The political prisoner who was released from prison after almost half a century
On October 7, 2020, political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim was officially released on parole from Southport Correctional Facility in Pine City, New York after being incarcerated for half a century.
Jalil Muntaqim became an active militant in the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) at the age of 18. On August 28, 1971, shortly after the assassination of BPP Field Marshall George Jackson, Muntaqim was captured by the U.S. government in San Francisco along with Albert “Nuh” Washington following an armed confrontation with police.
They, along with Herman Bell, were later charged with the May 21, 1971 deaths of two New York cops and imprisoned.
This came at a time when the U.S. government was waging an all-out war on the Black Power Movement, primarily through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO). This war of counterinsurgency was aimed at the organizations and leaders of our struggle for freedom.
COINTELPRO engaged in all kinds of tactics of war including assassinations, infiltrating organizations with agent provocateurs to disrupt organizational unity and sabotage organizations from within and even framing revolutionaries for crimes like bombings and robberies—sometimes of places that didn’t even exist.
It was in this period that we saw the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and others. More than 30 members of the Black Panther Party had already been assassinated in the year 1968 alone and Jalil Muntaqim and Albert “Nuh” Washington were just two of more than 300 Panthers to be imprisoned as political prisoners and prisoners-of-war.
COINTELPRO was effective in that it fractured our movement, crushed our organizations and drove many revolutionaries underground. In response to this war carried out against our movement, the Black Liberation Army (BLA) was formed from the ranks of the BPP. Jalil Muntaqim was among them.
Jalil Muntaqim’s politicization
As Jalil grew up in Oakland, California, his mother, Billie Bottoms Brown, taught him and his siblings Stephanie and David the importance of their African identity. She believed that her children had to understand who they are and their position in the world.
In an interview titled “The Voice of Liberation,” Muntaqim explained how there were pictures of Jamil Al-Amin, then known as H. Rap Brown; Kwame Ture, then known as Stokley Carmichael; and el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, also known as Malcolm X, throughout the house as he was growing up.
He noted that these were icons in his life because they had been reinforced as leaders in his household. Following those examples, he joined the Black Panther Party (BPP) after watching them on television engage in an armed demonstration at California’s state capitol on May 2 1967, just one year before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The 1968 Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised the Black Power salute also inspired Jalil to engage in revolutionary struggle. When he joined the Black Panther Party, he would help out with duties in the offices and the community programs, as well as with distribution of the Black Panther Party newspaper.
During his years in prison, he learned to stay busy despite the worsening colonial conditions. He has established many programs, such as the first men’s group for therapeutic training in the NY state prison system, an African/Black Studies program, a computer literacy class, a Sociology class and a poetry class. He has raised money for the children’s fund, was office manager of the computer lab and a teacher’s aide for GED classes.
Jalil is also the recipient of several certificates for rehabilitation programming and is a published author, poet, educator and blogger who continued to write and speak about the struggle for Black Liberation.
Attempts to block Jalil’s release
On September 23, 2020, the New York parole board passed the order for Muntaqim to be released on parole before October 20. The order came after he was hospitalized with the colonial virus also known as COVID-19 earlier this year in June. The order for his release was publicized days later by the board.
Even though Muntaqim had been eligible for parole during his life sentence since 1998, his parole request was denied 11 times. He attempted to gain release based on public health guidance advising the release of medically vulnerable people.
In June of this year after his 12th parole hearing, he secured a parole order for his release. Shamefully, the parole order was cancelled after state attorney general Letitia James, a democratic party member, arbitrated at the request of the New York City’s Police Benevolent Association (PBA), who have fervently opposed Muntaqim’s parole for many years.
A few months later, the parole board approved his request and he has now since been released from the colonial prison system, with the exception of still being on parole.
The seventh point of the working platform of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) states:
“We want complete amnesty for all African political prisoners and prisoners of war from U.S. prisons or their immediate release to any friendly country which will accept them and give them political asylum.”
Mumia Abu-Jamal, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Sundiata Acoli, Joseph Bowen, Veronza Bowers Jr., Fred “Muhammad” Burton, Ruchell Magee, Ed Poindexter, Kojo Bomani Sababu, Kamau Sadiki, Mutulu Shakur and Jamil Al-Amin are but a few of the many political prisoners who are still alive and held captive today after being locked in America’s concentration camps for over three decades for fighting in the Black Liberation Movement.
We must continue working and organizing to liberate Africa and her dispersed people
Following the defeat of the Black Power Movement of the Sixties, the State’s war of counterinsurgency was expanded and directed at the entire African community. That war included chemical warfare in the form of the illegal drug economy imposed on our community and the imposition of neocolonial leadership to fill the vacuum created by the assassination and imprisonment of many of our legitimate leaders.
That neocolonial leadership (white power in black face) then justified the war on African communities. This counterinsurgency was intended to salt the earth, pushing African people out of independent political life and preventing us from ever raising our heads in resistance.
African people, however, are becoming once again mobilized in the struggle for Black Power. On the second page of The Burning Spear newspaper, there is a quote by BPP co-founder and Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton that reads:
“You might not have the Black Panther Party, but you have the Uhuru House. You might not have The Black Panther newspaper, but you have The Burning Spear. So they haven’t done anything by crushing one organization.”
It is upon our shoulders to carry our struggle for national liberation to completion. We must be free. Winning our freedom requires the building of the revolutionary Vanguard Party of the African working class to organize and lead our people.
The African People’s Socialist Party is that party. Built in 1972 from the ashes of the defeated Black Power Movement, it has carried on and advanced our struggle.
The Party encourages not only the reading of The Burning Spear newspaper, but also the study of the paper to develop a deeper understanding of our situation and our struggle to overturn it. As Chairman Omali Yeshitela has said many times, “The revolutionary has the responsibility not only to understand the world, but to change it.”
We stand on the shoulders of those who have fought, were imprisoned and died to advance our struggle for liberation. Now let’s take it to completion!
On with the Revolution!
We take offense to no defense!
Free All Political Prisoners!
Join the African People’s Socialist Party at APSPUhuru.org!