Today is actually for me a hard day to write about. I’ve been thinking about it for more than a week because I knew it was coming. Fifty years ago today James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. went missing in Philadelphia, Miss.. All members of COFO ( Council of Federated Organizations) a coalition of national and regional organizations engaged in civil rights activities in Mississippi. Established in 1962 with the goal of maximizing the efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After visiting Longdale Miss. the three workers went missing. I already knew of the movement in Miss. that summer, Centered around the need to register Black people to vote, but also revealing the serious need for local people themselves to step forward and take over the struggle. Outsiders were easy to spot and often targets. Also mostly they were students and would be gone after a while. This struggle really belonged to the local people. I was in high school and spent that summer being a busboy at an Atlanta nightclub ..but I already had friends in SNCC and CORE who went down to set up “Freedom Schools” …to train local people to set up voter registration drives and provide an atmosphere of solidarity that would last beyond the “Freedom Summers”. The bodies of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were found after 44 days in what has been called an “earthen dam” . They had been killed by a “lynch mob” of at the very least 10 Klansmen and “wannabes” after a pursuit on Highway 19..Miss State officials refused to prosecute the killers for murder,a state crime..the Federal Government tried the “mob” for conspiracy to deprive the civil rights workers of their civil rights.They indicted Sheriff Rainey, Deputy Sheriff Price and 16 other men. Only Seven were found guilty most received a sentence 0f 3 to 10 years…This would become a “watershed” moment for many people ..and for myself pretty much mark the end of my childhood. I had been watching the civil rights movement in the newspapers and on TV since the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955….and in recent years ’62—’65 we had seen the Miss. Riots ( white people who literally went mad..over James Meredith,the first Black student accepted, trying to enter the University of Miss)…the Freedom Riders: groups of Black and White students who broke the rules riding segregated inter state buses …and the Bombings one after another in Birmingham. I was still a kid …living in the biggest city in the deep south and all these people , mostly just three or four years older than I was were literally risking there lives to change a way of life that was so intrenched in the culture we almost thought of it as “normal”. The “whites only” and “colored area ” and “no colored served here” signs were as common in our lives as “STOP” signs are today…I can remember how most of our parents and grand parents didn’t even dream of things changing any time soon…. And those who did did not want their child to be among the people who tried …Almost every family had a story of some relative or neighbor who defied “Jim Crow” ….always with a tragic ending …But this generation ..literally took a deadly “Tiger by the Tail”..I was the first and for a long time the only kid in my school or my neighborhood who took an interest in the movement…. I went from Science nerd and “that brainy kid” to the “movement guy” during the course of the summer of 1964 and as the 1960s went on I began to disappoint and even anger many of the adults in my world. “Timothy you had so much potential..and you are just throwing it away”..But life simply could not be the same after that summer. Those brave students just a little older than I was became real heroes ..Lonnie King, John Lewis . Willie Ricks, Bob Moses, Julian Bond..Diane Nash….many more…I would try to sneak into meetings …run errands ..anything just to be around those people In the year to come I would have my “baptism in blood” ..1965 would mark the first time I actively participated in a march…. As this website grows and develops I will talk about a lot of what happened in later years but today …..let’s remember the lives of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.
This is my great grand father Charlie White. Papa as we called him. Papa died when I was about 7 or 8 years old, I think ..I could have been younger, but in my memory he looms as a huge mythological person. Frankly I don’t know how tall Papa was. He certainly seemed to us taller than any one else. Charlie White was the father of my maternal Grand mother Jessie White. Jessie died young and left behind three little girls..my mother Hattie , the oldest, Rosa Mae, and Ludi ..the baby .The girls were raised by Charlie and his wife “Ella” ..and until I was in my teens I thought they were my actual grandparents.
