FORMER ALABAMA PANTHER/POLITICAL PRISONER SPEAKS
Former Alabama Black Panther Party political prisoner Sekou Cinque Kambui was the guest speaker at the general assembly meeting of the People’s Organization for Progress last Thursday!
Kambui, now 68, was travelling with the NY Black Panther Reunion Committee and has been speaking in the area in anticipation of the 50th of the founding of the Black Panther Party in October. He was joined by NY Panthers Shep McDaniel and Tarik Haskins.
Kambui spent over 47 years in prison for his activism, including having done 39 years on a COINTELPRO orchestrated conviction in 1975. He was paroled in 2014.
“We are deeply honored to have Bro. Kambui with us tonight,” said P.O.P. chairman Lawrence Hamm.
For his comrades, at least 19 who are still in prison, Kambui made it very simple and plain:
“The resounding cry of our political prisoners must be heard.”
He then humbly expressed his gratitude for support he received from the New York area over the course of the years of his incarceration.
Prior to joining the Black Panther Party, Kambui worked with a range of organizations busy in the South for Civil Rights, ranging from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and even Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) prior to joining the Party in 1967.
He and many others were recruited as teens to participate in the Sit In Movement that was electrifying the South at that time.
He explained that he was proud to have been apart of the Sit In Campaigns and was appreciative of Black leaders of that time who felt that it was not only strategic to have young people as young as high school ages to participate in those campaigns even though they found themselves subjected to “beatdowns” that came with that kind of commitment; They felt that it in fact was the best way to train them and to prepare them to be the future leaders of our struggle.
Later on, he became a student of Malcolm X and that it was “Malcolm who taught that the issue wasn’t just Civil Rights, that there was a greater, larger issue,” he explained.
“It is human rights.
“We are human beings,” he insisted.
When he was faced with doing his long sentence, right away he observed how inhumanely abhorrent things were in the prison.
“There were no libraries,” he revealed, and the hygienic conditions were dangerously filthy.
So he began to organize. He taught prisoners to work with their families and outside institutions to buy and donate books to the prison. He also taught prisoners how to stick together to approach prison authorities about improving hygienic conditions.
One of the formations he created with another Panther political prisoner Mafundi Lake, who is still in prison, called Inmates For Life. His work quietly became a model for organizing inside other prisons in nearby states.
In less than twenty minutes, everyone had been treated to an incredible narrative of the origins of the prison justice movement in the deep south directly from an unsung pioneer in that movement.
Just as Kambui was being introduced, Pam Africa walked in with her electric presence.
She had just come from seeing Mumia AbuJamal to personally extend his greetings to his Panther comrade Kambui to P.O.P. chairman who visited Mumia last year.
Pam then built on Kambui’s remarks by reporting on some harrowing challenges in Pennsylvania’s prisons and how MOVE was organizing around them. She reported on how MOVE worked with inmates to bring attention to the water contamination issue at Graterford Prison, and that just as they were beginning to make some modest headway there, they learned that Mahanoy, the state prison where Mumia is, is also facing a water contamination issue now.
Then she came back to Mumia. She lauded the role of Mumia’s fellow inmates have played in keeping him alive, how one inmate helped Mumia scrub dead skin of his body from ill effects of the Hepatitis C, how another prisoner, Major Tillery, literally saved, Mumia’s life when he unconscious last year from a near diabetic coma. Then she reminded us of the grim reality facing Mumia.
“Mumia is slowly dying,” she said hurtfully.
“He is beginning to show signs of hardening of the liver.”
Although the court battle is heating up, he is still being denied treatment. He is joined by nearly 10,000 prisoners with the same illness. The prison system says that it simply costs too much to treat them. More maddening is that the treatment at issue in the United States is $1000 a pill!…A $1000!…The same treatment, the same pill only $4 in India!
“Mass incarceration and medical apartheid equals genocide,” said an angry Zayid Muhammad, longtime Mumia supporter who was key in bringing prominent activists from the area like the late Amiri Baraka, former Irvington mayor Wayne Smith, Lawrence Hamm and Frederica Bey, into the fight to save his life.
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