From email@example.com Sun Mar 26 14:29:38 2000
Black Panther Party long victimized by campaign of lies
By Elaine Brown, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 25 March 2000
Elaine Brown is former chairman of the Black Panther Party, lives in Atlanta and is a founder of Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice. She is completing a book for Beacon Press, "New Age Racism and the Condemnation of Little B."
As a former leading member of the Black Panther Party, I find it alarming that the party, defunct now for more than a decade, continues to be bastardized in the American press and by law enforcement. Worse, now the party's name is resurrected to denigrate and condemn one of our finest brothers, the former H. Rap Brown.
Because echoes of the past are eerily present in the current campaign against Al-Amin, I would like to set the historical record straight on a few relevant matters.
The Black Panther Party came into being to address the suffering of blacks in America. It was a time when federal troops, particularly in the South, had to be employed to repel racist, police-backed violence against black children trying to attend school with white children and police attacks on blacks seeking voting rights. In the leadership of the movement for black civil rights during that bloody time was the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
As the Black Panther Party began to establish a broader agenda for blacks relating to human rights, focusing first on the right to be free from police brutality, Brown, a leader in SNCC, was recruited to serve as minister of justice. The party declared that food, shelter, health care and education were among those basic human rights denied blacks since slavery, through Jim Crow, institutional racism, lynching and all manner of violence. The party developed programs that would at once raise consciousness and serve the needs of our people. We established our Free Breakfast for Children Program; then, our free health clinics; then, liberation schools, free grocery and legal aid and shoe programs.
In 1968 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover declared the party to be "the single greatest threat to the internal security of the United States" and pledged to use any means necessary to eliminate the party and its members. In the next year alone, the FBI used the full weight of its counterintelligence program, known as COINTELPRO, to lay waste to the party, directing violent, local police raids on party offices, executing assassinations of members and otherwise destroying the lives of party family members, community and other supporters. In this same time frame, Brown was the target of a crusade to discredit and destroy him orchestrated by the then-governor of Maryland Spiro Agnew.
Story keeps recurring
The government players may have changed, but the destructive campaign continues. The police case against Al-Amin today is eerily similar and as suspect as the one in 1967 leveled against Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton.
The underlying allegation against Al-Amin relates to his being stopped while driving in Cobb County -- or, as it's now said in the vernacular, "driving while black." Police admit he was stopped in May 1999 merely for driving a car displaying dealership tags. Later, he was charged with theft by receiving -- on the already-questionable assertion that the car he was driving was stolen -- and the horrible "crime" of driving without proof of insurance. Similarly, NewtonHuey was stopped by police for an unclear traffic violation on an Oakland, Calif., street. Similarly, this street detention set off a chain of events that culminated in the shooting death of one of the cops. Three years later Newton was exonerated.
One matter in the current case, however, seems not to be in contention -- that, under cover of night, armed Fulton County sheriff's deputies were sent out to arrest Al-Amin for failure to appear in court on the Cobb County accusation. It is bizarre that Sheriff Jackie Barrett accuses Al-Amin of "ambushing" her deputies in these circumstances. Indeed, this ambush theory becomes Kafkaesque in light of the recent exposure of brutal abuses of power by police nationwide, particularly against black people and our communities.
Notwithstanding the now-exposed racial profiling by police, there is, for example, the New York police killing of Amadou Diallo, a black man standing unarmed and alone in the doorway of his own home, mortally wounded by 19 of the 41 rounds fired at him from guns wielded by four white officers. More frightening was their acquittal of any wrongdoing on the theory they had simply made a mistake.
There are the mounting revelations of murder and drug dealing by Los Angeles police officers arising from the confessions of one of its officers. And closer to home is the civil lawsuit in the slaying of Jerry Jackson, an unarmed black man shot by police in broad daylight in the infamous 1995 Moto Cycle Shop shooting. In this highly charged atmosphere, assertions by police must be deemed, at the very least, highly suspicious.
Over the past 20 years, Al-Amin has served the people of the West End community here in Atlanta. He has established a religious center, the Atlanta Community Mosque, providing spiritual guidance to the community. He is a role model, as husband and father. He supports and invests in the community through his store, coin laundry and service to a neighborhood homeless shelter.
The black collaborators
Most significantly, despite the savage inundation of black communities all over America with crack cocaine, Al-Amin is acknowledged by everyone to have virtually eliminated drug use and trafficking in his West End community. In this, he has stayed the course of freedom even as other blacks have abandoned it for each little individual step up on the illusory ladder of American success.
Herein lies the rub. While Atlanta's failed public schools are populated 90 percent by black children -- 80 percent of them so poor they qualify for free or subsidized lunch; while nearly 80 percent of Georgia's prison population is black; while black infant mortality is twice that of whites, blacks such as Barrett would assail one of the last black men standing still committed to uplifting his people, who are also her people.
Atlanta has become not a black Mecca but a bastion of black shame, containing a clique of black government administrators who collaborate with racists and others who, at best, have no stake or interest in the city's black communities or, worse, work to our disinterest.
There is the mayor, Bill Campbell, who has done nothing at all in two terms to elevate the status of Atlanta's massive, poor black communities though clearly committed to the development interests of Tom Cousins, Sam Massell, et al. And there is Beverly Harvard, who fixed crime statistics to meet the interests of Olympic businessmen, while excusing the brutal police slaying of Jerry Jackson and doing nothing at all to reduce even the flow of drugs into Atlanta's poor black communities.
There is Paul Howard, the Fulton County district attorney, the first black DA in Georgia, who focuses his prosecutions on trying young black boys as adults. Likewise, there is Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who used up much of a year in office to prosecute the son of Ralph David Abernathy. And finally, there is Barrett, touted as the first black female sheriff in the nation, who sent out her armed men to take down a black hero.
Let blacks and whites of good conscience remember that Al-Amin is deemed under the law to be innocent until proven guilty. Let us at least reserve judgment until the facts in this case are reviewed and the truth revealed. In the meantime, let us blacks, especially, remember our history and refuse to allow ourselves or our heroes to be defined by racists and their collaborators.
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