Ji Jaga Geronimo Pratt has gone home.
i thank this brother not only for his struggle as a
Black Panther, but for one lesson he taught me one
crisp spring morning out on the White House lawn about
13 years ago. i was there as part of an activist rally
fighting for the rights of political prisoners. many
on the front lines of the struggle were there. i had
spotted Angela Davis hurrying to speak, a nightingale
in the midst of all the protesters from other colleges
and communities. i was walking around, caught up in the
spirit but feeling a bit disconnected. i had been in
this frame of mind for some time, seeing that for every
person who devoted their time to the struggle there were
three people willing to be poverty pimps in a sense. only
there to make their post-collegiate resume look good.
i happened to have stumbled upon a small gathering by a
tree. and there before me was Geronimo Pratt. in all of his
simple but strong glory. i had a journal open with an
interview he had given taped to the page. i shook his
hand, and noted the firm grip. i had the journal in hand
and asked if he could sign the article. naive as hell, i
know. he gave me a kind but firm look(more than i deserved
at that moment really) and said, ‘only movie stars sign
autographs.’ i bowed my head slightly and apologized.
after a moment or two, i moved away from the group.
i thank Geronimo because what that moment taught me was,
as much as we like to romanticize the struggle, dress it
up in fatigues and rhetoric from afar, there are people
whose lives have changed utterly in the name of the struggle.
from that day on, i told myself, i will never even THINK
of cheapening what this brother and countless others have
done and still do. even if it looks like i’m not in full
solidarity because i don’t talk the talk..if my heart is
in full solidarity then my actions will speak for me. and
since that day down in DC, i’ve tried my best to do that.
Geronimo never looked back. and he stayed true to his people
and himself, in stoic, forthright fashion. he even joined
another Panther, Pete O’Neal in Tanzania for the last ten
years with his Panther initiative there, until his passing
yesterday at the age of 63.
rest in power soldier. i’ll never forget your lesson.