Prison Panthers and awakening the Black radical

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington

“What made him (Malcolm X) unfamiliar and dangerous was not his hatred for white people but his love for Blacks, his apprehension of the horror of the Black condition, and the reasons for it, and his determination to work on their hearts and minds so that they would be enabled to see their condition and change it themselves.” – James Baldwin, “No Name in the Street,” pages 96-97

Comrade-Malik-art-by-Rashid-1116-web-271x300, Prison Panthers and awakening the Black radical, Abolition Now!
“Comrade Malik” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 158039, Santa Rosa CI, 5850 Milton Rd., Milton FL 32083

I have always said that if you want to understand the nature of a thing, you must research its origin. I would venture to say that the iconic freedom fighter and servant of the people Malcolm X was the first “Prison Panther,” although he was not known officially as such. However, when Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in 1966 at Merritt College in Oakland, California, the legacy of their hero, OUR HERO, Malcolm X was on their mind.

Police in Oakland were beating Black people down and sometimes murdering them like it was going out of style. The Black Panthers sought to defend Black people and poor people as a whole from this pervasive and systemic problem of police brutality that was plaguing every ghetto and barrio across the United States of Amerika.

Moreover, there was an enemy to face that was far more complex than police brutality and racism in Amerika. Imperialism and capitalism had to be confronted. The Panthers had discovered the teachings of Chairman Mao and through their own revolutionary theory and practice they would become a force for socialist change and proletarian revolution in Amerika, although many today have forgotten that.

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The Black Panthers sought to defend Black people and poor people as a whole from this pervasive and systemic problem of police brutality that was plaguing every ghetto and barrio across the United States of Amerika.

We hear the stories and we listen to the history of the Panthers and we sometimes also forget that some of the most courageous Panthers were women! Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Y. Davis, Afeni Shakur, Elaine Brown and the magnificent Assata Shakur – these were just a few of the strong, intelligent and dynamic leaders and female cadre members of the Black Panthers.

Nevertheless, there was a “dark specter” that lurked behind the scenes. Male chauvinism and patriarchy plagued the party. Our beautiful ancestor and comrade in arms Safiya Bukhari spoke about this issue in writings to Panther women in 1969. Self criticism and criticism were practiced within the ranks of the Black Panthers, although some did not like it. In fact, some still don’t like it but it is desperately needed if we are to progress.

When we talk about Prison Panthers, we remember “The Dragon,” Comrade George L. Jackson. His book “Soledad Brother” thrust him into the Amerikan spotlight. It would seem that the assassination of Comrade George ushered in the era of the Prison Panther. This actually is quite strange because when the party was founded, neither Huey nor Bobby was a criminal or convict, but with the creation of COINTELPRO, that would change.

Eldridge Cleaver and others split from the original Panther Party and soon the underground and clandestine Black Liberation Army was formed. Assata Shakur was imprisoned, her daughter was born and soon Assata was liberated.

Before long, all of the revolutionaries of the people were either locked down in slave kamps and gulags across Amerika or they were DEAD. Over a dozen of our comrades still languish in the most horrible conditions. It is time we brought them home.

Many of us celebrate the granting of parole for long held political prisoner and former Black Panther Herman Bell. Forty-five years is such a long time. Brother Herman was not granted parole by the state of New York because of their humanitarianism.

Brother Herman was granted his freedom because there was a national outcry for justice after our brother was nearly beaten to death in September 2017 by prison guards at Comstock! If you didn’t want to hear the truth, then you should not have begun reading this essay!

Before long, all of the revolutionaries of the people were either locked down in slave kamps and gulags across Amerika or they were DEAD. Over a dozen of our comrades still languish in the most horrible conditions. It is time we brought them home.

And now our demand is that all of our long held political prisoners are released. Jalil Muntaqim has been incarcerated over 47 years and like Brother Herman Bell, Jalil has had an excellent prison record filled with academic achievements and service to his fellow prisoners and free world human beings. It is certainly time to bring him home.

Sundiata Acoli is 80 years old and the oppressors had the nerve to give him a 15-year setoff! I am not understanding the logic here.

But then I see what it is. White supremacy is sitting in the White House right now! It is at the Justice Department calling the shots.

It is not enough for them to cage our Black bodies. They, the white supremacist ruling elite, want to torture, abuse, maim and KILL our Black bodies and they sit and dare us to do something about it. I think they’d best start listening to the words of Tupac Shakur in his song “Hail Mary”: “I’M NOT A KILLER BUT DON’T TEST ME!”

