“You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill a revolution.”—Fred Hampton
It 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.
There 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.
Due 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.
As 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.
The international campaign to free Geronimo Ji-Jaga
The 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.
Political 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.”
As 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].” Indeed!
The meaning of Geronimo Ji-Jaga’s example
As 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 principles.
Can 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.
We 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!
Rest 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! Onward . . . !
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 Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book.) Click here to contact Mr. Pinkney.