Tomorrow is December 4th. For many people this is simply another day as we approach the holidays. For many other people the day will live within our souls as the anniversary of the 1969 murder of a promising leader of the Black Panther Party: Fred Hampton.
If you are unfamiliar with Fred Hampton you need to look him up. Based in Chicago he was not only a leader of the Panthers, but he was a coalition-builder. He was directly involved in pulling together other non-black radicals in what was, in essence, the first rainbow coalition. Thus, as far as the State was concerned, he was an extremely dangerous radical.
The murder of Fred Hampton is actually the story of the war against the Panthers and other radical groups. It is the story of COINTELPRO, the notorious Counter-Intelligence Program of the FBI. Used to infiltrate and disrupt organizations perceived by the State as dangerous, COINTELPRO involved everything from rumor-mongering, to provocateurish activity to murder. Hampton, for instance, was drugged such that when the Chicago Police attacked the Panther HQ he was unable to respond. The drugging had to have come from an agent who was placed inside the Chicago Panthers, an agent directly complicit in murder.
Fred Hampton remains an important symbol not only of radicalism but of the spirit of strategic alliances. Hampton realized that the transformation of the USA would not and could not be accomplished by one group alone. But he also recognized that a radical framework was and is essential to lead in the construction of a viable ‘rainbow’ coalition. Such notions are as important now as ever, and certainly as far as the State and the political Right is concerned, just as dangerous.
Every December 4th i have to stop and silently remember Fred Hampton. I remember how i felt when word spread of his murder in December 1969. The sorrow has never left me. Neither has the inspiration.