Long before the revelations of potentially unconstitutional activities by the NSA and other governmental agencies, as recently disclosed by high profile whistleblowers Mark Klein, Julian Assange, Michael Hastings, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden, there emerged in the 1950s COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program), a covert operation crafted by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his Deputy Director, William Sullivan. COINTELPRO was initially aimed at U.S. communists and their organizations, but its focus later shifted to discredit, disrupt, and destroy the Black Nationalist Liberation Movement, and to neutralize its leaders. There was also evidence the CIA, State Department, Army Intelligence and other federal, state and local governmental agencies conspired to destroy global anti-colonial liberation movements, of which the U.S. Black Liberation Movement was an integral part.
The Liberation Film Series’ 2013 – 2014 season continues with a special double-feature screening of The FBI’s War on Black America and The Assata Shakur Autobiography Documentary, followed by a discussion and Q&A on historic and continuing attacks on the Black Liberation Movement and its activists with "Comrade Mother" Akua Njeri, widow of Chairman Fred Hampton, Sr., and her son, Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. This free event takes place Saturday, January 18, 2014, at 2 pm at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit.
At 4:30 am on December 4, 1969, fourteen Chicago policemen, aided by a floor plan provided by paid informant William O’Neal, raided the apartment of Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton. The policemen, who were allegedly there to serve a search warrant for illegal weapons, were armed with shotguns, handguns and a .45 caliber machine gun. Hampton, just twenty-one years old, and apparently drugged by the informant, was repeatedly shot in his bed. Black Panther Defense Captain Mark Clark was also assassinated in this criminal raid.
Illinois State Attorney General Edward V. Hanrahan and the media claimed the Panthers had opened fire on the police, evidence later emerged that told a much different story: that the FBI, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, and the Chicago police conspired to assassinate Chairman Fred Hampton. Noam Chomsky described Hampton’s killing as “the gravest domestic crime of the Nixon administration” which “overshadow[ed] the entire Watergate affair by a substantial margin.”
On May 2, 1973, Black Panther activist Assata Olugbala Shakur, formerly Joanne Deborah Chesimard, was stopped by the New Jersey State Police, shot twice with her arms raised, and charged with the murder of a police officer. Assata spent six and a half years in prison before escaping from the maximum-security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey in 1979 and moving, as a political refugee, to Cuba.
Assata made the following statement, “My name is Assata (‘she who struggles’) Olugbala (‘for the people’) Shakur (‘the thankful one’), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the U.S. government's policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969, the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it ‘greatest threat to the internal security of the country’ and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.”
On May 2, 2013, Assata Shakur was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, becoming the first woman to do so. In addition, the state of New Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture.
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History’s Liberation Film Series: 2013 - 2014 Season, entitled Injustice & Resistance!, brings into focus the escalating injustice experienced by people of African descent in America today. The purpose is to leverage the collective knowledge of scholars, students, community activists and the grassroots community in a meaningful conversation that focuses on the examination of important films of our history.
The Liberation Film Series is supported by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Black Studies Departments of Michigan State University, University of Michigan - Dearborn, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne County Community College District, Oakland University, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, and Dr. Errol Henderson (University of Pennsylvania), Media Education Foundation, National Council of Black Studies, The Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University, Wayne State University Press, Black White Look Optical, ASALH-Detroit, community activists, and individual contributors. Charles Ezra Ferrell, a consultant to The Wright Museum, is the LFS Founder and Program Director.
The 2013 - 2014 season of the Liberation Film Series runs through June 2014, and is free and open to the public. For more information, including the complete series schedule and respective speaker profiles, discussion topics, trailers, reading lists, supplemental educational links, and insightful statements of endorsement, please visit www.TheWright.org/liberation.
About “Comrade Mother” Akua Njeri
“Comrade Mother” Akua Njeri (also known as Deborah Johnson) is a former member of the Illinois Chapter Black Panther Party. She is a survivor of the December 4, 1969 assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton and Defense Captain Mark Clark. She is the widow of Chairman Fred and the mother of Chairman Fred Jr.
Njeri is the Chairperson of the December 4th Committee that fights to defend and maintain the legacy of the Black Panther Party. December 4th co-coordinates, with Prisoners of Conscience Committee (P.O.C.C.), the annual August 30th birthday celebration of Chairman Fred Hampton, and the life, work, and commemorative events around the annual December 4th International Revolutionary Day, and the anniversary of the "Massacre on Monroe" - the assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton and Defense Captain Mark Clark.
Njeri is the co-author of the proposal to name 1 Chicago Block of 2300 W. Monroe "Chairman Fred Hampton Way," a campaign that exposed the dividing line between the interests of the state against the demands of the people. Njeri coordinates free clothing and fresh vegetable giveaways with P.O.C.C. and other survival programs. She also is on the board of the Advisory Committee for P.O.C.C.
About Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr.
Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. is a political activist and the son of Fred Hampton, Sr. His father was a Black Panther who was killed by the Chicago Police in 1969. Hampton's mother “Comrade Mother” Akua Njeri (Deborah Johnson), who was also shot, was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with him when Hampton Sr. was killed in her presence during the pre-dawn police raid. Hampton Sr. was 21 at the time of his death; Johnson was 19.
Hampton, Jr. has followed his father's legacy, becoming prominent in Black Nationalist politics. In 1990, he became the president of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, is currently the chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee (P.O.C.C.), and actively tours the country as a speaker and community activist.