[Ppnews] Letter & Poem from Jalil Muntaqim

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 13 10:47:26 EDT 2009

TO: Open Letter to All Progressives

FR: Jalil A. Muntaqim

RE: The State of U.S. Political Prisoners Support Movement

DT: May 1, 2009  (May Day)

It is obvious to the majority of U.S. political 
prisoners that the movement in support of them, 
for the exception of Jericho Amnesty Movement and 
individuals support committees, is impotent and 
nearly non-existent.  There is no national 
determination or initiative that captures the 
imagination or represents opposition to the 
overwhelming bleak condition the majority of U.S. 
political prisoners suffers.  This is especially 
true for those who were direct victims of 
COINTELPRO and have languished in prison 25-40 years.

In late 1976, I initiated the U.S. Prisoners 
National Campaign to Petition the United Nations; 
by 1977, the campaign organized a signature 
petition gathering 2500 signatures from prisoners 
across the country.  In fact, the campaign had 
affiliated cadres in state and federal prisons in 
25 U.S. states, with communications with prisoners in parts of Europe.

In 1977, an attorney presented our petition and 
complaint to a special subcommittee of the United 
Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.  This being the 
first time U.S. political prisoners had a 
petition submitted and recorded at a United 
Nations subcommittee pertaining to racism and the 
conditions of political prisoners in the U.S. 
penal system. (See: U.N. document 
E/CN.4/Sub.2/NGO/75).  During the course of 
organizing the petition campaign, Comrade 
Sundiata Acoli, then in New Jersey, agreed to 
assist by organizing a march in support of the 
petition to the United Nations.  The march and 
demonstration was held in front of the Harlem 
State Office Building.  This campaign was 
responsible for the firing of then U.N. 
Ambassador Andrew Young from his post at the U.N. 
by President Jimmy Carter.  When, in 1978, then, 
Ambassador Andrew Young was in Paris for a U.N. 
event, I suggested a reporter we had 
communications with ask Ambassador Andrew Young 
the single question, “Are there political 
prisoners in the United States?”  When Andrew 
Young answered, “
perhaps thousands
”, rightwing 
political forces and the media in the United 
States had a field day rebuking and attacking 
him, eventually resulting in Jimmy Carter firing him from his U.N. post.

In the course of the heightened political focus 
on U.S. political prisoners, an initiative was 
made to secure a political prisoners exchange 
with prisoners held in Cuba.  Contact and 
dialogue with Cuba’s representatives at the 
United Nations was initiated and the Cuban 
government shared their interest in support of an 
exchange of prisoners.  To ensure this 
possibility, in 1977, President Fidel Castro at 
the ‘Peoples National Assembly’ at Monaco 
publicly announced a willingness to accept U.S. 
Black political prisoners in a prisoner’s 
exchange.  Unfortunately, as a result of 
political wrangling and miscues here in the U.S., 
perhaps as a result of FBI interference, the 
exchange was never made – a lost 
opportunity!  Nonetheless, because of this 
campaign in 1979, members of the International 
Jurist toured the U.S. visiting political 
prisoners and reported to a United Nations 
special committee that political prisoners in fact exist in the United States.

Fast forward to 1996 when I called for the 
Jericho March to the White House, that Baba 
Herman Ferguson and our beloved late Sista Safiya 
Bukhari organized, and in 1998, 6,000 activists 
from across the country, as far away as Hawaii, 
traveled to Washington, D.C. and participated in 
a march and rally in support of recognition of 
U.S. political prisoners.  Since then, the 
Jericho Amnesty Movement has organized cadres and 
support groups across the country and overseas, 
continuing to broaden understanding of the 
existence of U.S. political prisoners.  In 2008, 
Jericho Amnesty Movement had its tenth 
anniversary with a march and rally NYC organized 
by Ashanti Alston and Kazi Toure.  Despite a 
decade of ebbs and flow, highs and lows 
throughout the progressive movement, Jericho 
remains the noted national representative of U.S. political prisoners.

