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Geronimo ji-Jaga: Tributes from Black Panther comrades and current political prisoners

June 20, 2011

Tribute to Geronimo broadcast Wednesday, June 8, 2011, on KPFA’s Morning Mix hosted by Minister of Information JR Valrey

The Morning Mix with Carmen Reed and JR Valrey – June 8, 2011 at 8:00am
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Geronimo returns to his ancestors

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

The 1997 release of Geronimo, who was, along with Nelson Mandela, the best known political prisoner of his time - both served 27 years - was celebrated around the world. Here, celebrating at Geoffrey's in Oakland are Geronimo (center) and JR Valrey (right), now known as Minister of Information JR.
On Thursday, June 2, 2011, came word that former Black Panther leader, Geronimo ji-Jaga (née Elmer G. Pratt) died in exile in Tanzania.

Geronimo’s life was one of intense and almost total warfare, from battles in his youth on behalf of the U.S. Empire in the steaming jungles of Vietnam to his membership and leadership of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party where he fought for his people.

The FBI-inspired killing of Los Angeles Black Panther Leader Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter led to Geronimo’s rise as the chapter’s deputy minister of defense. During a police raid on the Central Avenue office on Dec. 8, 1969, Geronimo so prepared the site that it withstood over six hours of a police paramilitary assault with automatic weapons and grenades.

Geronimo’s prominence and shine in the shadows of Hollywood so disturbed the state, local and federal governments that they framed him for a murder that it was impossible for him to commit and sent him to prison for 27 years.

When he was freed, it was because of an insistent, national movement and because federal government files revealed he was nearly 300 miles away when the murder took place. Also, the state’s chief witness was not only an LAPD undercover agent, but a snitch for the Los Angeles DA’s office as well as the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department – an agency that formerly employed him.

Upon his liberation, Geronimo, after going across the country to thank his supporters, left the land of his birth and joined a small expatriate community near Arusha, Tanzania.

Like several other ex-Panthers, he could never entrust his life or his freedom to the U.S. government.

Though he spent the balance of his years under a brilliant African sun, one suspects he longed for the rhythms of his native Louisiana – which remained in his speech and its accents.

It was in Louisiana, after all, that he learned about Black armed self-defense, for this was fertile ground for the Deacons for Defense, an armed body which resisted and forcefully discouraged Ku Klux Klan violence in the region.

Mumia Abu-Jamal
Geronimo ji-Jaga, a warrior for his people, returns to his ancestors.

© Copyright 2011 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.,” available from City Lights Publishing, www.citylights.com or (415) 362-8193. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

In memory of G. ji-Jaga

by Sistah Sheba, Black Panther Party

Two released political prisoners, Geronimo ji Jaga and Robert H. King of the Angola 3, both from Louisiana, both legends in their own time, meet on Oct. 9, 2007.
Some say they “can’t get no satisfaction” and sing a sad song over trifles.

I too have grieved over trifles,

Yet though I am sad, I have some satisfaction

For I think vindication is precious,

And he was vindicated a decade and a half before he returned to our faith-filled ancestors.

I have some satisfaction,

For I witnessed an adamantine integrity,

Yes adamantine means diamond-like, hard, bright, unbreakable,

Set in a sterling character that valued humanity more than diamonds and gold.

Every effort to free Geronimo was justified and rewarded by his conduct;

Everyone who joined the struggle to free all political prisoners was renewed and refreshed by his commitment to humanity and clean water;

Everywhere he went he left evidence of compassion and good deeds.

So, although I’m sad, I have some satisfaction,

Geronimo is free!

Thanks to Black Panther veteran and Bay View columnist Kiilu Nyasha for forwarding this tribute.

Transition of a soldier

by Marina Drummer for the International Campaign to Free the Angola 3 (Black Panther political prisoners)

Geronimo speaks excitedly to the press on his release from prison after 27 years. Beaming in the background is his faithful attorney, Johnnie Cochran. - Photo: Alexander Gallardo, LA Times/MCT
On June 2, 2011, we lost a soldier – geronimo ji-Jaga. It’s no exaggeration to say that without geronimo’s initial efforts, the Angola 3 coalition would never have existed. In 1997, Col. Bolt, who had spent 20 years in CCR (closed cell restriction) with Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King, went to geronimo’s release party to talk to him about the Angola prisoners, and so the campaign to free the Angola 3 was born.

