Wednesday, June 03, 1998

Wife of Black Panther leader calls for community activism

Wife of Black Panther leader calls for community activism
Pamela Jane Appea
University Wire 06-03-1998
(Chicago Maroon) (U-WIRE) CHICAGO --

Akua Njeri, National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement (NPDU) president, spoke last Friday evening at Ida Noyes Hall. The event was sponsored by the U of C Students for the Freedom of Fred Hampton.

The U of C organization was founded several months ago in order to increase awareness of the imprisonment of Fred Hampton, Jr. Hampton is the son of Fred Hampton, renowned 1960s Chicago Black Panther organizer.

Five years ago, the younger Hampton was sentenced to 18 years in prison for a 1992 Chicago arson. The fire, according to Chicago police files, did not warrant a fire truck, and onlookers allege that the store did not close for more than 15 minutes.

Njeri, Hampton mother, along with other individuals and organizations, are lobbying for the freedom of Hampton Njeri's speech addressed the effects of police brutality, the "drug economy," and racism on black individuals in Chicago.

"There is no tradition of democracy for African people under U.S. law," Njeri said. "In the '60s, we were united in the Civil Rights movement, and then the Black Power movement.

Black power challenged white liberalism." Njeri explained how the Black Panthers started programs that allowed "blacks to liberate themselves."

"The government said our children were... [unable to be educated]. Poverty meant that children were going to school without food in their bellies."

The Black Panther movement began a free breakfast program for elementary school children in order to help black and underprivileged children in their school careers. The Panthers also began a free sickle cell anemia test and a specialized Afrocentric school curriculum.

"I thought it was important how [Njeri] constantly related the movement to what is going on now was the key," said Hoang Phan, co-founder and president of the U of C Students for the Freedom of Fred Hampton, Jr., and NDUP member.

While the Black Panther movement is now defunct, Njeri still said she believes in community activism as a way for blacks to help themselves."I believe that we're at a real historical turning point. African people are rising up to take charge of our lives," said Njeri.

"The NPDU's goal is to allow freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of determining ourselves as a people. We believe that social development and economic development are the solution. We are building a movement that will change the political terrain of the people," she said.Njeri also discussed how youths must undergo police searches and police brutality.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer period.

"As a white person living in Chicago, I see the differences of how blacks and whites are treated. I think that African people have democratic rights like everyone else. Njeri's courage to keep on fighting for the African community is striking," said Sandy Thompson, member of the NDUP, and North Side resident.

"It was eye opening to hear the specifics of Fred Hampton Jr.'s arrest. It would have been nice, however, if Njeri had gone into more specific correlation of the laws and the effects that they have on the black community," said Lynn Headley, a fourth-year student in the College.

A U of C Students for the Freedom of Fred Hampton member stated that more RSOs, including members of Organization of Black Students and Sistafriends, should become more involved in political organization and community activism.

"I think it's problematic that a lot of the cultural groups on campus -- not just SF and OBS -- don't get involved with political organizing. Their main concern seems to be cultural shows. I can't say what people should do," he concluded.

Njeri is a former Black Panther member who was present during the 1969 police raid that assassinated husband, Hampton Sr., and Mark Clark, another Black Panther officer.

Members of the Free Fred Hampton, Jr. coalition will be hosting a march on June 10 to Mayor Richard Daley's office, the federal building, 230 South Dearborn Street.

The lecture was funded by the Center for Race Studies.