is with one unified and heavily laden heart that everyday
Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow conscious people
of goodwill, world-wide, mourn the gigantic loss of,
and pay tribute to, Elmer 'Geronimo Ji-Jaga' Pratt, whose
mortal body departed from us on June 2, 2011, in Tanzania,
East Africa. The
passing-on of Geronimo Ji-Jaga, who was a Black
Panther Party leader and subsequently a political prisoner
in the United
States for 27 years, made his transition,
reportedly, as a result of heart failure. Yet, like the
great Indigenous Native freedom fighter Geronimo (Mescalero-Chiricahua)
from the annals of the people's living history
of well over a century earlier, so too, Geronimo Ji-Jaga's
courageous legacy and spirit will live on undaunted,
unencumbered, and untarnished by the passing of time.
He was, and his spirit remains, that of a humanitarian
and a true people's revolutionary.
were many outstanding accomplishments in the life of Geronimo
Ji-Jaga, although he is perhaps best known for having
been ruthlessly targeted and framed on kidnapping
and murder charges under the auspices of the despicable,
bloody, and infamous U.S. Government program known as
COINTELPRO (the Counter Intelligence Program). The clearly
stated objectives of the U.S. Government's COINTELPRO
outrages were to "discredit, frame, imprison, and/or
murder" political activists, and most particularly
members of the Black Panther Party.
to Geronimo Ji-Jaga's effectiveness as an organizer and
his leadership in the Black Panther Party, he was hideously
charged and convicted in the above mentioned matter. Nonetheless,
Geronimo Ji-Jaga remained relentless in his quest
for justice, and finally, after 27 years
of wrongful imprisonment (eight of which he spent in
solitary confinement) his conviction was vacated
and he was freed.
in the cases of the ongoing and decades-long
debacle being endured presently by political prisoners
Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier, etc.,
the U.S. Government and judicial system obtained the conviction
against Geronimo Ji-Jaga by using a litany of odious
practices, including the suppression of crucial defense
evidence and the production of bogus prosecution witnesses,
etc. This too, is what must be learned - and learned
well - from the heroic and unrelenting struggle for
justice on the part of Geronimo Ji-Jaga.
International Campaign to Free Geronimo Ji-Jaga
essence of successful political struggle for human rights
and justice is persistence, focus, creativity, and individual
& collective consciousness. In this vein, The International
Campaign to Free Geronimo Ji-Jaga was formed, and
successfully organized locally, nationally, and
internationally from approximately 1990 to 1997 in order
to bring about community/public awareness and legal &
political pressure in the case of Geronimo Ji-Jaga.
and human rights activist, Lesley Tiyesha, was among the
intrepid and creative core of The International Campaign
to Free Geronimo Ji-Jaga. Her first-hand insights
into Geronimo Ji-Jaga himself and the efforts of The
International Campaign to Free Geronimo Ji-Jaga are
concise and invaluable. She made it quite clear that the
"all volunteer" persistent and focused activities
of The International Campaign to Free Geronimo
Ji-Jaga garnered "so much support from many
different stratas." She further noted that despite
his 27 year ordeal of wrongful imprisonment, Geronimo
Ji-Jaga "was not bitter" and that he was about
letting go of, "releasing that bitterness."
Sister Tiyesha spoke of Geronimo Ji-Jaga as a person who
possessed "an amazing spirit."
She further specifically stated, "I learned
from Geronimo and he became a friend."
an organizer, Sister Tiyesha pointed out that witnessing
"The power of former Black Panther Party central
committee members including Bobby Seale, Kathleen Cleaver,
Emory Douglass, and David Hilliard come together
at a press conference in support of Geronimo was extremely
important and amazing." Even as she spoke of
the tenacity and humanity of Geronimo Ji-Jaga himself,
she also poignantly stated, regarding the entire
21st century U.S. prison gulag system, that institutional "slavery"
has moved "from the plantation[s] to the prison[s]."
Meaning of Geronimo Ji-Jaga's Example
with all of us, Geronimo Ji-Jaga was but a mere mortal.
Yet, his example of selflessness and his indomitable spirit
can and should serve as an inspiration to each and every
one of us. He never gave up or gave in and nor should
we. To the end of his life he continued to 'serve the
people body and soul.' Upon his release in 1997, from
27 years of wrongful imprisonment, he took up the mantle
as a human rights activist both in the United States and in Africa.
He remained outspoken and steadfast in his political
we do any less? The answer must surely be obvious. We
everyday Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow people must
recommit ourselves here and now to the ongoing
and intensifying struggle for economic, political, and
social justice in this nation and around the world!
It will not be easy for us and it certainly wasn't easy
for Geronimo Ji-Jaga. Yet, this struggle must be carried
forth collectively and relentlessly.
must all be the 21st century Nat Turners, John
Browns, and Harriet Tubmans, etc. History is not merely
in the past. It is living and breathing every single
day in each of us. We must choose what our
collective history will be! Mother Earth and our own humanity
calls out to us and we must answer!
now, our dear brother Geronimo Ji-Jaga. Rest well, in
peace and power. But for those of us from whom
you have physically departed, the struggle continues.
All Power To The People! Onward then my sisters and brothers!
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board Member, Larry Pinkney,
is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister
of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political
prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored
his civil/political rights case to the United Nations
under the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities
in opposition to voter suppression, etc., Pinkney was
interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS News
Hour, formerly known as The MacNeil / Lehrer
News Hour. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book,
Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and
by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click
to read excerpts from the book.) Click here
to contact Mr. Pinkney.