dog," Terry was now "Bimbo," Big Bob chose "The Hawk," and Donald called himself "Sweet Back" after the main character in a Melvin Van Peebles movie, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Other homeboys did likewise. Soon, Terry and I got our left ears pierced to enhance our thug image. Again, our homeboys followed suit, styling the same kind of gold hook and cross, or a small gold hoop earring. We had gravitated toward the gang realm as if we belonged there. Our persistent attacks along with other street gangs destroying one another began to turn the tide in our favour. Several of the larger gangs showed an interest in switching sides - extending an olive branch of compromise while others reluctantly continued to ght. It was time to consolidate the friends and acquaintances I had cultivated for the past few years, to avoid making the divide-and conquer mistakes made by other street gangs. It didn't take a mathematician to see that when a structure is divided, each individual part loses its potency and thus is exposed to possible annihilation. I didn't want to make that mistake. The black community generally was blind to its de ant youth creating increasingly aggressive street gangs. Mislabelled by some as a “lost generation,” we were instead forgotten prodigies who disappeared, children buried alive in a sandbox. We did what was necessary to exhume ourselves. Though we must share the blame, we were products
of a culture that bastardized us. Crip Walk (ChapterI2) [Tookie talks of the rst time that several crews came together to form what was to become the ‘Crips’ street gang - Edtior] It would have been a police photographer's Kodak moment to have captured all of us on lm that day. Standing and sitting around on the bleachers was the largest body of black pariahs ever assembled. I'm convinced that had the Black Panther party still been recruiting, uninterrupted by the FBI, Huey Newton and Bobby Scale would have salivated over our untapped youthful potential. We embodied just one small division of a multitude of reckless, energetic, fearless and explosive young black warriors across the USA. Though often seen as social dynamite, I believe we were the perfect entity to be indoctrinated in cultural awareness and trained as soldiers for the black struggle. This opportunity to mould us into a valuable resource was never spotted by society, schools, churches, community programmes, civil rights movements, or other black organizations. … The Crips was our vehicle for illusionary empowerment, payback, camaraderie, protection, thuggery, and a host of other bene ts. We didn't want to be disenfranchised, dyseducated, disempowered, and destitute, but opportunities were scarce. We were seventeenyearolds with polluted
minds who wanted to be emancipated from the struggle against conditions that seemed to seek our extinction or emasculation. Regardless of hostile opposition or lack of social privilege, my vested interest, like everyone else, was simply to survive. The Crips became central to my self-destructive resolve. This forgotten generation created a quasi-culture with its own mores, style of dress, hand symbols, vernacular, socio-economic qualities, martyrs, rituals, colour identi cation (blue for Crips), legends, myths and codes of silence. Words were coined for our madness. Buddha called it "cripping" or , "crippin'." Our pride in the alliance gave birth to mottoes such as Craig's phrase, "Crippin' night and day is the only way." Melvin's favourite was, "Can't stop, won't stop." Buddha's brainchild was, "Crips don't die, we multiply." Raymond's favourite was, "Chitty chitty bang bang, ain't nothin' but a Crip thang." "Do or die" was a common proverb among us, on both east side and west side. Crippin' was our reason for being. it grounded us In a way that nothing else had. It permitted us to lash out at gangs and at a world that despised us. This was an apocalyptic moment for countless black youth. Merely to survive each day was a personal victory. Our alliance was beginning to be noticed, and we were widely reviled. Deprived by our colour and class of access to the American Dream, we began a Crip-walk toward self-destruction.
Tookie and Louis Farrakhan
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Portrait, layout & front cover artwork by Jaykoe :: www.jaykoe.com :: email@example.com
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