And now our demand is that all of our long held political prisoners are released.

It is certainly time to awaken the Black radical. Let us reflect more on the words of James Baldwin in “No Name in the Street”:

“The government is absolutely determined to wipe the Black Panthers from the face of the earth: which is but another way of saying that it is absolutely determined to keep the nigger in his place. But this merciless and bloody repression, which is carried out, furthermore, with a remarkable contempt for the sensibilities and intelligence of the Black people of this nation – for who can believe the police reports? – causes almost all Blacks to realize that neither the government, the police, nor the populace are able to distinguish between a Black Panther, a Black school child, or a Black lawyer. And this reign of terror is creating a great problem in prisons all over this country.”

“No Name in the Street” was published in 1972 and the question presents itself; “Has anything really changed in Amerika?” New Afrikan (Black) blood runs like water in the streets of Amerika. Stephon Clark was recently murdered by the police in Sacramento, California, and oh how I long for those Black leather jacket clad sisters and brothers with carbine rifles and ammunition to remind the pigs that really and truly “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and we will defend them – but most don’t want to hear me.

It is certainly time to awaken the Black radical.

Respected elders of the Black Liberation Movement are growing old and dying in Amerikan prisons. Some, like our beloved Comrade Hugo “Yogi” Pinnell, have become victims of PLANNED ASSASSINATIONS. Could there ever be a better time for the reawakening of the Black radical?

I was going to entitle this essay, “The resurrection of the Black radical in Amerika,” but that would have led some of you to believe that the Black radical had died. Die we did, but not a physical death, not totally. More so we have undergone a social death and spiritual death.

The Black radical has been beaten down and suppressed to the point that it takes a “superwoman” or a “superman” to expose themselves to the world. Surely they know that the New Wave J. Edgar Hoover-esque agents of repression stand ready to launch a counterattack to our would-be radicalism.

Could there ever be a better time for the reawakening of the Black radical?

Before I delve deeper into this subject, allow me to quote Brother James Baldwin again as he defines the true and realistic nature and personality of the pre-eminent Black scholar and Black radical Malcolm X:

“Malcolm considered himself to be the spiritual property of the people who produced him. He did not consider himself to be their savior, he was far too modest for that, and gave that role to another; but he considered himself to be their servant and in order not to betray that trust, he was willing to die, and died. Malcolm was not a racist, not even when he thought he was. His intelligence was more complex than that; furthermore, if he had been a racist, not many in this racist country would have considered him dangerous.”

It is important for me to include these thoughts and words from James Baldwin because he defines the essence of Malcolm X in such a manner that it illuminates my description of the Black radical.

We see the Black intellectual in Amerika. Professor Michelle Alexander, Dr. Cornel West, Professors Michael Eric Dyson, Frank B. Wilderson and Angela Y. Davis come to mind. We see the Black activist, definitely embodied in #Black Lives Matter co-founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors. The work these sisters are doing is so very crucial to our existence, perhaps our survival depends on it!

I believe that Ava Duvernay and Ryan Coogler represent the Black artist whose art – that of filmmaking – has become a creative form of expressing our activism and scholarship all rolled into one.

But where is the radical? That uncompromising combination of activism, intellectualism and soldier of and FOR the people? Where is the Black radical in Amerika?

More often than not today you can find a bona fide Black radical inside one of Amerika’s many prisons and jails. I have had personal interactions and encounters with a few Black radicals but none has had the impact, effect and influence that Kevin “Rashid” Johnson has had on me. Rashid is the minister of defense for the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter.

But where is the radical? That uncompromising combination of activism, intellectualism and soldier of and FOR the people? Where is the Black radical in Amerika?

In Amerika, most liberals and progressives have divorced themselves from discussing or even promoting anti-imperialism. Considering that capitalism and imperialism have caused so much death and destruction in Amerika and abroad, I can’t help but wonder how these so-called progressives miss the connection between imperialism and the increase of racist attitudes and behavior as well as an all-out attack on the poor and the proletariat. Unless of course they are in on “the game.”

The detrimental effects of imperialism and capitalism are not ig­nored by Comrade Rashid, as is evident in his theory and practice.

Let us take a look at an excerpt from our NEW PARTY PUBLICATION, Main Line. In Issue No. 2, Rashid says:

“The rise of Trump is challenging the ‘political correctness’ of concealing racist attitudes and beliefs, which is emboldening hard core racial reactionaries and giving rise to a repopularization of overt racism. In fact, the Western ruling class has been pushing racial reaction everywhere in the face of destabilization of capital­ism across the West.”

