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Elbert “Big Man” Howard died in Santa Rosa at the age of 80 on July 23. The memorial service was held on Aug. 25. Howard was one of six founding members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. He was well known as one of the most instrumental members in many facets of organizing during his time with the party. The memorial was packed with original Panthers who shared candid stories of their time with Howard.
At 6:13 a.m. on July 23, Big Man joined the ancestors. Above all else, Elbert “Big Man” Howard loved his comrades and all oppressed people, who he never stopped fighting for. His Celebration of Live will be on Saturday, Aug. 25, 1 p.m., in the Bobby Hutton Grove inside of DeFremery Park, Oakland. Big Man was responsible for a free medical clinic for sickle-cell anemia and a work-study program for parolees at Merritt College. He was the first editor of The Black Panther newspaper, rebuilt Black Panther chapters decimated by COINTELPRO and built Solidarity Committees in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
It is with great sadness we say good-bye to a truly remarkable revolutionary, Kiilu Nyasha. I first met Kiilu in New Haven, Connecticut, around 1969. She was serving as a coordinator, advocate and cook for the Black Panther Party Breakfast for School Children program there. My comrade, Kiilu Nyasha, was an uncompromising, revolutionary force. We will forever miss her courage and strength of character, her determination, her talents and her absolute devotion and love for her comrades and the people. Kiilu Nyasha, rest in peace.
Her name was Yuri, a Japanese woman born in the United States. I hesitate to call her a Japanese-American, for to do so suggests she was a citizen. In light of how she, her family and her community were treated during World War II, especially after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, to call any of them citizens would be an exaggeration. Yuri Kochiyama, freedom fighter, after 93 summers, has become an ancestor.
When we got to the memorial site at the park, just to the right, Andy’s mother, Sujey, started crying, then wailing loudly. Her husband held her as she buried herself in his chest and arms. A small group of women surrounded them, as tortured sounds of grief poured out of her, heart-rending sounds that I cannot really describe. Some of us formed a loose circle around them. Everyone was quiet.
Cynthia McKinney’s fundraiser tour for the SF Bay View was a huge success up and down California, hitting San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland and Santa Rosa. The tour, which was titled “Latin America, Africa, and Obama,” coincided with the release of McKinney’s second book, “Ain’t Nothing Like Freedom,” an autobiography about her years as a six-term Congress member from Georgia.
The wonderful people of Sonoma gave Big Man a surprise dinner to honor his 50th year of community service. Big Man’s and my connection is based in the Black Panther Party. Even in the BPP, we used to run together.