Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Geronimo Pratt: Finally At Rest
I learned about Geronimo Pratt by listening to a Tupac song, "White Man's World" to be exact. That realization makes me sad when I think about who today's most popular rappers are. Pac was at the height of his career making songs about, or at least mentioning dude. These popular rappers nowadays... But that's another story for another day.
When I heard that he died last week at his home in Tanzania, my first thought was, "wow, first Gil Scott Heron, now Geronimo?" My second thought was, "Damn, dude lived in Tanzania? Can't say I'm shocked."
Of course, I had to refresh myself on Pratt's history. I dug up a few old articles from the L.A. Times and found myself immersed in the late history of this legendary freedom fighter and survivor. I say "late history" because of course, the paper focused on the events that immediately led up to his unjust arrest and the what followed very shortly after his release in 1997. A few of the things that stood out to me were:
1- He did eight years in solitary confinement. Anybody who knows somebody in prison or has been to prison themselves, knows that this is no joke.
2- The man that responsible for his set-up, a Panther "member" and FBI informant named Julius Butler, went to become...get this... a chairman on the First A.M.E. Church's board of trustees. Yeah.
3- Geronimo Pratt never became president of the United States. I say this because Nelson Mandela also spent 27 years in prison for freedom fighting. He became the president of the very country that had spent years oppressing him, South Africa. I had an opportunity to tour Soweto, SA almost two years ago, and visit the Apartheid Museum. The liberation movement in South Africa was closely modeled after the black liberation movement here in the states, (thanks to Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe). At any rate, Mandela became the face of oppression. Pratt, however, did not. I know the cases are different, since Pratt was accused of murder, but the basic reasons for both of their imprisonments were the same-- fear, politics and hatred.
At any rate. I felt that I should say something about his passing. Although I'm glad that he finally got some kind of justice, and received over $4 million from the L.A. police department after his release, I can't help but think-- he lost a wife and child (she was murdered in 1971 when she was eight months pregnant), and was only free for 14 years before his death. All in the name of justice for a people who, by and large, no longer even know who he is. Meanwhile, Lil Wayne, TI and the like go to jail on gun and drug charges and expect sympathy. But that too, is another story, for another day.
RIP Geronimo Pratt.