As “new generation” Prison Panthers who have been politicized, both Rashid and I clearly see the problem and now we are making moves in order to address it.

Juneteenth-by-Kent-Black-Action-Commission-300x161, Prison Panthers and awakening the Black radical, Abolition Now!
“Juneteenth” – Art: Kent Black Action Commission of Kent, Washington


On June 19, 2018, I have called for an international day of direct action and solidarity in order to raise the public’s awareness in regard to our movement, which seeks to end prison slavery and to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and strike that EXCEPTION CLAUSE which has allowed state and federal prison agencies to visit slave-like conditions on incarcerated human beings.

However, Juneteenth this year is becoming so much more than just that. Juneteenth has become a rallying point for all of us in the Black community.

We must seriously think about utilizing our voting power to throw out these U.S. legislators who are going right along with the supremacist in chief who resides on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. These people in Trump’s administration continue to make moves that are hurting the most vulnerable cross sections of Amerikan society, and I just don’t see the Amerikan people taking much more of this.

So as Black people we must utilize the little power we do have to help our undocumented sisters and brothers, we must stand up for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, we must fight to protect the religious rights of our Jewish, Christian and Muslim sisters and brothers, and we most definitely need to support Antifa as they confront and combat the growing numbers of neo-nazis and white supremacists in Amerika and Europe!

It is my hope that we can encourage a “big name” to sponsor a bill that will finally totally ABOLISH SLAVERY IN AMERIKA! It could be Sen. Kamala Harris, Congressman Keith Ellison, Sen. Cory Booker or my personal choice, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee!

Someone needs to recognize that in 2018 there should be no “exception clause” allowing slavery in the United States of Amerika.

But we must understand as a people that amending the 13th is not going to provide a miraculous cure to the many problems we face; it is only one step in the protracted struggle. I can tell you this, that if we are successful in amending the 13th, it will open the door to a flurry of litigation, where prisoners in states such as Florida, Alabama and Texas will be able to DEMAND to be PAID FOR THEIR FORCED LABOR and have the backing of the U.S. Constitution! That would be BIG.

With all this said, I just hope some of you will participate in some of the activities planned for Juneteenth. I truly believe that the cause is worthwhile.

Remembering our fallen comrades

Black-Panther-Political-Prisoners-in-movie-poster-style-by-Left-Voice-163x300, Prison Panthers and awakening the Black radical, Abolition Now! There is no way that I could write a piece on Prison Panthers and ignore those who have paid the ultimate price and who have passed on to join the Ancestors. I want to thank the Jericho Movement and New York ABC for their work in raising the public’s awareness of our long-held political prisoners.

I believe that freed political prisoner and former BLA member Sekou Odinga and his beautiful wife and partner dequi kioni-sadiki continue to do some of the best advocacy work for current and past Prison Panthers. In their essay, “We Reserve the Right to Resist: Prison Wars and Black Resistance,” they mention some of our fallen comrades we must never forget:

Albert “Nuh” Washington, Mondo we Langa, Bashir Hameed, Kuwasi Balagoon, Teddy “Jah” Heath and Richard Williams ALL died behind the wall, while Herman Wallace, Marilyn Buck, Dr. Alan Berkman, Geronimo ji Jaga and Lynne Stewart died within days, weeks or a few years following their release from years and decades of unjust political imprisonment.

So with all the millions upon millions generated by the movie “Black Panther,” perhaps there will be anonymous healthy donations to the legal freedom funds of Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ed Poindexter and our beloved brother Ruchell Cinque Magee.

I think California activist Malkia Cyril summed things up in a short quote that appears in an article written by journalist Sam Levin. Malkia said: “We need people to understand that these are not simply criminals who committed some heinous crime being punished. These are Black activists who are largely being punished for their activism.”

And then former Black Panther and Oakland native Ericka Huggins knocked the ball out of the park by simply saying, “They all uplifted people.”

Nothing more really needs to be said; you are either “feeling me” or you’re not. My name is Comrade Malik and I am a New Afrikan Black Panther!

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, All Power to the People!

Keith “Malik” Washington is co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign and deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter. Read Malik’s work at and a story about him on PAPS Blog. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 1487958, Eastham Unit, 2665 Prison Rd 1, Lovelady TX 75851.