Saturday, December 05, 2009

Fred Hampton Remembered...

Hampton portrait
Here are a few comments about Fred Hampton- that great 21 year-old Chicago Black Panther who was riddled with cop bullets while drugged by a COINTEL negro snitch and in bed with his pregnant wife....
Thanks, Don  -- and Sam -- for circulating this timely reminder (to those who were around at the time) and history lesson (to those too young to have known about this, and would probably never learn otherwise).

FROM Brotha Dinizulu:

So much needs to be done to set the record straight and provide some real truth about the Black Panther Party, which was, among many other things, an incubator for brilliant minds and leaders like Fred Hampton, and Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, who were also assassinated (although not directly by the police).  The  truth also needs to be known about COINTELPRO and the era of naked brutal represssion that included other shoot-ins of Panther facilities, such as the one in Los Angeles, by the Police, and raids such as the one staged by Rizzo in Philadelphia.  These actions both encouraged and were encouraged by a mentality, under Nixon, that said it was OK to suspend the Constitution, and even spread to Canada, where pre-dawn raids without warrants on the homes of Quebec Independence activists were praised by Nixon, as was then-NY-Governor Rockefeller's brutal response to the rebellion at Attica prison, which was motivated by very reasonable and humane demands.  (It did not fully escape notice that the 30th anniversary of that event would very likely have been the front-page news in New York, had other events not intervened on that date, September 11, 2001.  That date, it might also be noted, is etched in the memory of the Rasta community, as the anniversary of the murder of Peter Tosh and others in a home invasion, and has been widely remembered throughout Latin America as the anniversary of the overthrow and assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile.) 

As valuable as this article in remembrance of Fred Hampton is, it does seem, to me, to give undue emphasis to the alleged Marxist-Leninist and Socialist stance of the BPP.  To be sure, the Party was more aware of, and committed to, the need for trans-cultural and multi-ethnic class struggle, as opposed to, say, the "nationalist" positions of such groups as Karenga's US Organization (whose members carried out the hit on Carter and Huggins on the UCLA campus).  And the Party simply carried out such "Socialist" programs as the Children's breakfasts (notably "with real orange juice, not 'orange drink,' " as a sign of being serious and caring) and the People's Free Health Clinics, which I still believe was the real catalyst for the establishment of Community Health Centers that still operate today.  (I am on the board of one.)  The point here is that the Party seemed to me to be much more about action than labels. 

It began in earnest, as we all know, with young Black men "picking up the gun" and patrolling the police, posing the same threat of deadly force to them that they posed to the community on a daily basis. This was not an action motivated by Marxist-Leninist ideology, but by necessity, although it is also true that the BPP members did diligently study "dialectical materialism" and Marxist philosophy, in much the same way as a lot of people at that time, in a quest to cut through lies and mindless pro-capitalist propaganda that certainly did not meet the intellectual requirements of a younger generation which had faced down Jim Crow segregation and was confronting the costly and painful reality of an immoral war. 

I recall that this was a point that also came to light the year that Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize, as it came to light that a more truthful understanding of these armed struggles in Latin America was very much needed.  What might be routinely labeled in the news media as "Marxist" rebels in this or that country, or portrayed as some kind of uprising against established government was often something much simpler, like villagers determining that, regardless of the consequences, they were not going to tolerate soldiers entering their town and raping one more girl while they stand by powerlessly.  The inevitable ensuing conflict and combat might be portrayed in the press as "anti-government forces" with some kind of "Socialist" agenda, which may be true in a de-facto way, but it is a misrepresentation which only serves the purpose of the propagandists.  In reality, it is nothing more (or less) than a real revolution, in the literal sense, wherein people stand up to oppression, seize power over their destiny, and, by necessity, have to remain committed to that stance, defending it against all future attempts to re-enslave them.

