by Chuck Armsbury, Senior Editor, the November Coalition
Nora and I attended the 35th Reunion of the Black Panther Party last April in Washington, DC. I had been asked to co-chair a workshop with the Party newspaper's founding editor, Elbert "Big Man" Howard, on racial and political solidarity. In the late 1960s I lived in Eugene, Oregon where I helped organize a local chapter of the Chicago Young Patriots. Modeled after the BPP's Ten-Point Program, similar chapters were starting up throughout the country in white, working class communities. We were dedicated to feeding hungry kids a good breakfast and helping develop other community-based programs to meet peoples' essential needs.
Panthers, Patriots, Young Lords, Brown Berets, the American Indian Movement and similar grassroots' groups in the late 1960s/early 1970s 'Rainbow Coalitions' were hammered by the murderous policies of repression specified in Richard Nixon's COINTELPRO strategy designed to stifle dissent in the US population. At the extreme, political assassinations (Fred Hampton of the Chicago BPP in 1969, most notably) and life sentences were fated for some as part of Nixon's and FBI Director Hoover's conspiratorial methods of control. Even today a few Panthers languish in America's nastiest dungeons where some, like the Angola 2 (Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace) in Louisiana, have been held in segregation for almost 30 years.
Most BPP veterans we met are still actively involved in their communities, still calling for 'power to the people,' still serving the peoples' needs. To our surprise and honor, Illinois U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush attended the solidarity workshop. As a former Chicago Panther (and close friend to the murdered Fred Hampton) Rush laughed heartily with about 25 others as the graying heads recalled forgotten names and faces from those energized days of heady and deadly struggle. Thanks to Billy X Jennings and staff at "It's About Time" Newsletter (www.itsabouttimebpp.com) for all their hard work building the BPP archives.
In early June Nora and I traveled to Hickory, North Carolina where Nora had been invited to give a drug war presentation to the gathering of the Fifteenth North Carolina Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Association. Thanks to persistent effort by Carrie Graves and Elaine Lynch of nearby Charlotte, the ELCA agreed to sponsor a workshop at the gathering to educate their members about how the drug war harms children and the families of the people sentenced for drug convictions.
As a sign that ordinary Americans recognize the hypocrisy of a 'drug war,' a white, middle-class woman asked early in the workshop, "Why don't we just legalize and regulate all drugs?" Two other women seconded her suggestion. Interestingly, what is often an arguable point among drug reformers was merely common sense to this person. The ELCA leaders adopted a resolution of concern for the innocent victims of the war on drugs, the children.
Kevin Zeese deserves special mention. He's a brother, a friend, and a good man. His periodic public appearances with Nora and me in Detroit, New York City and Washington, DC revealed qualities of leadership that helped us 'stay the course' during the first Journey for Justice. Kevin blends wit and quick response with an easy style and obvious passion. Thank you, Kevin, for use of your home, your time and always-constructive mentoring.
Correction: On page 15 of the spring 2002 Razor Wire we listed Prison Policy News as a project that offers free books to prisoners across the nation. Prison Policy News is a "bi-monthly magazine which reviews news and events of interest to prisoners and activists, not a books for prisoners program," wrote Executive Director Stephen Raher.
Raher said many prisoners are requesting books from his
office after seeing Prison Policy News listed as a source of
books in our newspaper. Raher wrote, "We do send books to
Colorado inmates only, and they should address their correspondence
to the Colorado Prisoner Reading and Education Project, PO Box
2143, Colorado Springs, CO 80901."
795 South Cedar - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550