by Karima Amin
Every year during the month of August, Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. devotes a program to the existence of political prisoners in the USA. While this government has patently denied the presence of political prisoners on these shores, the fact remains, there are political prisoners in America and we have taken time to recognize their presence and their pain. We have called their names, Mumia, Seth, Jalil, Leonard, Mutulu, Sekou, Sundiata, Oscar, Herman, David, the MOVE 9, and more… all imprisoned for their political beliefs… all imprisoned for decades. In discussing the plight of political prisoners, we have highlighted COINTELPRO, a counter-intelligence program of the US government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations. Under COINTELPRO, the FBI has used methods that have been sometimes covert and often illegal, discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents; planting false reports in the media; harassment; illegal violence, including assassination; and wrongful imprisonment. COINTELPRO was official from 1956-1971, though many of its tactics were used prior to 1956 and are used to this day.
In a film, “The FBI’s War on Black America” which PRP2 screened, a few years ago, historical documentation proved that COINTELPRO was especially aimed at Black leadership in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. One of those imprisoned at that time was Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, Minister of Defense for the Black Panther Party. He was tried and convicted of the kidnap and murder of Caroline Olsen, an elementary schoolteacher in 1972, crimes he never committed. After more than two decades in prison, including eight years in solitary confinement, he was freed in 1997 when his conviction was vacated.
Geronimo Pratt sometime after his release-cs (photo AP)
Before his imprisonment, believing in the promise of America, Pratt joined the army and served two tours of duty in Viet Nam, earning both silver and bronze medals and twice receiving the “purple heart.” After his stint in the army, he studied political science at UCLA and he joined the Black Panther Party when he saw that his army training could be useful there. He worked as a human rights activist before and after his imprisonment. He died in 2011, in his adopted country of Tanzania, West Africa.
Join us for the next monthly meeting of Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. when we will share more information about Geronimo and the United Nation’s recent request (August 14), issued by the CERD (Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), for the US government to officially recognize political prisoners in this country and to state specifically what it intends to do about “more than 20 civil rights era political activists and human rights defenders from 1960’s Black, Latino, and American Indian movements, now aged, and some in not so good health still being held in prison?” Please note that this is not the first time that such a request has been made.
Our next meeting will be on Monday, August 25, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders and Friends of BaBa Eng are the sponsors of this program. For further information, contact Karima Amin or BaBa Eng at 716-834-8438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)