IN MEMORY OF THE MINISTER OF DEFENSE: DR. HUEY NEWTON, PH.D.
[Col. Writ. 2/11/06] Copyright '06 Mumia Abu-Jamal
It is somehow fitting that February, the shortest month, has been designated Black History Month. For whatever Black folks have gotten from this country, it was given grudgingly, through gritted teeth, if at all.
It was in February, 1942, when Huey P. Newton was born, in Oak Grove, Louisiana, the youngest of seven children. He was named after Louisiana Governor, Huey Long, a man regarded as a Populist.
But Huey’s family would leave the state, and settle in Oakland, California, where Huey would make his own name.
He was the co-founder, with Bobby Seale, of the Black Panther Party [for Self-Defense], which rose to become of the most advanced Black revolutionary organizations of the 1960s and '70s.
It grew into a national organization, with 44 chapters and branches all across America; from West, to Midwest; from Boston, to Baton Rouge.
Huey, although poorly educated in Oakland schools, would push himself to learn about the world around him, and through the Party, would teach an entire generation about a world bubbling with revolutionary discontent.
The Party, inspired by Black freedom struggles in the Deep South, tried to put into practice the revolutionary teachings of Malcolm X, who preached self-defense. Because it was always growing and changing, party members studied his writings, as well as the works of China’s Mao Tse-Tung, Cuba’s 'Che' Guevara, and the writings of Franz Fanon, who helped in Algeria’s revolution against France.
Huey’s revolutionary influence would help the Party grow into the tens of thousands; but, his growing paranoia, fed by the FBI, would also cause the Party to down-size, as Panthers came from as far away as Philadelphia, to help the Party during its electoral phase, when Seale ran for Oakland’s mayor, and other leading people ran for city council seats.
Given his revolutionary ideas, and his uncompromising opposition to the capitalist State, don’t expect any U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamps anytime soon. Nor will you ever see any U.S. presidents attend any of his memorials.
Huey would be just fine with that. His life’s work, the Party, was designed to give a voice to the poor and oppressed, not the well-to-do nor the high-born!
He wasn’t a civil rights activist -- he was a revolutionary, who wanted to totally transform American social reality.
His life, and his ignoble death, at the hands of a drug dealer, is detailed in half a dozen books (including one of my own), but he remains a symbol of resistance to racist police terror, and the determination of a people to defend themselves.
That his name and his life isn’t better known is a tribute to the very forces that he fought against, and that the Party fought against. The Black bourgeoisie and the rulers, who wanted Black youth to be as uninformed about the centuries-long Black Freedom struggle as possible.
Perhaps, if he were alive today, and 64 years old, he would be baffled at how bleak and sour Black life has become for millions of his people. But, maybe not.
He was a man of unusual brilliance, who saw deeply into how societies work. His books, like ‘Revolutionary Suicide’ (1973), 'To Die for the People’ (1973), 'War Against the Panthers' (1996), and the compilation, ‘The Huey P. Newton Reader’ (2002) betray the workings of a first-rate mind on a wide range of social and political issues.
He may not be remembered by the rulers or the rich, but he will not be forgotten by the poor and the impoverished.
He will be remembered because the same ugly reality facing his generation face Black young people today, and history exists to teach us of our present.
He was 24 years old when he made a vast, and deep, contribution to Black freedom and dignity. He didn’t bow, and he didn’t beg.
He stood up, and fought back, and urged others to stand with him. Thousands did so.
They will do so again.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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