Reading this article on Fred Hampton, I get that same feeling that the portrayal of the BPP as an organization committed to anti-capitalist and socialist agendas, as opposed to being committed to simple social justice, regardless of label, does some disservice to his memory.  Don, your introductory comment, portraying the young man as a genuinely serious  activist, willing to learn, probably provides a better picture of who he was than what I am reading as an overemphasis on established, Eurocentric (be it noted) ideologies.  (At its worst, this kind of portrayal of Black social reality buys right into those racist myths that we somehow can't think for ourselves but need to be motivated by other people's ideas, much like J. Edgar Hoover's insistence that Dr. M.L. King was either an outright "Communist" or was being "duped" by Communists, as if it took some whitefolks in Moscow to tell him that he and the rest of the African American population was being oppressed.  Otherwise, we would never either think or know any such thing.)

Although I am focusing most of my comments on this aspect of the article, it is a relatively small criticism in comparison to the great value of reminding us all of one of our brightest and best, who was cut down too soon (along with his wife, not to be forgotten), by the same old forces of fear, greed, ignorance and hate.  (They, too, can try to hide behind an ideological label to pretend to be legitimate, but the truth is the truth.)  Actually, one of the most moving pieces I ever read about Fred Hampton's assassination was by Rosemari Mealy, in The Crisis magazine.  That too would make a very valuable contribution to our remembrance of Fred Hampton and what he meant to the world, literally, not just African America.

Thanks again Brothas, for sharing this.  I will spread it as well.

Best all ways,


On Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 3:34 PM, <> wrote:

In 1967 I gave the keynote address for the State of Ilinois NAACP annual convention at Peoria. Upon conclusion, a young man came up and introduced himself as the head of the youth division of the NAACP. He asked me if I thought Malcolm X was more important to our struggle than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My answer to Fred Hampton was that both were equally important.
Donald H. Smith


Fred Hampton Remembered
Friday, December 4, 2009
By: Carlito Rovira

Despite a life cut short, young Black Panther left behind a rich legacy of struggle

The wave of repression unleashed on the Black liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s by the FBI’s “Operation COINTELPRO” reached its height with a series of murderous attacks on the Black Panther Party. One of the most horrendous episodes of this onslaught took place 40 years ago. On Dec. 4, 1969, Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated by police.

In a coordinated effort between the Illinois State Attorney’s Office, Cook County Police Department, the Chicago Police Department and the FBI, a heavily armed assault was launched in the early morning hours on Fred Hampton’s residence. With a vicious sense of racist hatred and no regard for human life, the police fired their weapons at will at the wall separating the hallway from the apartment. The two revolutionaries were killed
In the days that followed, law enforcement officials were quick to reinvent the facts. They claimed that the occupants of the apartment fired guns at police. Their story never held water. Evidence gathered from the forensic investigation and other inquiries pointed exclusively to police savagery in the attack.

The shaping of a leader

Hampton’s life was brief, but was rich in struggle.

Hampton was born in Chicago on Aug. 30, 1948. His parents originated from Hayneville, La., where sharecropping and racial injustice were common. His great-grandparents had worked on a plantation in that region under the horrors of slavery.

Like millions of African Americans, Hampton’s parents left the South during the Great Migration of the 1930s to look for a better life and flee the constant threat of racist terror. They settled in Maywood, Ill., a suburb of Chicago where they worked at the Argo Starch Company.

An event that likely affected the young Fred Hampton, much as it affected most of Chicago’s Black community, was the 1955 gruesome lynching of Emmett Till. The 14-year-old Till was visiting family in Mississippi when he was abducted and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Till was the son of family friends and neighbors of the Hamptons.

Hampton was attracted to books, and took it upon himself to read the speeches and writings of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, Joan Elbert, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and others. He gained a reputation for his knowledge of Black history and began to sense the need for struggle.

As a student at Proviso East High School, he noticed that most of the students who failed were Black. Hampton began to speak out against the school administration for not providing tutoring and remedial programs for students. He was also critical of the fact that the faculty and administration were all white when one-fourth of the student body was Black.

Hampton challenged the school’s exclusive racist practice of nominating only white girls to compete for “Miss Homecoming Queen.” He organized a protest, walk-out and school boycott. As a result, the following year Black female students were included in this contest.

Fred Hampton was respected by white and Black students alike. The year after he graduated from Proviso East, a school administrator requested his help to calm racial tensions among students.

At Triton Junior College, he studied law as a defense against police brutality aimed at the Black community. He joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and became the leader of its youth council at the West Suburban branch, galvanizing a membership of 500.