Throughout the Jericho Amnesty Movement 
existence, it has consistently called for the 
reopening of COINTELPRO hearings.  In the last 20 
years, there have been several national forums on 
COINTELPRO; the International Tribunals in 1990 
at Hunter College, and in 2000, reopening of 
COINTELPRO hearings was discussed by a panel 
conducted by then Congresswoman Cynthia 
McKinney.  In late 2007, the San Francisco 8, 
issued a joint statement again calling for a 
national determination demanding the reopening of COINTELPRO hearings.[1]

In light of repressive laws subject to the 
Patriot Act and subsequent White House 
enactments, it is time for a national outcry 
raising and demanding the reopening of COINTELPRO 
hearings.  Therefore, I am urging all progressive 
forces to establish a committee specifically for 
this purpose and begin the process of educating 
the general public why reopening COINTELPRO 
hearings is a necessary important first step to 
free imprisoned COINTELPRO victims, and the 
ultimate liberation of all U.S. political 
prisoners.  It is imperative to raise this issue 
unto the national debate, especially now that the 
FBI and CIA are under scrutiny for forensic 
evidence violations, torture interrogations, and 
overreaching wiretapping and electronic 
surveillances of the public.  It is essential to 
explain that such government misconduct is not 
new, the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark 
Clark is just one of many important past examples.

I am also calling on those in academia, the 
progressive intelligentsia to also discuss how 
best to pose this concern to the Obama 
administration.  It is high time for the broader 
progressive academic community to join in the 
overall struggle as it pertains to the existence 
of U.S. political prisoners.  There are a new 
generation of scholars, many of whom only 
read/studied about the movements of the 1960’s 
and 1970’s, having been divorced from any 
empirical knowledge of revolutionary engagement 
or struggles for civil and human rights.  Yet, 
some of these new scholars have written excellent 
books analyzing and explaining that era of 
struggle for civil and human rights, preserving 
those struggles in literature for future 
study.  However, even for them comes a time to 
put theory into practice, to test their knowledge 
in doing the work left undone.  The progressive 
academic community can be an important component 
in this determination, and I am personally asking 
them to join, to get in where they fit 
in.  Specifically, for progressive academics to 
forge a national committee of academics to 
jointly propose the reopening of COINTELPRO hearings.

I am now making this call for action because too 
many of our imprisoned COINTELPRO victims in the 
last 25-40 years suffer illnesses that could 
prove terminal.  Several have died in prison, and 
the reality is many more will if the progressive 
movements fail to take action.  There is a new 
historical era on the horizon where dialogue and 
exchange between the U.S. and Cuba could result 
in the termination of a four decades old 
embargo.  Here, today, there is a need for a 
Truth and Reconciliation Commission, since there 
cannot be any healing without revealing, to sort 
out the war imposed on the Black Panther Party 
and other liberation forces by J. Edgar Hoover’s 
FBI, and various police agencies.  Therefore, the 
time to seriously unite and rebuild a durable and 
sustainable freedom movement for U.S. political 
prisoners is NOW!  Remember:  WE ARE OUR OWN LIBERATORS!!

Jalil A. Muntaqim

Aunt Doe

Like an angry cat furiously pawing and unfurling a
ball of gray yarn, the seams of her mind unwind.

In an unrelenting battle resembling the Sun battering
holes in an overcast sky, intermittingly warming pastures
of names, places and things, her memory struggles to defy
the deadly diminishing of its existence.

Blinding rain of dementia dims her thoughts as she stares
into space, her mind screaming to remember but hearing
only the echoing pitter-patter of deafening silence demanding
an umbrella of medications to cast fading shadows that harks
back to life’s successes, the pain of lost opportunities, and
pleasures of having loved and been loved.

Old age have captured the beauty of her youth and callously
jostles her, as she stumbles absent signposts or directions,
though a mental maze toward the terminal dark gallows of time.

And, yet, we remember and love the whole of her!

April 22, 2009

[Dedicated to my beloved Aunt Dorothy Phillips suffering Alzheimer]

[1] For detail information on these and other 
struggles on the issue of U.S. political 
prisoners read: “Let Freedom Ring – A Collection 
of Documents from the Movement to Free U.S. 
Political Prisoners”, Edited by Matt Meyer.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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