Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrating the 75th Birthday of Soledad Brother George Lester Jackson, September 23, 1941- August 21, 1971, by Kiilu Nyasha

I have a plan, I will give, and give, and give of myself until it proves our making or my end.”

As we honor the 75th birthday of our beloved, Comrade George Jackson, Field Marshall of the Black Panther Party behind prison walls, may we remember his revolutionary ideas and practice, his mentors and his sacrifice.

Author of two books, Soledad Brother: the Prison Letters of George Jackson, a 1970 bestseller reprinted three times and translated into several languages; and Blood In My Eye, published posthumously and recently reprinted. 

In a 1971 New York Times editorial titled, Death of a Brother, the late Tom Wicker described George as a “talented writer, a sensitive man, a potential leader, and a political thinker of great persuasiveness.”

Haiti’s Fanmi Lavalas and the Black Panther Party­

By Kiilu Nyasha (a.k.a. Pat Gallyot)

This year of 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, October 1966, in Oakland, California.
In 1968, prior to joining the Party, I was employed by Community Progress, Inc. (CPI), the nation’s pilot program of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” also euphemistically called “The Great Society.”
I became one of the “Field Trainers” deployed in each of the seven impoverished neighborhoods of New Haven, Conn.  Assigned to the predominately Black area of Newhallville, I worked at the Teen Center, a government facility that eventually became the cite for the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program; launched by a town hall meeting and a popular vote.

My work for the Community Action Institute (CPI) was to organize the community around practically every issue relevant to the needs of the residents. However, on doing so, I quickly came under attack and was eventually fired. The intention of this so-called “war on poverty” was in fact NOT to serve the people; but to set up neighborhood corporations run by local governments to monitor and control community activists and quell any potential resistance.
As part of my job, I had been attending (without overtime pay) numerous community meetings re health care, lead-paint poisoning, education, housing, etc.; working with various groups, such as “Welfare Moms,” already addressing those issues.
Upon recognizing the divide & rule tactics of CPI, and joining with community leaders from each neighborhood, some of us formed a group called “Seven Together.”  Of course, such organizing got me in hot water fast.
At nearly every community meeting, I would encounter Black Panthers who were organizing on a strictly volunteer basis.  Once I was fired, I quickly discovered there was no safety net. I couldn’t get unemployment insurance because both of the jobs I’d had -- working for Yale and the Government – disqualified me. So I went to the City Welfare Department where I was offered $25 a week to support my son (9) and myself. 
“What!!? I was giving you nearly double that in taxes per week, I told them (paraphrasing). How was I supposed to pay my rent, my bills, support my child on such a pittance?”
At that time, 1969, Panthers across the nation had come under vicious attack by J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program) and by year’s end a reported 28 Panthers had been murdered by police. The most blatant murders of Panthers happened on December 4, 1969 in the Chicago chapter when police raided the Panther pad in the pre-dawn, premeditated murder of Fred Hampton, 21, and Mark Clark, 20. 
I knew then it was time to stand up.  I decided to join the Party and commit myself to a lifetime of revolutionary struggle.  We single moms pooled our AFDC (Aid for Dependent Children) checks and lived communally, sharing all our resources.
Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Chicago Chapter, was a dynamite organizer who brought together the first rainbow coalition and called on folks to “Repeat after me; I AM a revolutionary!” 
He was also very conscious of the struggles of Black people throughout the diaspora and particularly in Haiti.  He denounced the infamous brutal dictator known as Papa Doc Duvalier who was conducting a reign of terror on the Haitian people fighting for dignity and human rights.
Since I was one of the oldest members of the Party (30!) comprised mostly of youth in their teens and early 20’s; and one of the few with an employment history, office skills, and church experience in quantity cooking, I started off working as the Breakfast Program Coordinator.  (Later on, I was recruited to work as legal secretary to the Panther lawyers on the two capital trials of Panthers Lonnie McLucas and the joint trial of Chairman Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins.)  I continued to do community organizing as a rank and file Panther in the New Haven Chapter.
I loved working at the breakfast program, despite the difficulties of getting up at before 5 a.m. to rally the troops and begin the task of feeding scores of kids every weekday morning. Sending young students to school with a full stomach instead of going hungry was very gratifying.
There were no food stamps at that time, no school lunch programs in the City.  What shocked me and raised my political consciousness was when we found ourselves under attack for feeding hungry kids.
I’m reminded here of Father Jean Juste of Haiti who was brutalized and imprisoned for feeding hungry children in Haiti. May he rest in peace.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Freedom is a Constant Struggle - Pierre Labossiere and Cephus Johnson

September 15, 2016 episode of Freedom is a Constant Struggle with guests Pierre Labossiere on Haiti and Cephus Johnson, uncle of the late Oscar Grant and on the Love Not Blood Campaign.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ida McCray of Families with a Future

September 1, 2016 episode of Freedom is a Constant Struggle, with guest Ida McCray of Families with a Future.