In Dawson Georgia, Terrell county Charlie White is said to have in his time been the only Black man who was addressed as Mr. rather than “boy” if you were young or ‘Uncle” if you were middle aged or over. Charlie was “Mr. White” where ever he went. His tall lean frame and his Stetson hat most of the year But a straw fedora in the summer …Mr. White was the man to go to if you had trouble…. Over a time it became hard to separate. The man from the myths. We knew he was a union organizer, but we were too young to know what that was. The people in the other picture are supposed to be some of Papa’s “union folks”. It was this picture that peaked my interest and made me want to learn more about a man who was a Black union organizer in the 20s, 30s and 40s in the deep south and why his “union folks” were Black people and White people and even as a child in the 1950s I knew that was unusual.I spent a lot of time over the period of my life searching for history about real people in the southern labor movement …every few years I would come across someone who had heard of Charlie White …many times it turned out to be someone else…I thought that for sure that a union organizer of Black and White workers would stick out some how… It turns out there were many attempts to organize workers in the early textile mills and even to old cotton mills in the deep south. Many people ended up dead.. and I did find a White guy named Charlie White who was murdered in Albany, Georgia in 1942…Finally when I was in my late forties ..and in Philadelphia where I now live. I met Vince Pieri ..an old lefty and something of an expert on Paul Robeson. Vince remembered meeting a Charlie White. I went home and got him a picture to see. And it was the same man…Paul Robeson had come to Dougherty County, Georgia to sing a concert to raise money for the Cotton Mill Workers United…There it was I now knew the name of at least one of the unions Papa had worked for…and it just knocked me out that he probably knew Paul Robeson…. Vince sad the reason for Papa’s trouble was he was constantly being called a “RED”…a communist..Vince said Papa not only denied this but said he didn’t even know any….in another conversation years later he called him self a “peoples” Socialist ….Vince is now long gone..but meeting him and becoming his friend was to me a miracle…It’s a good feeling to know that Charlie White’s genes are running through my veins,and it explains a lot about who I became in my life.
This is a moving video I came across from Julia Christopher Perri Moreno last year. this is moving to see how a typical “dorky” white guy gets exposed to the truth of reservation life and how he is changed…I’m posting this in memory of my old friend the late Robert Cruz . who I met when we were both at the Yale Summer High School in 1967. The Yale Summer High School was a program for so-called gifted high school kids from impoverished backgrounds. I went there for two years Robert went there for two years and worked there for one summer. Robert was a part of the “Rosebud Sioux Tribe” or ” Sicangu Oyate Lakota” He grew up on the Rosebud Reservation .He was s champion Gymnast and like the rest of us in the program blessed with a brilliant intellect but cursed to be born in a place where there was no opportunity…and we would stay up late at night comparing life on an Urban housing project where I came from and The Reservation that he came from …Robert was the first person to explain to me how the sculptures on Mount Rushmore could be compared to Hitler carving his likeness on the “Wailing Wall” in Israel ..The constant insult of seeing those horrible sculptures on what to his people was sacred Land.( see this link http://www.nps.gov/wica/historyculture/history-of-the-black-hills.htm) .he called Mt. Rushmore a “monstrosity” and he was right.To this day I can’t imagine living with such a constant reminder that his whole nation and people are still “prisoners of war..so please watch this video when you have time …it’s not what you may expect. Try this link.. http://www.upworthy.com/a-journalist-went-near-mount-rushmore-to-take-some-photos-what-he-found-changed-his-life-forever
I put together this partial list of political prisoners mostly out of frustration with the “Free Mumia” movement… while I fully support their assertion that his trial was bogus…Mumia’s conviction for murder grew out of his being a “Hot head” and anger over the way a Philadelphia policeman dealt with his brother and not from his going about any “revolutionary” work.. he was NOT arrested because he had once been in the Black Panther Party ..And Mumia became the “darling” of “trendy” clueless lefties the world over..on the other hand there are many civil rights workers, labor organizers, Puerto Rican Nationalists, former Black Panthers , etc.. all arrested and some convicted for going about their work…who remain in prisons ..some on death row and don’t get the Celebrity Mumia treatment. So here is the article from facebook that makes the case for the REAL political prisoners…
