Tag: Elbert “Big Man” Howard
Elbert “Big Man” Howard died in Santa Rosa at the age of 80 on July 23. The memorial service was held on Aug. 25. Howard was one of six founding members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. He was well known as one of the most instrumental members in many facets of organizing during his time with the party. The memorial was packed with original Panthers who shared candid stories of their time with Howard.
With our planetary situation worsening – from massive flooding in India to Bangladesh, fire-nados raging out of control from Siberia to California and record high temperatures in Scandinavia and the Arctic, etc. – you and your organization are encouraged to join the worldwide RISE FOR CLIMATE JOBS & JUSTICE on Saturday, 8 September. In our region, the march will convene at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, at 10 a.m. This major people’s mobilization precedes the so-called “Global Climate Summit.”
It is with great sadness we say good-bye to a truly remarkable revolutionary, Kiilu Nyasha. I first met Kiilu in New Haven, Connecticut, around 1969. She was serving as a coordinator, advocate and cook for the Black Panther Party Breakfast for School Children program there. My comrade, Kiilu Nyasha, was an uncompromising, revolutionary force. We will forever miss her courage and strength of character, her determination, her talents and her absolute devotion and love for her comrades and the people. Kiilu Nyasha, rest in peace.
Grove Street College was opened in 1954. This two-year community college served a student body which consisted mostly of poor, disenfranchised Blacks in the surrounding flatlands of Oakland. Many of these people were older than 30 years of age and had not previously had an opportunity to attend college. They had hopes for better lives and enrolled as students seeking the knowledge and skills to help them attain and fulfill their goals.
We are freedom fighters incarcerated at Angola State Prison and are moving to build our organization Decarcerate Louisiana. We’re advocating for community reinvestment. We believe in sustainable economies and strong local communities. Decarcerate Louisiana is organizing to redress injustice and to battle against systemic racism, classism, inequality, oppression, repression, criminalization and mass incarceration in our communities.
In my opinion, if there ever was a murderous conspiracy committed by a city governing body, Oakland is it. Building and Fire Codes, Health Codes and Fire and Safety Regulations mean nothing to building owners, law enforcement and agencies designed to protect residents. Oakland city government members are elected, charged with and paid to see that code enforcement is being carried out in all public and private buildings in its zones. As a result of a monstrous dereliction of their duties, 36 young people have lost their lives in the most horrific way one can imagine. They were burned alive and/or killed by smoke inhalation, trapped in a flaming inferno with no warning and no means of escape.
If there was ever a time to organize around a United Front Against Fascism, it is now. The next leader of the “free world” has just been “elected” – more like “selected” – to be president of the United States. He has thereby been given the authority to use power and weapons as he sees fit. This same so-called president-elect has shown limitless disdain for all who are not white, heterosexual and Christian.
The 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party Conference, Oct. 20-23, held at the Oakland Museum of California and in Bobby Hutton Grove at deFremery Park, was a huge success. To see the Vanguards of the Revolution saluted in such elegant surroundings at the banquet Saturday evening was certainly a fitting tribute to the legacy their lives concretely represent. Hats off to the committee that organized the conference.
Looking back at the Black Panther Party is like looking at a large landscape of people, locations and events in time and space. For me, that time was between the years 1966 and 1974. As memory fades increasingly with age, I won’t try to document in detail specifics such as the names of people and the exact dates of events. However, I do remember working with some of the most dynamic, resourceful and dedicated community organizers on the planet.
My thoughts are the reflections of my life experiences. As to whether that is a life lived well or poorly, I will leave those questions and answers up to historians, critics, the general public and you, the reader. In that respect, while time permits, I will express some of my opinions. I think that 78 years in the game we call “life” grants me that privilege. Current events and conditions demand this of me. To jump right in, take “Black Lives Matter.”
On Oct. 22, 2013, in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus shot and killed unarmed, 13-year-old Andy Lopez without cause. Gelhaus, a trained weapons instructor and firearms expert, fired eight shots at Andy, hitting him seven times. So here we are, almost three years later and now the news that Deputy Gelhaus has been promoted to sergeant. This is outrageous.
The film by producer Stanley Nelson, entitled “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” is a well-produced documentary with a specific focus. Nelson makes good use of footage of actual events and music from the era to serve as both a background and accompaniment for the main ingredient of this film – comments from a number of former Black Panther Party members, featuring mainly some of the so-called “rank and file” members.
It has been two years since 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot down while walking to his friend’s house with a toy gun, killed by Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus. Gelhaus still patrols the streets of Santa Rosa, free and unprosecuted, as Andy’s family, friends and supporters continue to seek and demand justice. Now comes this most recent local news: A lawsuit, filed Oct. 5 by attorney Izaak Schwaiger and the Scott Law Firm, exposes Sonoma County as the “jail from hell.”
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” by Stanley Nelson is a documentary about a Black revolutionary organization in a revolutionary time. It is one of the best documentaries that I have ever seen that intends to tell the history of an organization that shook the world and fundamentally changed the way that Black people in the United States have looked at themselves for nearly half a century. It’s screening in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Rafael on Oct. 2. The Oakland screening is Saturday, Oct. 3, 1 p.m., Piedmont Theater, 4186 Piedmont Ave., followed by Q&A with Stanley Nelson and former Oakland Panther Steve McCutchen.
Like many of my comrades, original Black Panther Party members, I have for years watched these strutting caricatures who call themselves the New Black Panther Party and expressed my disgust. But now I have had enough – they have crossed a line. Their most recent attack on our comrade, former member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Dhoruba bin-Wahad on Aug. 8, 2015, needs to be addressed in no uncertain terms.
Some of the important rewards about being a former member of the Black Panther Party include opportunities to pass on our history and legacy to the next generations and to learn what young activists in other communities are accomplishing. This give and take of information is vital to continuing the struggle for human rights and against this oppressive “injustice” system which exists here and worldwide.
The Sonoma County Chapter of the ACLU held its annual Jack Green Awards Luncheon on May 3, 2015. A room filled with long time activists – attorneys as well as a new generation of community minded leaders – gathered to acknowledge this year’s honorees. Included were original founding member of the Black Panther Party Elbert “Big Man” Howard and his wife, Carole Hyams-Howard, a long time human rights activist and former community worker for the Black Panther Party.
It is of necessity and of urgency that we recognize that in order to understand our present situation and strive for change, we must come to terms with our past. We must tie America’s history of genocide and racism to our current history, to our so-called system of democracy, which is fundamentally hypocrisy, and to the lives of our lost youths of color at the hands of this system.
This month, I’m challenging all fathers of school age children to visit their classrooms at least one time during the school year. There is nothing that makes a child feel more appreciated and proud than having a parent come to school for positive reasons. Moms usually fill this role; let’s change that up this year. You don’t need any special skills, and most teachers will welcome you with open arms.
I am proposing that a fund or funds be set up in memory of Andy Lopez to help students, especially Latino students and other disenfranchised students of color, who are in need of financial support and are struggling to achieve the goal of higher education. I strongly urge that the district attorney, the sheriff, the City Council and the Board of Supervisors, as well as all law enforcement agencies, contribute to these efforts.
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