Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Black History Month: Fred Hampton

“You have to understand that people have to pay the price for peace. If you dare to struggle, you dare to win. If you dare not struggle, then you don’t deserve to win. Let me say ‘Peace’ to you, if you’re willing to fight for it.”

“I arrived on the day Fred Hampton died / Real ni**as just multiply.”

~ Jay Z, Murder to Excellence, Watch the Throne

The fiery, passionate and energetic Black Panther Party (BPP) leader, Fred Hampton, was born on August 30, 1948 in Summit, Illinois, and raised in Maywood suburbs. Hampton was, by all accounts, a fine student in the classroom, graduating from high school in 1966, at 16. Continuing his education at Triton Junior College, Hampton studied law in an effort to arm himself, and those in his community, with legal knowledge to employ against abusive policing tactics. Very early on in his life he was involved in organizing and activism, working at one time with a local NAACP Youth Council, proving himself an effective leader and galvanizer of like-minded youth to effect progressive social change in their community.

Hampton later came to national prominence, however, after joining the Black Panther Party. In November 1968, he joined the Panther’s fledgling Illinois chapter—instituted by SNCC coordinator Bob Brown in 1967—and moved to Chicago, its basis of operations for the state. Among the feats Hampton, with his comrades, were able to accomplish, was a pact of non-aggression in Chicago between rival street gangs, emphasizing the deleterious affects of internecine crime, which menaced all those involved with poverty, poor life prospects and utter self-annihilation. Bringing to bear on the issues that affected the community at large a Marxist social analysis—focusing on class-consciousness and class-struggle—Hampton was able to broker such progressive, “Rainbow” coalitions, which struggled for progressive change on behalf of the oppressed.

A charismatic and passionate leader, Hampton would attract the attention of the Federal government, chiefly the FBI, and while the BPP’s activities and agitation generally elicited the Bureau’s ire and suspicion (and surveillance), Hampton’s powerfully effective leadership especially concerned its highest officers. This constant surveillance and attempted disruption of the BPP (and other organizations struggling for African-American rights) would culminate in Hampton’s assassination—at the young age of 21—in the early hours of December 4, 1969. Though Hampton was summarily and unjustly killed, his legacy as a driven, committed community leader lives on and the spirit of his revolutionary fire does too.

Further reading/viewing:

Democracy Now's "The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther"

Fred Hampton's Bio

The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)

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