From email@example.com Thu Aug 24 05:48:27 2000
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 00:58:11 -0400
From: Jonathan D Farley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Ignore Gore, Bush—Remember Jackson
It’s not news. It’s probably not even remembered anymore, except by the principal actors and their families. But at the time, August 7, 1970, it caught people’s attention like the sound of a shotgun blast in a crowded courtroom.
The place: Marin County, California. The Halls of Justice. The person: A 17 year-old whose desire for Life was greater than his desire to continue living, armed with weapons of war and with even more foreboding weapons of truth: the ten-point program of the Black Panther Party. His name: Jonathan Jackson.
In 1970, America was at war. Not only in Vietnam, but in the streets of America—Watts, Rochester, Detroit. And while the embers had cooled from the fires that raged after the Dreamer’s death, the conditions that King had preached against—economic and social inequality—still persisted. The Black Panther Party’s program was the beginning of a solution: free health clinics, free grocery give-aways, free breakfasts for children, independent black schools, and community control of police, in part through the mobilization of legal, armed patrols to curb incidents of brutality, like the episodes we just witnessed in Montgomery, Alabama, and in Philadelphia. (Not to mention the Republican Convention.)
While many blacks, and most whites, feared the militancy of the
Panthers, mostly due to the spreading of negative propaganda by
government agents, 43% of blacks under 21 had
great respect for
the Party. It would take a miracle of Biblical proportions for
Gore-Lieberman to get such numbers.
The reason was that the Party didn’t merely talk about solving
problems: they found answers. Their only obstacle was FBI Director
J. Edgar Hoover, who wrongly branded the Panthers
threat to the internal security of the country, and mounted a
vicious campaign to disable their leadership. One of these leaders was
Jonathan’s brother, George, a Black Panther sentenced for one
year- to-life, ostensibly for stealing $70. He, along with other
politically active prisoners, was being railroaded to the gas chamber
by the authorities.
Jonathan Jackson decided that the roll-call of black martyrs, from
Medgar to Malcolm to Martin, to the Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton
and Bunchy Carter, would stop here. He walked into the Marin County
courthouse with a .38 pistol and a carbine rifle, saying,
right, gentlemen... I’m taking over now, and demanded the
release of Black Panther political prisoners.
The State’s response was as vicious and violent as the Soviet response to the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Jonathan Jackson was shot dead. Angela Davis, falsely linked to the incident by the authorities, went into hiding.
George Jackson, who was himself to die in a barrage of police gunfire
a year later, wrote:
Terrible Jonathans teethed on the barrel of
the political tool, hardened against the concrete of the most
uncivilized jungles of the planet—Chicago, St. Louis, Los
Angeles, San Francisco -- tested in a dozen fires.... They will be the
first to fall. We gather up their bodies, clean them, kiss them and
smile. Their funerals should be gala affairs... We should be sad only
that it’s taken us so many generations to produce them.
It may seem strange, even wrong, to pay homage to someone who
abandoned non-violence in order to save others’ lives. But is
it really? This summer we honored thousands of black veterans who, on
the battlefields of Europe and Asia, used violence to advance other
men’s aims. We honor Martin, but also Colin Powell, whose Gulf
War campaign left 200,000 dead. We should not balk or feel ashamed to
remember the sacrifice of a man-child, a revolutionary, who saw that
to make people organize and resist the ruin of their
the time for talking has ended, the time for acting
has begun. A boy who would certainly have become one of the black
leaders whose absence we lament today, had he lived. We can praise his
passion and his principles, even if we disagree with his tactics.
We should be sad only that it’s taken us such a short time to forget him.