Artist Tom Manning is gone, freedom fighter for Blacks, Natives, workers and all oppressed people

Tom with comrades at Leavenworth Federal Prison, date unknown: from left, Tom Manning (UFF), Luis Rosa (FALN) and Merof “Malik” Smith (Virgin Island 5) 

by Jaan Laaman

Class war prisoner, freedom fighter, man of the people, man for the people, long held political prisoner Thomas William Manning died on July 30 of a heart issue at the federal penitentiary in Hazelton, Kentucky.

Tom – Tommy to his many comrades, family friends, people who knew him – was a life long revolutionary freedom fighter. From the early ‘70s, Tom was a public activist and organizer and later a quite successful armed militant in the anti-imperialist underground. Captured in 1985, he and some of his comrades became known as the Ohio 7-UFF (United Freedom Front) defendants.

After many trials, Tom was hit with 58- plus 80-year sentences. He was then thrown into some of the worst, harshest prisons in the U.S.

Being in captivity did not stop Tom from continuing to work and struggle for justice, freedom, human rights and the socialist and environmentally sustainable future so many people and our planet so need. Tom struggled against abuses inside prisons and continued to work for the independence struggles in Puerto Rico and Ireland, the Palestinian struggle and the then still ongoing anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Tom with more comrades at Leavenworth in March 1999: Leonard Peltier (AIM), Ernesto Santiago, Tom Manning (UFF), Jaan K. Laaman (UFF), Luis Rosa (FALN)

In fact, Tom was very likely one of the two last anti-apartheid activists still in captivity anywhere in the world.

Tom of course always continued to support the struggles of poor and working people in this country, the struggles of Black people, Native rights and land struggles, against police abuses and murders of civilians, people of color in particular.

Tom was an artist, an accomplished painter. His art work truly captures some of Tom’s essence: his portrayal of the dignity of working people, children, women, the strength and determination of revolutionary fighters and leaders, and more. A beautiful book of some of Tom’s art was published in 2014: “For Love and Liberty, Artist Tom Manning.”

“For Love and Liberty” by Tom Manning is a very special art book with 100 pages of full color art published in 2014 by the legendary Inkworks Collective in Berkeley.

Now Tom is gone. Our comrade, my comrade, who suffered years of medical neglect and medical abuse in the federal prison system.

Your struggle and suffering is now over, brother. But your example, your words, deeds, even your art, lives on.

You truly were a “Boston Irish Rebel,” a lifelong man of and for the people, a warrior, a person of compassion motivated by hope for the future and love for the common people, a revolutionary freedom fighter.

We miss you and love you, comrade … and we will carry on the struggle!

Jaan Laaman, Ohio 7 anti-imperialist political prisoner, written Black August 2, 2019.

Send our brother some love and light: Jaan Laaman, 10372-016, USP McCreary Unit 1A, P.O. Box 3000, Pine Knot KY 42635.

What Tom was up against

In a tribute to Tom Manning by another close comrade, Ray Luc Levasseur, in It’s Going Down, Ray writes: “In 2006 an exhibit of Tom Manning’s paintings, “Can’t Jail the Spirit,” opened at the University of Southern Maine. Police organizations throughout the Northeast conducted an intense “shut it down” campaign. The police were particularly disturbed with the characterization of Tom as a “political prisoner” and his painting of Assata Shakur on display. When the police got to the university’s corporate funders, the USM president capitulated and the exhibit was ordered shut down. The exhibit’s supporters then carried Tom’s paintings through the city streets and rallied at Congress Square.”

Ray concludes: “With Tom’s passing, Jaan Laaman remains the sole United Freedom Front prisoner. It’s time to bring Jaan home.” The Bay View agrees!