by Cynthia McKinney
In a time when true friendship is a lost art, I can truly say that Dedon Kamathi was my friend. How difficult it is for me to use the past tense.
I am listening now to KPFK, the Los Angeles community radio station that Dedon truly loved. His show “Freedom Now!” seared the airwaves every week with the inconvenient truths that not very many people want to hear. Pacifica gave Dedon space to educate us all and to receive his warm embrace.
I first met him when he was speaking at a labor event co-sponsored by KPFK. He was like the Mughal charming the snake, and I was the snake. It was the fire of his brilliance. I took note that there was at least one person on this planet who was just as fired up for justice as me.
When I returned to Los Angeles, I asked to meet him. He almost refused. He didn’t like sellout politicians. He didn’t know me.
Finally, I got the meeting and for the next few months, I was subjected to Dedon’s “Test of Worthiness.” He would ask me every question he could think of and I would answer. Actually, it was fun. We would argue, debate, agree until the wee hours of the morning!
And then, all of a sudden, there was nothing more to debate! I was confused. But Dedon was sure. There was nothing more to debate because, as he would introduce me to his friends, I was the most radical member of Congress and as the Green Party presidential nominee, I had earned his support. He voted for the first time, and his first vote was for me.
Having passed the test, he allowed me into his life: I traveled with him to meet his mother and his children. He traveled with me to Libya and Syria. When I traveled to California, Dedon’s home was my home. He even cooked for me and always had a hearty laugh when I asked for a meal from El Pollo Loco, a fast food restaurant whose healthy food was not available on the East Coast.
I live in awe of the Black Panther Party members because of their struggle and their sacrifice and their acute awareness of the dirty underbelly of the U.S. empire. They provided real pushback for community mistreatment that required every element of the state apparatus to defeat.
U.S. government actions against the Black Panther Party provide a textbook for me on the many ways that the U.S. government will destroy the lives of its own citizens, rather than allow the Constitution to apply to them. Their treatment and my awareness of it has shaped my entire political understanding. The courage and commitment of the men of the Black Panther Party became, to me, the logical consequence of the courage and commitment of men like my father, steeped in the struggle for at least a generation before them.
Finally, Dedon would say that he was my most loyal follower. But the truth of it was that he was my leader. His favorite saying was “Ready for the Revolution.” Dedon was ready for the revolution, but the community that he gave so much to continues in its state of unreadiness.
In my case, Dedon perfected the art of being a friend; the community that was lucky enough to know him will miss him. My condolences to his family and to the entire community that received the best that Dedon Kamathi had to give – all his love for all his life.
Cynthia McKinney, former six-term Georgia congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, can be reached at Cynthia@runcynthiarun.org and on Facebook at CynthiaMcKinneyOfficial. Subscribe to her Updates at http://lists.allthingscynthiamckinney.com/listinfo.cgi/updates-allthingscynthiamckinney.com.