From that moment on, the effort took on a life of its own, but geronimo ji-Jaga was always there to support it. In 2001, geronimo provided us with a statement of support for the Angola 3 coalition’s first newsletter. It barely seems possible that just a few weeks ago, geronimo attended the commemoration of Herman and Albert’s 39th year in solitary confinement in New Orleans.

geronimo’s generous nature and philanthropic efforts were given full reign during his 14 years of freedom. His work through the Kuji Foundation, which he founded, and his deep ties to Africa are just two of the many highlights of what he contributed during his years in minimum security.

We are thankful that his passing was swift and know that those of us whose lives he touched will forever keep him in our hearts. To the thousands of political prisoners in America’s Gulags, his contribution is an inspiration and his warrior spirit lives on wherever freedom struggles continue.

In 2001, geronimo issued the following statement in support of the Angola 3:

“Robert King Wilkerson, Albert Woodfox and Herman ‘Hooks’ Wallace are very dear to me because they come from my home state of Louisiana. The Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party was one of the best chapters we organized and they were some of our best, most disciplined soldiers. They were the kind of soldiers who never cried out to anyone for help, even though they were facing life imprisonment.

“Understand that after being in that kinda situation for so long, I can personally attest to the highly disciplined and dedicated nature of these askaris [soldiers in Swahili and Arabic]. They endured and they survived, over all the years, with very little help from the outside world. They are the kind of unsung heroes who we must come forward to help, because they never asked for anything from us in exchange for suffering what they have suffered.

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox in 2002
“To struggle for the people and not expect anything selfish in return is a rare thing and this is what King, Wallace and Fox have personified throughout all those hard years. They most certainly deserve our strongest salute.”

(*His way of being humble, geronimo never capitalized his name, so out of respect for him here, we spelled it as he did.)

Send some love and light to the two members of the Angola 3 who remain behind enemy lines: Herman Wallace, 76759, CCR, B-6, EHCC, P.O. Box 174, St. Gabriel, LA 70776; Albert Woodfox, 72148, NIA 3-CCR, David Wade Correctional Center, 670 Bell Hill Rd., Homer, LA 71040.

Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt

by Lynne Stewart, political prisoner

Geronimo before his release from prison
The untimely death of Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt has hit me very hard because it reminds me of all the work yet to be done. Not only the liberation of the oppressed, to which Geronimo dedicated himself as a young man and again after his release, but also the liberation of those locked away in the torture chambers of this Gulag U.S.

The loss of Geronimo is so difficult because he was robbed of the opportunity to contribute to the long term struggle for liberation of the Black community in his most productive years. Yes, there was always a mention or a placard, “Free Geronimo Pratt!” But his ability to publicly inspire and uplift was jailed at San Quentin. He was there in his 20s, 30s and 40s. The movement suffered. Hoover [J. Edgar Hoover, longtime head of the FBI] and his like triumphed. We must now undo this evil.

By torture chambers I mean, of course, the prison “holes.” Those places of solitary confinement where loneliness and total lack of human contact drive people mad. Even the strong are “modified.” Many of those who have been jailed in this way are political prisoners.

Many of them have been in 24-hour lockdown for more than 20 years and face the rest of their lives there. I really don’t need to name names – they are engraved on my heart and I hope on yours. Just check the Jericho website for a complete rundown. And also, dare I say it, the Project Salaam listing of Muslims wrongfully imprisoned.

If we are spared and are still in the world and able to act and activate, it is our primary obligation, if we think of ourselves as political, to take up this struggle and liberate those behind bars. As Mutulu Shakur wrote to me, and I paraphrase, “The faith of those who gave their all and still wait for the dedicated comrades, the People, to bring them home, is greater than any religious devotion.”

Lynne Stewart is interviewed at a protest just prior to her imprisonment. Her husband, Ralph Poynter, is at her shoulder.
Geronimo’s death reminds us of this paramount obligation. The enemy in the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons), the Nebraska, New York and Louisiana prisons will never act until those unjust imprisonments become more detrimental to them and their system than freeing our brothers and sisters. Action! Action! Change! Change!

Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt – Presente! Live Like Him!

Legendary lawyer for the people Lynne Stewart is currently a political prisoner. Send her some love and light: Lynne Stewart, 53504-054, FMC Carswell, Unit 2N, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.