Leonard Peltier, an activist in the American Indian Movement, whose goal was to organize the native American communities to stand up for their rights. In a Cointelpro style operation, he was sentenced to life for murdering two FBI agents on the basis of fabricated and suppressed evidence. Evidence exonerating Peltier was withheld by the FBI. In his appeal, the government admitted it had no evidence to show he killed the two FBI agents. Peltier has been imprisoned for 35 years for this crime that he did not commit. See Robert Redford’s documentary “Incident at Oglala”. http://whoisleonardpeltier.info/…..The Cuban 5 (Gerardo Hernández, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez), sent by Cuba to report on the anti-Cuban terrorist networks operating in Miami. They collected information for Cuba, which gave much of it to the FBI to thwart a terrorist plot to blow up a civilian airliner heading to Cuba. Those the Cuban 5 monitored included Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles, guilty of many bombings, including blowing up a Cuban passenger plane in 1976, killing 73 civilians. Bosch was pardoned by Bush Sr. Luis Posada Carriles remains free in Miami. The FBI did not arrest the Miami terrorists, but jailed the Cuban 5 in 1998. They were convicted of “conspiracy” to commit espionage and murder, and sentenced from 15 years to life (Rene Gonzalez now released). Both the UN Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International have condemned their trial. See: “Mission Against Terror” and “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up!” http://Thecuban5.org/, http://freethefive.org/, http://antiterroristas.cu/..Ricardo Palmera, a Colombian revolutionary, is in solitary confinement in the Supermax prison at Florence, Colorado, serving a 60 year sentence for “conspiracy” to hold 3 captured CIA contractors prisoner in the FARC-held zone of Colombia. He was arrested in Ecuador in the process of negotiating with the UN for their release, then extradited to the U.S. where he was subjected to four separate trials. For years he led mass movements for social change, and many of his friends were murdered by death squads of the Colombian government. http://freericardopalmera.org/
Black Panther Party, New Afrikan, and Black Liberation Army political prisoners, were victims of the COINTELPRO operations in the 1960s-70s when the FBI sought to destroy the Black liberation movement. This U.S. government campaign resulted in at least 38 Black Panther Party members being killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Chicago BPP leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered by the Chicago police on December 4, 1969 in one of these operations. The FBI used COINTELPRO to infiltrate and disrupt groups seeking basic change in society. Many Black liberation activists have been imprisoned as a result of these operations, dozens of them for over 30 years.
These include Russell Maroon Shoats, who has spent 40 years in prison, 30 in solidarity
(http://russellmaroonshoats.wordpress.com/), Jalil Muntaqim, jailed since 1971 (http://www.freejalil.com/), Mutulu Shakur, who helped free Assata Shakur (http://assatashakur.org/, http://assatashakur.com/), and Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown). SundiataAcoli was with Assata Shakur (who escaped and found political asylum in Cuba) http://SundiataAcoli.org/
Veronza Bowers, imprisoned for 40 years, was convicted in the murder on the word of two government informers. There were no eye-witnesses and no other evidence independent of these informants. At trial, two relatives of the informants testimony insisting that they were lying was ignored. http://veronza.org/
Eddie Conway has been imprisoned since 1970 for attempted murder of a police officer. He was denied the right to choose his own lawyer, William Kunstler, and was assigned a lawyer who never met with him. Conway’s Post Office supervisor testified that at the time of the shooting, Conway was at work. Like so many other victims of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), is a former leader of the Baltimore Black Panther Party and was targeted for his political and social activism.
See Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther. http://freeeddieconway.org/
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (David Rice), leaders of the Black Panthers in Omaha in the 1960s, were targets of COINTELPRO. Both men have been imprisoned for 43 years, serving life sentences on charges of killing an Omaha policeman. They were convicted on the testimony of a teenage boy who was beaten by the police and threatened with the electric chair if he did not blame the crime on Poindexter and Mondo. Amnesty International defends them as prisoners of conscience. See: http:// youtube.com/watch?v=wi0luaq0eyM http://www.n2pp.info/, http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/Announcements/Justice_for_the_Omaha_Two.html
Sekou Kambui, a BPP/BLA member, imprisoned since 1975, was convicted of the murders of two Klansmen. Some witnesses reported that they were threatened and forced to provide false testimony. This deprived Sekou of his defense that he was nowhere near the scene of the murders. http://consciousplat.com/page/political-prisoners
A number of other mostly Black Panther Party/ Black Liberation Army political prisoners have been imprisoned over 40 years for armed self-defense actions against the police: Herman Bell, Romaine ‘Chip’ Fitzgerald, Robert Seth Hayes, Kamau Sadiki (since 2002, http://freekamau.com/). See: The FBI’s War on Black America: COINTELPRO, Cointelpro 101, Cointelpro Documentary http://prisonactivist.org/, http://thejerichomovement.com/
Attorney Lynne Stewart was imprisoned for 10 years on charges of conspiracy to provide “material support” to terrorism and to “defraud” the U.S. government. An outspoken legal advocate for black activists and the poor, she was convicted in 2005 along with translator Mohamed Yousry and paralegal Ahmed Abdel Sattar on charges arising from her legal defense of Islamic cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for a plot to blow up NYC landmarks in the early 1990s. http://lynnestewart.org/
Sami Al-Arian was indicted in 2003 on multiple counts related to supporting a Palestinian group on the State Department’s terrorist list. One of the early victims of the Patriot Act, he was tried and imprisoned for “conspiracy.” Al-Arian spent over 5 ½ years in prison (3 ½ in solitary). He was repeatedly brought to trial and is now under house arrest for “criminal contempt” for refusing to participate in grand jury investigations. The documentary “USA vs. Al-Arian” explains his case. http://FreeSamiAlArian.com/
Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera was a community activist mainly in the area of health care, employment, police brutality and involved in the Puerto Rican independence struggle in the 1970s and 80s. He is imprisoned for “seditious conspiracy” and connection to armed robbery. He is currently serving his 32th year of a 55-year sentence. Avelino González Claudio reached a plea agreement of conspiracy to rob bank funds, while stating he was acting in support of the independence of Puerto Rico, and in 2008, sentenced to 7 years in prison, as well as to restitution of the money. http://Boricuahumanrights.org/, http://prolibertadweb.com/
The Angola 3, Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, in Angola Prison, LA, since the late 1960s. While in prison, the men organized prisoners to build a movement within the walls to desegregate the prison, to end systematic rape and violence, and worked as jailhouse lawyers helping prisoners file legal papers. The Angola 3 were placed in solitary, blamed for the 1972 murder of a prison guard, and were kept in solidarity for a combined total over 100 years! King was released after 29 years in solitary once his first conviction was overturned. Wallace and Woodfox are still prisoners in Angola prison and after 36 years, they were moved from solitary to maximum security. See In the Land of the Free, and Angola 3: The Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation. http://www.angola3.org/
Shukri Abu-Baker and Ghassan Elashi of the Holy Land Foundation, were each sentenced in 2008 to 65 years in prison. Three others of the Holy Land 5 were sentenced to 13-20 years: Mohammad El-Mezain, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mufid Abdulqader. All were imprisoned for giving more than $12 million to charitable groups in Palestine which funded hospitals, schools and fed the poor and orphans. The U.S. government said these groups were controlled by Hamas, a group it lists as a terrorist organization. Hamas is the elected government of Gaza. Some of these charitable committees were also still receiving US funding through the USAID as late as 2006. Testimony was given in the case by an Israeli government agent whose identity and evidence was kept secret from the defense. This marked the first time in American legal history that testimony has been allowed from an expert witness with no identity, therefore immune from perjury. The defendants were acquitted in their first trial when the jury remained deadlocked. http://freedomtogive.com/
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is an American-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted in a U.S. court of assault with intent to murder her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan and sentenced to 86 years in prison. Four British Parliamentarians wrote to President Obama “there was an utter lack of concrete evidence tying Dr Siddiqui to the weapon she allegedly fired at a US officer” and that she be freed immediately. The weapon she allegedly fired in the small interrogation room did not have her fingerprints, nor was there evidence the gun was fired. http://freeaafia.org/
