[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 Saturdays Kuwasi Balagoon Memorial
Dinner. Photocopies of a largely unavailable
collection of writings by and about Balagoon
titled A Soldiers 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 Balagoons 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 todays collective efforts. Sharifa
Malik, a Yoruban spiritual guide known by her
spiritual name ShaIfa Ma, dimmed the lights,
lifted a pitcher of water and asked everyone to
voice the names of those who had died in revolutionary struggle.
Balagoons 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.
Balagoons 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 Balagoons 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 were 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 Balagoons
life teaches us to move forward for freedom,
concluding, I wouldnt be who I am today without Kuwasi Balagoon.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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