[Ppnews] Remembering fallen activist Kuwasi Balagoon

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 27 08:52:46 EST 2006

Free At Last


A Citypaper.net exclusive:Remembering fallen activist Kuwasi Balagoon.

by Jessica Loughery

Published: Dec 21, 2006

Candles burned and the scent of incense flowed as 
talkative activists squeezed chairs around small 
tables at Saturday’s Kuwasi Balagoon Memorial 
Dinner. Photocopies of a largely unavailable 
collection of writings by and about Balagoon 
titled A Soldier’s Story were passed out and 
read. Former Black Panthers, younger anarchists 
and socially minded students met and spoke of change.

Philadelphia Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) 
organizer Nicole Roskowski recognized this 
spectrum of individuals in her opening speech. 
Encouraging disregard for divisions of race, 
economic upbringing and even political views, she 
underlined the point: celebrating the life, work 
and writing of anarchist Kuwasi Balagoon.

Born in Lakeland, Md., in 1946, Balagoon dove 
headfirst into radical politics as a 17-year-old 
American soldier in Germany fed up with racism. 
He formed a collective on his base called the De 
Legislators. Back in the U.S., he joined the 
Black Panthers, then the Black Liberation Army 
and the New Afrikan Anarchists. Spending much of 
his last 20 years in jail for rebellious and 
radical activities ­ including his part in the 
expropriation of an armored car in 1981 ­ he died 
of an AIDS-related illness during his final 
75-year sentence at Auburn Correctional Facility in Auburn, N.Y.

While in prison, Balagoon married his devotion to 
direct action with anarchist ideas, producing 
essays that speak to anarchists like the members 
of Philly ABC, who focus on connecting political 
prisoners with their families and communities. 
The organizers hoped this memorial dinner would 
raise awareness of Balagoon’s thoughts on creating effective counter cultures.

Held at Lava on Lancaster Ave., the evening 
commenced with an ancestral libation ritual 
conducted to underscore the importance of 
ancestors to today’s collective efforts. Sharifa 
Malik, a Yoruban spiritual guide known by her 
spiritual name Sha’Ifa Ma, dimmed the lights, 
lifted a pitcher of water and asked everyone to 
voice the names of those who had died in revolutionary struggle.

Balagoon’s name was offered first and water was 
poured for him, followed by Nat Turner, W.E.B. 
DuBois, Tupac Shakur and others. Each name 
brought murmurs and nods, along with a chant of 
“ashé,” a Yoruban word meaning “so let it be done.”

Balagoon’s fearlessness provided a common thread 
among the speakers that followed. Graduate 
student and writer Dan Berger, anarchist and 
former Black Panther Ashanti Alston, activist and 
poet Walidah Imarisha and writer Kazembe Balagun 
offered poetry, essays and general commemoration 
that centered on Balagoon’s determination ­ in 
the face of prison, illness and finally, death ­ 
to free his people from an oppressive system.

Alston, co-chair of the Jericho Movement, a 
Jamaica, N.Y. organization similar to Philly ABC, 
spoke as a comrade who shared goals with 
Balagoon. “If we’re going to be free, we have to 
take risks,” he said, noting that Balagoon would 
have gotten along with Harriet Tubman. He said as 
humans we all experience fear, but Balagoon’s 
life teaches us to move forward for freedom, 
concluding, “I wouldn’t be who I am today without Kuwasi Balagoon.”

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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