Dr. Rafil Dhafir founded the charity, Help the Needy in direct response to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the brutal sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. For 13 years before his arrest, he publicized the plight of the Iraqi people and raised funds to help them. According to the government, Dhafir donated $1.4 million of his own money over the years. As an oncologist, he was also concerned about the effects of depleted uranium on the Iraqi population which was experiencing skyrocketing cancer rates. In February 2003, just before the second US war on Iraq, Dhafir was arrested as a “funder of terrorism,” though no evidence was presented at trial. Dhafir was sentenced to 22 years in prison connected to breaking the sanctions against Iraq http://dhafirtrial.net/
Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who, along with co-defendant Muhammad Salah, was charged but found innocent of “conspiracy” and terrorism-financing charges in 2007 for their opposition to Israeli occupation of Palestine. Ashqar was then convicted of “criminal contempt” for his decision to refuse to testify against other U.S. Palestinian activists before a grand jury, even though he was given immunity from the prosecution. For this refusal to testify, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, the longest sentence ever handed down for that “crime.” http://www1.freewebs.com/free-ashqar/history/index.htm
Jeremy Hammond arrested in 2012 for the hacking of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), leaking information to Wikileaks showing that Stratfor spies on human rights activists at the behest of corporations and the U.S. government. He has been denied bail and held in solitary confinement, facing a maximum sentence of ten years. http://freejeremy.net/
Barrett Brown is a writer/journalist whoe work has appeared in the Guardian, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, Businessweek;. founder of Project PM, co-author of Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism. He wasimprisomed in 2012 related to the Stratfor case. Despite lack of direct involvement in the operation , he faces charges simply for allegedly pasting a hyperlink online. http://freebarrettbrown.org/
Patrice Lumumba Ford was a Muslim targeted after 9-11 as part of the Portland Seven. Lumumba accepted a plea agreement, but he refused to further the “war on terror” by helping with more prosecutions. For that refusal he was sentenced to 18 years in a maximum-security federal prison on “conspiracy” charges. http://freelumumba.org/
The MOVE 8 were sentenced to 30-100 years after the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. The trial judge stated he had no idea who shot the officer. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops when a bomb was dropped on their living quarters. http://move9parole.blogspot.com/
Rev. Joy Powell was consistent activist against police brutality, violence and oppression in her community. She was warned by the Rochester Police that she was a target because of her speaking out against corruption. Rev. Joy, a Black woman, was convicted of burglary and assault by an all white jury; the state provided no evidence and no eyewitnesses. She was given 16 years. http://freejoypowell.org/
In 1969, Sekou Odinga was forced to go underground when he and 20 members of the BPP were falsely charged with criminal conspiracy in the infamous New York Panther 21 case. Sekou was captured in 1981 and tortured in a NY police station. The police and FBI were trying to find out information about Assata Shakur. Found guilty of freeing Assata Shakur and of attempted murder of police. Sekou is not eligible for parole until 2033. http://sekouodinga.com/
Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan were convicted of “material support for terrorism” in 2011, and given 20 and 10 year sentences respectively. The two Rochester, Minnesota women had collected clothing and raised money to help destitute people in their homeland. The prosecution claims that they helped al-Shabab, an Islamist organization that fights to free Somalia from foreign domination.
The NATO 5 jailed in May 2012 before the NATO summit, based on accusations of undercover police informants. Brent Betterly, Jared Chase, and Brian Church await trial for “possession of incendiary or explosive devices, conspiracy to commit terrorism and providing material support for terrorism.” Sebastian Senakiewicz is charged with “falsely making a terrorist threat,” accused of saying to an undercover agent he had explosives when he didn’t. Mark Neiweem, imprisoned for “attempted possession of explosive or incendiary devices,” was accused of asking an undercover informant to acquire explosives. http://nato5support.wordpress.com/
Eric McDavid and Marie Mason, environmental political prisoners, are both serving sentences of around 20 years imprisonment. In March 2008, Marie Mason was arrested for vandalism of a GMO office and of logging equipment in 1999 and 2000; no one was harmed in either of them. She was sentenced based on the Patriot Act to 22 years, now serving the longest sentence of any “Green Scare” prisoner. Eric McDavid was convicted of one count of “conspiracy” based on FBI informant testimony and sentenced to 20 years. He engaged in no illegal action. See Green is the New Red, http://supportmariemason.org/, http://supporteric.org/