Remembering Yogi

by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey

YogiGÇÖs-Memorial-Allegra-at-AAACC-042316-by-JR-BR-web-169x300, Remembering Yogi, Culture Currents
Many members of Yogi’s family spoke of their love for him. His daughter Allegra brought the house to tears with her message. – Photo: JR Valrey, Block Report

The memorial for Hugo “Yogi” Lyon Antonio Pinell was a beautiful and monumental event that loved ones, comrades and the community came from far and wide to attend. The celebration was held at the African American Art and Culture Complex on 762 Fulton in San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore district on April 23, one day before the birthday of the legendary writer, former Panther and political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal.

The event, hosted by former Black Panthers Tyisha Phillips and Arthur League, started off with former Panther Frank Kellum pouring libations, where the memories of many freedom fighters and family members were conjured.

A number of members from Yogi’s family spoke in a very spirited way about their loved one, including his granddaughter Lauretta, his sister Theresa, his brother Bobby Cayetano and daughter Allegra, who brought the house to tears with her message. His step-son Blaine Lyon played a number of tunes on his guitar in honor of Yogi, including Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Three of the four surviving members of the San Quentin 6, Sundiata Tate, Bato Talamantez and David Johnson, spoke passionately on what they remembered about the indomitable spirit of their comrade as well as the regular torture that he endured at the hands of the state’s concentration camp system, including beatings by guards, more than four and a half decades of isolation in solitary confinement without being able to touch another human being, being welded into his cell and more.

Another comrade from the prison movement, Shujaa Graham, flew in from Maryland and talked about how Yogi and the other comrades inspired him to fight harder and never give up, even though Graham was on death row before winning his release.

YogiGÇÖs-Memorial-Elilta-David-Johnson-Shabaka-Ji-Jaga-at-AAACC-042316-by-JR-BR-web-300x169, Remembering Yogi, Culture Currents
Elilta and David Johnson of the San Quentin 6 share a few words at the memorial for Yogi, as Shabaka Ji Jaga looks on. – Photo: JR Valrey, Block Report
Yogis-Memorial-Kujichagulia-at-AAACC-042316-by-Xion-Abiodun-web-169x300, Remembering Yogi, Culture Currents
Ms. Kujichagulia ripped the mic with her legendary poetry set, which was backed up by the drumming of Val Serrant. – Photo: Xion Abiodun

The people’s doctor and former Panther Tolbert Small read a couple of poems dedicated to Yogi and told the story of how George Jackson was actually the one who personally told him about Yogi, an impressive Afro-Nicaraguan brother who struggled alongside the Blacks in the movement for human rights and self-determination in the prison system. A number of other people played a part in the event, including Manuel La Fontaine, a member of All of Us or None, who read Yogi’s bio, as well as a member of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee who gave a solidarity speech on their behalf.

Former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party Emory Douglas was on his way to Cuba, so couldn’t make it, but he sent a statement to be read, remembering his childhood friend from San Francisco and his comrade in the movement. Last but not least the legendary musician Kujichagulia performed alongside her drummer Val Serrant as they gave a revolutionary musical tribute to Yogi, always the warrior and lover of humanity.

YogiGÇÖs-Memorial-Shujaa-Graham-David-Johnson-Shabaka-Ji-Jaga-Sundiata-Tate-at-AAACC-042316-by-JR-BR-web-300x169, Remembering Yogi, Culture Currents
Shujaa Graham, an activist and former political prisoner who was once on death row, David Johnson of the San Quentin 6, Shabaka Ji Jaga of the Free Geronimo Ji Jaga campaign and Sundiata Tate of the San Quentin 6 were some of the giants from our community who came out to pay tribute to the life and legacy of Hugo “Yogi” Pinell at his memorial. – Photo: JR Valrey, Block Report
YogiGÇÖs-Memorial-Ramal-Lamar-crowd-at-AAACC-042316-by-JR-BR-web-300x169, Remembering Yogi, Culture Currents
Ramal Lamar was one of the young people who grew up with mentors directly from the prison movement and the Black Panther Party. He served food to the people at the memorial for Yogi. People of all nationalities were at this tribute for Yogi, which counters mainstream media and the state’s narrative that he was a hardened criminal with nothing to offer to society. – Photo: JR Valrey, Block Report

Others, like Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, Oscar Grant’s uncle, and his wife, Sis. Beatrice X, were there, KPOO broadcaster Donald Lacy attended, Southern Cali organizer for the event, G2, came with a carload from LA. Qilombo organizer Tim Killings, as well as longtime organizers Rashida, Elilta, Ramal and more gave their salute to an elder that they have only met through the stories of other community elders from the movement. And 12-year-old Xion played her part by being one of the people serving food at the event. I could not even begin to transcribe the range of emotions displayed at this beautiful event for the sending off of a righteous warrior of the highest order.

YogiGÇÖs-Memorial-Arthur-League-co-host-at-AAACC-042316-by-JR-BR-web-169x300, Remembering Yogi, Culture Currents
All of Us or None member and former Black Panther Arthur League was the co-host of the Yogi Memorial held in San Francisco on April 23 at the African American Art and Culture Complex.
YogiGÇÖs-Memorial-Beatrice-X-Johnson-Cephus-GÇÿUncle-BobbyGÇÖ-Johnson-at-AAACC-0423by-JR-BR-web-300x169, Remembering Yogi, Culture Currents
Beatrice X Johnson and her husband, Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the activist uncle of Oscar Grant, were in the house for all of the festivities and speeches surrounding the celebration for Yogi. – Photo: JR Valrey, Block Report

Some are saying that we will celebrate Yogi’s life every year in the Bay around his birthday, March 10, so look to his family or to to let people know. Yogi presente! Long Live the Guerrilla!

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at He can be reached at