Our beloved Kiilu, 78, passed peacefully into the welcoming arms of the ancestors in the early morning of April 10, 2018. The celebration of her life planned for May 4 has been postponed.
by the People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey
I met Black Panther veteran Kiilu Nyasha in 1996, through my affiliation with the young Black revolutionary Oakland-based collective the Young Comrades and through my work with the Pan Afrikan Student Union at San Francisco State University, while I was a student there. I had heard her speak before I got to really know her.
I remember my initial thoughts the first few times that I heard her speak at SF State and at anti-war rallies in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. When she took the mic, and got into her groove, spitting her politics, the wheelchair melted away and she was 100 feet tall standing over us basically telling us to get with the program or get back.
She used to consistently kill the political apathy and timidity in people with her vocal passion and her tireless work ethic. I remember being at Free Mumia organizing meetings where sometimes Kiilu would be her happy self, exhibiting that beautiful smile, and sometimes she expressed a ferociousness that was always aimed at the state and its hold over the person that she was getting at.
Her love for political prisoners was immeasurable. She always stressed that we could never forget the souljahs who sacrificed their freedom for our movement. She is one of the people who implanted in my consciousness, early on, that the freedom of political prisoners and prisoners in general had to be heavily included in any serious political, not just revolutionary, agenda.
Kiilu was a serious political animal. She didn’t just debate or go to meetings; she was on the frontlines of political struggle from her spaceship on a daily basis until her health started slipping. If Kiilu could be on point, with not having a car and being disabled, and still show up at the Stop U.S. Imperialism in Haiti rallies and presentations, as well as the Give the Palestinians Their Land Back rallies, anti-police terror rallies, and many other causes, what excuse did I have?
I personally remember her teaching me about her close comrades who were former political prisoners as well as current political prisoners Ruchell Magee, the late Hugo Pinell, Chip Fitzgerald, Sundiata Acoli, Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Dylcia Pagan, Ramona Africa and so many more – bringing real life to icons. She always encouraged me to write the people we were representing so we could get to know them on a human level.
Her love for political prisoners was immeasurable. She always stressed that we could never forget the souljahs who sacrificed their freedom for our movement.
She often told me about her love for the guerrilla George Jackson, field marshall of the Black Panther Party, and that she injured her body trying to be like the man she regarded as a perfect personification of a revolutionary. She also had a profound love for former Haitian President Aristide of Haiti. She admired his courage and the initiatives that he implemented to help the most impoverished in his society.
I remember that she would always quote “The Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse Tung aka the Red Book” and George Jackson’s “Blood in My Eye” the way Christians would quote the Bible and Muslims the Quran. Kiilu is one of the people who inspired me to not half-step, to be religious about my political principles and search for a truthful understanding as to what is always happening in the world.
We didn’t always agree. She was a Panther mother whose adopted cub grew into his own politics and understanding of the ever-changing world. She would hold a grudge as long as I didn’t see her or call her. If we happened to talk, in any way, she would forget about whatever her issue was with me and proceed to get my help on whatever particular campaigns she was engaged in at the time.
Kiilu was also a brilliant journalist, whose work I encountered in the SF Bay View, on KPOO radio station, through her email blast and on local cable in Frisco. She kept me aware of activists who were working on campaigns in my area that I could be a part of.
The first time that I remember organizing with her was with the Young Comrades. She was a part of the large delegation of Panthers and guerrillas who worked with the Young Comrades to organize a huge event in Lowell Park in West Oakland to greet our souljah and former political prisoner Geronimo Ji Jaga home and back to the Bay. That was one of the biggest events that I am proud to have been a part of in my life.
I remember that she would always quote “The Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse Tung aka the Red Book” and George Jackson’s “Blood in My Eye” the way Christians would quote the Bible and Muslims the Quran.
Four years ago, my youngest daughter, who was 2 years old at the time, went to meet Kiilu at a park that she was hanging at by her house. When she met my daughter, she was shocked to learn her name, because it was the same as her late granddaughter’s. That day, she and my daughter were all over that park riding around – inseparable – and oblivious to the crowds of people enjoying the sunshine. She was definitely one of the Movement grandmas my children and I are honored and privileged to have known and spent time with.
She lived on the I floor of a giant highrise in Chinatown, at the end of the hall. I remember she would grow her weed plants in her giant windows that faced the sun for most of the day. I remember one time at KPFA, while I was working there, she was a guest on someone’s show, and I told her that I had half a blunt.
My friend was so embarrassed, because she thought that I was being disrespectful. Kiilu didn’t say nothing to what I said, she went on with the conversation, and we proceeded to go outside. When we got to my car, she put the wheelchair in a tilted position and started blazing away.
It took about a minute for my friend to realize that the Black Panther guerrilla Kiilu self-medicated. When it was time to hang out, she would roll up a joint as well as when she was at home in peace. She was a medical marijuana activist and she was not a fan of pharmaceutical drugs.
Kiilu personified the spirit of a Black Panther and a dragon breaking free from a dungeon rolled into one, with the resiliency of a Haitian freedom fighter in their revolution and the resolve of a Palestinian resisting the settler colonial Zionist. The highest salute goes to one of my family’s sheroes and a major inspiration – and let me not forget: a major Minister of Information.
Kiilu Nyasha, we love you, and we will never forget what you gave. All Power to the People! And Long Live the Guerrilla!