While Hampton was in the NAACP, the Black Panther Party was opening chapters across the country and becoming a prominent force in the Black liberation struggle. Hampton began to absorb and understand the revolutionary content of the Panthers’ political perspective, and joined. He soon demonstrated his leadership abilities and became deputy chairman of the party’s Illinois chapter.

His disposition and skills as a speaker earned Hampton a moral authority. His political achievements included brokering peace with the supposed “street gangs” of Chicago, amongst them the Puerto Rican group the Young Lords. Hampton was instrumental in transforming the Young Lords into a revolutionary political organization.

Hampton valued the need for a multinational revolutionary struggle, and organized the original Rainbow Coalition comprised of the I Wor Kuen of the Asian community, the Brown Berets of the Mexican community, the poor white workers of the Young Patriots, the Young Lords and the Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party set standards for waging struggle. Their enthusiastic projection of socialism allowed many to envision its relevance to African Americans and other oppressed nationalities.

The white, racist U.S. ruling class was appalled. How dare the descendents of African slaves call themselves socialists and aim to achieve Black people’s right to reparations! Even more daring was the Black Panther Party’s call for the overthrow of capitalism—a demand the ruling class could never tolerate. Their ability to forge unity in struggle was a threat in itself.

All this was happening while resentment for the war in Vietnam was on the rise. The men of privilege and wealth, with a stake in preserving the imperialist system, grew apprehensive the more it became apparent that a mass revolutionary movement was arising.

These circumstances compelled the government to destroy the Black Panther Party.

'The greatest threat to national security'

Operation COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program, was established in the mid-1950s to deter the development of any movement deemed a threat to the existing social, economic and political order. It remained secret until 1971, when anti-repression activists broke into an FBI field office in Media, Penn., and confiscated files revealing the hidden operation.

As the Civil Rights movement advanced—galvanizing strength from all sectors of the population, breaking the despicable Jim Crow laws and compelling the U.S. Congress to pass other progressive legislation—the FBI increasingly turned its attention to the Black liberation struggle.

The Black Panther Party openly advocated for socialist revolution, and openly supported the Chinese and Cuban revolutions. The Panthers’ breakfast program for children, among other social programs, underlined their commitment to meet the needs of communities that received nothing but oppression and neglect from the government.

The staunch anti-capitalist stance of these young revolutionaries who declared themselves Marxist-Leninists made them the target of the most ruthless, racist elements in power. On numerous occasions, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover expressed a special disdain for the Black struggle, particularly towards Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Many were not surprised when Hoover declared the Black Panther Party “the greatest threat to national security.”

The slanderous editorials against the Panthers in the capitalist-owned mass media, combined with Hoover’s frequent verbal attacks, reflected the wishes of the ruling class who sought the complete destruction of the Black Panther Party and the ideals it embodied. Internal FBI memos show that the government had a special interest in Hampton’s political activities and his associations; Chicago police were encouraged by the FBI to find a way to lock up Hampton.

Prior to Hampton’s death, police raided the Panthers’ Chicago office on three separate occasions. William O’Neal, Fred Hampton’s bodyguard, was a police informant who was instructed to draw up a floor plan of the targeted apartment weeks earlier. Law enforcement used the information gathered by O’Neal to murder Hampton.

Hampton’s murder was part of a pattern of police raids, false imprisonment and executions of Black Panthers. COINTELPRO documents proved that assassination of Black leaders was among its aims. Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party had to be eliminated simply because they had touched upon capitalism’s greatest weakness—the decisiveness and strength that a multi-national movement has in a battle against this system.

The Black Panther Party arose from the struggles of the African American people, historically the most oppressed and exploited group in the United States. They symbolized hope and received the greatest affection. They attributed Black oppression to the capitalist system, and dared to pick up arms against the state. The militancy and defiance of these young revolutionaries deeply impacted the Civil Rights and socialist movements.

Hampton and the Black Panthers believed all would benefit if the banner of the struggle against racism and national oppression was taken up by the white masses as their own. Hampton knew that it was possible to smash the racial barriers created by capitalism to divide and conquer the working class. His confidence was based on the strong belief that this system provides a motive for all to unite and engage in revolutionary struggle.

Long live the memory of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party!


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