Celebrate Geronimo on Sunday, July 17, 3-6 p.m., at Bobby Hutton (Defremery) Park, 18th and Adeline, West Oakland. All three hours will be broadcast live on KPFA 94.1FM or streaming and archived at kpfa.org
by Russell “Maroon” Shoats/z
To fight off the Dutch slavers, Queen Nzinga turned to the fierce Jaga people. Long addicted to senseless warfare with neighboring Afrikans, the queen won them over by marrying their leader. Thereafter, the Jaga were in the forefront of the fight against slavery from Afrika to the Americas.
For hundreds of years, the Apache scourged the European invaders. Their last great war leader’s name is known the world over: Geronimo!
In the Louisiana bayou, a descendent of slaves was born into the Pratt clan. His parents named him Elmer Pratt and his entire community suffered under the racial apartheid that afflicted the United States at the time. Since Pratt was a strong and thoughtful boy, his community encouraged him to shoulder the task of working to help defend the downtrodden who surrounded him.
Unable to discover a better way to acquire the skills needed to fulfill that task, Pratt joined the U.S. military and subsequently served in two tours of duty as an airborne soldier in Vietnam, earning rank and becoming wounded in battle.
But once back in the U.S., Pratt immediately placed his hard earned skills at the disposal of the Black Panther Party, who were being attacked and killed by the FBI and local police for daring to defend the Black community.
Thereafter, Pratt’s training and influence reshaped the Panthers until later raids by their oppressors were met with stiff and well organized resistance, which fought the police and FBI to standstills from coast to coast.
Pratt was so successful in his efforts that everyone began to call him Geronimo! An early Black Liberation Army member, Geronimo carried on the struggle underground until his guerrilla unit was betrayed and captured.
Falsely convicted of an unrelated, senseless crime, he had been neutralized forever, the FBI and police thought. Yet, while serving 27 long, harsh years in prison, Geronimo became a powerful source of inspiration to those who continued the fight against oppression. Thus, in his maturity, he joined with his ancestors to continue the fight as Geronimo ji Jaga!
After a titanic struggle, he finally escaped the clutches of his tormentors and, coming full circle, he returned to Mother Afrika to continue his efforts there, while raising a family. His death and transition were a shock to everyone, yet his legacy remains to both inspire and energize us and generations to come with the spirit of his Jaga ancestors and his namesake, Geronimo.
Russell Maroon Shoats is a founding member of the Black Unity Council, which merged with the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1969, and a soldier in the Black Liberation Army serving multiple life sentences for the killing of a police officer. He has been in prison since 1972 except for two escapes, in 1977 and 1980, that won him brief periods of freedom. He has been in solitary confinement at SCI Greene, the same prison where Mumia Abu-Jamal is held, since 1991. Send our brothers some love and light: Russell Maroon Shoats, AF-3855, SCI Greene, 175 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, PA 15370.
For a series of videos that bring Geronimo back to this life, go to FreedomArchives.org/Geronimo.