Kazi Toure: A Warrior Retires - African-American, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans Suffered US "Justice"
11 March 2015
By Karin Friedmann
Prisoners Suffered Much before Muslims Became the Targets
African-American, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans Suffered US "Justice"
On Friday March 13, 2015 former Black
Panther and political prisoner Kazi Toure celebrated his 65th birthday in a
cozy gathering at First Church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. He looked
very sharp wearing a silky black jacket with a red Chinese dragon on the back
and a leather top hat over his long dreadlocks. Many young children of
activists were in attendance at the event, as well as some old timers related
to the struggle for liberation including Jimmy Barrett. The walls were
covered with posters of liberation icons like Ramona Africa.
The gathering began with an African
celebration called a ''libation.'' A young woman poured water from a glass
into a dish below, while mentioning the names of ancestors and role models
whose spiritual energy they wanted to invite into this gathering. People
around the room also invoked names such as Harriet Tubman and Leonard Peltier.
This set the mood for a very meaningful evening.
The first speaker was Eddie Cortez, a
Puerto Rican former political prisoner who spent many years in the
penitentiary for ''seditious conspiracy.'' He spoke about Oscar Lopez Rivera,
the longest serving Puerto Rican political prisoner, who has served 35 years.
Obama freed the Cuban 5. Why wonít he free Oscar Lopez Rivera? On December
14, 2014, for the first time, the Puerto Rican governor came to visit Rivera
in Terre Haute. But nothing further has happened. No US Congress has ever
addressed the issue of Puerto Rico as a Commonwealth vs. as a free country,
even though every Puerto Rican church and political party supports freedom.
He mentioned Leonard Peltier, who has
served 36 years, Sundiata Acoli, who has been in prison for 40 years, and
Jaan Laaman, Kazi Toureís co-defendant. In 1979 he and Kazi Toure helped to
organize the Amandla Festival of Unity to support an end to apartheid in
Southern Africa, which featured musician Bob Marley. Laaman was sentenced to
53 years in 1984 for bombing government buildings.
''How much punishment is enough?''
Cortez asked. He then told a cute story about how prisoners managed to
smuggle in birthday cakes by organizing a group to distract the guards.
''We need to change the face of
America,'' he said. ''We need our own system, not socialism or communism.
What we need is creativity in the face of oppression.''
Next, Palestinian activist Dr. Lana
Habash spoke about the need for clarity against Zionist hasbara within
current political activist movements. ''Itís not complicated, itís just
She spoke about Amer Jibran, who was
very active locally in Boston against Zionism against US wars of aggression.
He led a high profile confrontation against the yearly Israeli Independence
Day celebration, which used to draw 10,000 people. He was deported in 2004
but remained politically active in Jordan. In 2014 the Mukhabarat, Jordanian
intelligence, used ropes to enter his home and kidnap him. He was held for
two months without charge. Then in August 2014 the Jordanian State Security
Court charged him with a list of terror offenses related to Hezbollah, which
basically amounted to speech and were based on forced confessions.
''Amerís writings were never against
Jordan but against Israel and US wars,'' Lana said. ''We must reject
definitions of terrorism. The political prisoner is our oxygen. They
represent who we are, who we must be, and the task ahead. We must carry on
the struggles they went to prison for.''
Next spoke Ray Levasseure, another of
Kaziís co-defendants. He said he met Kazi when our country was at war with
South America and there was the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Both of them were ''packing,'' he said. They meant serious business. He said
he was surprised to be here today, especially looking at 65 in the rear view
mirror. He was underground sometime already when Kazi started getting his
feet wet. He spent 20 years in ADX prison for activities related to the
United Freedom Front (UFF). 13 of those years were spent in solitary.
Governor Deval Patrick denounced UMass
for letting Ray give a talk. The police lobbied against him and prevented his
speech about Black Panther Party related political prisoners in America.
Born of French-Canadian immigrants, Ray
was imprisoned for an anti-apartheid bombing of a South African office in New
York City. Nobody was hurt because that was not the intention. He noted that
the government is more concerned about property destruction against military
installations than they are about bloodshed.
Ray mentioned Tom Manning, another of
their co-defendants, who is still in prison for bombing US military
installations for UFF. He also knew Oscar Lopez Riveras from prison. Tom is
having a lot of medical problems and as a result cannot walk. Medical
problems are devastating to anyone, but when experienced in the Supermax
segregation unit, the suffering is incomparable. Tom has had many surgeries.
He needs to use a walker but could not do so because of problems with his
shoulders. Dr. Lana Habash led a campaign for him to get shoulder replacement
surgery, which happened 2 months ago. He is now in the early steps of rehab.
If all heals well, he will be out of his wheelchair and onto crutches for the
first time in six years. Tom suffered many brutal beatings in prison. Ray
talked about how important it is to send a letter, make a phone call,
especially for professionals like Dr. Habash to step in and do something.
He mentioned a long-time prisoner, who
has been forgotten. He just needed a couple magazine subscriptions. He is now
serving time with Imam Jamil al-Amin. Ray met him during his pre-trial
detention decades ago. They were given one hour a day out of their cages to
walk up and down the tier. The prisoners began to befriend each other. It was
an amazing time because so many revolutionary movements were going on. During
these tier walks, Ray met members of the Irish Republican Army, Palestinian
and Mexican groups, Puerto Rican, Black Panthers, etc. Kazi has told me
similar prison friendship stories.
There are so many disparate groups,
each with their own little defense committee. Everybody knows about Mumia but
they donít know about Kojo Bomani or Grayling Brown. Inside of the prison,
these political prisoners bonded and watched each othersí back, but on the
street supporters canít get along because of too many different agendas.
Filiberto, who was murdered by the FBI in his home in Puerto Rico, issued a
call for a conference for all political prisoners but Freedom Now collapsed
and the Jericho Movement has not achieved what Filiberto had in mind. We need
to work for a larger sense of unity, Ray concluded.
Musical entertainment from a rapper
called Optimist then ensued, with a band called Foundation Movement.