Yogi and Harold were leaders among men: Two stories of revolutionary valor

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by Brother Khalfani Malik Khaldun

“Princes shall come out of Egypt: Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God.” – Psalm 68:31

Prison is but a microcosm of the larger society. So what occurs in society occurs in prison, only on a smaller scale. Leaders are born or forged as a result of repressive conditions, like steel is melted by the fire and flame and fashioned into what is desired. Leadership is born in this way.

Khalfani Malik Khaldun in a photo taken April 27, 2011
Khalfani Malik Khaldun in a photo taken April 27, 2011

In 1987, I entered prison, the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC), as a 17-year-old boy and forced into a dark world akin to hell on earth. Having heard stories about the host of terrible things happening inside of IDOC, to say that I was nervous and apprehensive would be an understatement.

With each experience came awareness, maturity and personal confidence. I learned early on in my sentence that the strong control the weak, and the strategic thinker controlled the strong.

I would eventually come in contact with many older prisoners who would be identified as personal litigators of civil and criminal law. Others were teachers, education promoters, health and exercise specialists, and revolutionaries.

Their presence in general population was encouraging and influenced a wave of prisoners to give up traditional behaviors. Prisoners who once glorified the criminal lifestyle and deeply rooted reactionary attitudes would be humbled into various educational study programs, becoming then radical and militant, embracing new names and identities as conscious, strong new men.

Prisoners who once glorified the criminal lifestyle and deeply rooted reactionary attitudes would be humbled into various educational study programs, becoming then radical and militant, embracing new names and identities as conscious, strong new men.

My reading and research impacted my transition, causing me to mature and pick up the banner for political change. I encountered the struggle of the Black Panther Party for Self-defense and Field Marshal George Jackson, who likewise had become a leader within the belly of the beast and who was killed by San Quentin guards on Aug. 21, 1971.

George Jackson was a general in opposition to the brutality and repression being carried out by the California Department of Corrections. He ignited a fire that spread in the hearts of stand-up men who are symbols of leadership today.

Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinnell, born 71 years ago, was one of those leaders who declared war on the prisoncrats who were responsible for brutalizing prisoners in California prison plantations. He spent 52 years in those prisons, 48 years in solitary confinement, 44 years denied any human contact, 44 years no phone calls, with 35 years without a bad conduct sanction, 10 years denied parole.

Reading stories about him, his own personal writings and sacrifices made me want to network with him. We exchanged letters that aided me in my personal growth and development. His relationship with the likes of George Jackson inspired me to believe in liberation and our own prison struggle in the IDOC. The examples they gave as revolutionary leadership transformed my life and that of many others who became aspiring revolutionaries.

So when we received word from outside comrades that in August – always August it seems – on Aug. 12, 2015, Comrade Hugo was stabbed and killed while on a canteen line in New Folsom Prison yard, the world stood still for us. After being buried alive for 46 years in solitary confinement, our comrade had been in general population not even a month.

The examples Hugo Pinnell and George Jackson gave as revolutionary leadership transformed my life and that of many others who became aspiring revolutionaries. So when we received word from outside comrades that in August – always August it seems – on Aug. 12, 2015, Comrade Hugo was stabbed and killed while on a canteen line in New Folsom Prison yard, the world stood still for us.

In Yogi Bear’s spirit, we here in the IDOC declare our solidarity in continuing the fight against our common enemies of fascism, colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. The IDOC has seen its share of revolutionary moments inspired by the struggles occurring around the world.

Conditions of repression would breed a fervor of youthful revolutionary resistance. This political transition and tide of change would catch me up in its wave.

Our conscious men who were being examples of proper manhood and qualified leadership advocated education over everything. They promoted a strong identity as New Afrikans, and Black Pride, self-determination, self-empowerment and love of self.

Harold Brown, known as H.B. by all who loved, respected and honored him, entered the confines of the IDOC some 40 years ago, a product of the Black movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. Transformed inside the walls of these prison plantations, abandoning any inclination toward criminal mentalities, he aided in radicalizing a generation of New Afrikan prisoners, who would later become revolutionaries here in Indiana.

Comrade Harold Brown sacrificed many of his years in prison trying to overturn restrictive policies that isolated prisoners in solitary confinement. He made time for the youth elements and guided them out of darkness into the light.

Thanks to H.B., I and a host of other prisoners obtained our GEDs and assumed Afrikan names, liberating ourselves from those handed down to us from plantation slavery. We became men and strongly embraced revolutionary politics.

Comrade Harold Brown sacrificed many of his years in prison trying to overturn restrictive policies that isolated prisoners in solitary confinement. He made time for the youth elements and guided them out of darkness into the light. Thanks to H.B., I and a host of other prisoners obtained our GEDs and assumed Afrikan names, liberating ourselves from those handed down to us from plantation slavery. We became men and strongly embraced revolutionary politics.

In 1994, after a prison guard was stabbed and killed at Indiana State Prison, I was charged with the murder on Dec. 13 of 1994. I was kidnapped and removed from general population and sent to solitary, where I would be kept for 20 long years, hidden away and separated from my comrades.

In November 2014 the prisoncrats finally released me. My comrade H.B. showed up, having been transferred from ISP to the hospital unit at Wabash Valley Correctional. Word hit the mainline that H.B. was critically ill, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

On my way to a visit I encountered a friend pushing a frail person in a wheelchair. As I approached, I noticed the man in the wheelchair was my comrade H.B. Like old friends do, we then took a moment to catch up, exchanged hugs.

H.B. was honest with me; he was prepared to die. He said, “Comrade Khal, we have lived our lives on our own terms.” He was OK with going to Paradise and had made his peace with Allah.

Cancer claimed his body aggressively then, and he deteriorated rapidly. On Oct. 30 I was granted a visit with him in the hospital unit. It took an hour for the nurses to clean him up. Before I was allowed to see him he was throwing up all over himself.

When he saw me, though, he smiled. I did what I could to console him. We discussed how long we had been comrades, and how he aided me in becoming a mature, politically conscious man.

Seeing this man who was once in the best of shape and health being in the throes of death affected me greatly. I prayed that Allah deliver him to Paradise and remove all his pain and that his transition be soon.

This day and experience humbled me; tears flowed from my eyes. As time to part drew near, I promised I would tell his story as I knew it to be. He said, “Khal, I love you man. Be careful and watch out for those who would hurt you to please the enemy of us all.” I walked back to my housing unit; it was to be the last time seeing my comrade and friend.

On Nov. 9, 2015, at 2 a.m. in the morning, Harold departed this world and entered Paradise. Harold Brown was truly a leader among men and shall be honored as such. In the likeness of George Jackson and Hugo Pinnell, long live Comrade H.B., one of our fallen leaders. Rest in Paradise, old dear and faithful friend.

The struggle continues.

Send our brother some love and light: Khalfani Malik Khaldun (Leonard McQuay), 874304, Cell P-203, P.O. Box 1111, Carlisle, IN 47838.

 

 

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