Leonard Peltier remembers Geronimo Pratt

Greetings to all my friends and compatriots,

Sean Penn visits Geronimo and Pete O'Neal at the United African Alliance Community Center in Imbaseni Village, Arusha, Tanzania, in 2005. Geronimo spent the rest of his life there after his release, using his settlement to help the people.
Everyone, it seems, knows something about Geronimo Pratt. To all of us, to every human being on the planet, he was a beacon of principle that we should all aspire to emulate. To those directly involved in the struggle, he was one of those gifted, tough as nails warriors who not only had the vision to know what was right but the strength and courage to stick to his convictions no matter the cost. When he had to be, he was a terror to his enemies.

To me, he was a friend and an ally. I met him in jail, of course, so many years ago. He always had so much of my respect.

He gave his all to the fight for liberation, justice and equality. His effectiveness as a man and a leader can be measured by the extent to which the enemies of justice and equality went to in order to try and silence him. It wasn’t enough to frame him for murder. It wasn’t enough to flush 27 years of his life down a hell hole. No, they had to take those closest to him as well.

But even the simultaneous losses of his freedom and the lives of his wife and unborn child could not break him. All the lies and injustices they could muster could not subdue such greatness. The combined resources of the FBI, Los Angeles police and the Los Angeles district attorney’s office couldn’t defeat him.

What those in power did not understand was that Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt was no ordinary man. He was a giant among men and remained focused during the most trying times. What they did not comprehend was that you can jail the warrior but not his ideas, his strength or his affect on others.

No one would have blamed him if, after 26 years in jail, he wanted to live a private life and age gracefully. True to his nature, he continued to be a light in the darkness, fighting for human rights until his death. He gave everything to the issues which he held most dear. In doing so, he inspired generations of young people who carry on his legacy.

Perhaps it is fitting that this statement is being prepared on the anniversary of his false conviction being vacated. With that in mind, now that I think about it, this can and should be a time of celebration. Rather than mourn a loss of such magnitude, let us rejoice that we were blessed with such a presence to begin with.

The history of mankind is not written by corrupt governments or their shadow agencies. It is formed by greatness of spirit and strength of mind. This is why Elmer Pratt will always be remembered and honored as a prophet and perhaps even a saint to his people. I know wherever he is, he is speaking truth to power and rallying spirits to his cause.

This was not a spark that died! He was a fuse igniting a series of events that we have yet to fully understand. I am certain in the fullness of time that he will be celebrated, while those who opposed him and their descendants will hang their heads in shame. It is this knowledge that makes me smile, and weep tears of great appreciation.

Leonard Peltier
So raise your hands, raise your hearts, raise your voices. Give thanks to Wankan Tanka that such a titan walked amongst us. Never forget this incendiary spirit that opened minds and knocked down walls. Say his name with reverence for he represents the very best of us all, and in that he will live forever.

In the spirit of crazy horse … Doksha,

Leonard Peltier

American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier has been a political prisoner since 1977. Send him some love and light: Leonard Peltier, 89637-132, U.S. Penitentiary Lewisburg, P.O. Box 1000, Lewisburg PA 17837.

geronimo ji-Jaga

by Sundiata Acoli

geronimo ji-Jaga was a true “Top Soldier.” Highly skilled in warfare, tested and proven on the battlefields of Vietnam, he returned stateside to put his expertise at the service of the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army and other select organizations of the era. He saved many lives. He made many soldiers.

Sundiata Acoli
geronimo, or “G” as we called him, was our much beloved comrade, brother, hero and leader. He was also a father and husband who literally gave his entire life over to the liberation of Africans, here and abroad, and other oppressed people worldwide. He was all that and yet he was one of the most forgiving persons I have ever known. It was part of his makeup and his enigma.

G fought to the end. He gave all that he had and we Afrikans, and others oppressed, are all the better for it. We are forever in his debt.

May the ancestors receive him with their proudest salute to a returning soldier.

Black Liberation Army veteran Sundiata Acoli has been a political prisoner since 1974. Send him some love and light: Sundiata Acoli, 39794-066, FCI Otisville, P.O. BOX 1000, Otisville NY 10963.

3 thoughts on “Geronimo ji-Jaga: Tributes from Black Panther comrades and current political prisoners

  1. Pray4Peace

    I am sorry for the lost of this man.

    The Supreme Court upheld the constitution and California must reduce the number of prisoners it packs in like cattle at feedlots.

    Too many of those people are innocent. Support the innocence project.

    BAN the BOX on government, rental, and employment forms that one is suppose to check if one has ever been incarcerated regardless of how many years one has been crime free.

    Reply
  2. General Giap

    he was a warrior brave in battle,
    the sun has set for this comrade
    now he is a warrior harmonizing with the ancestors

    Reply

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