Forty-four years ago today, I heard the news of the police murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago. As stunning as the news was, it wasn't. After all Panthers were being attacked, killed, and jailed across the country in those days. Still, this one was somehow different. This was so obviously a hit aimed at a man who was, who could have been the most "dangerous" man in America if he were allowed to live. He could have been our version of Che, maybe he was anyway. He spoke to young black Americans like nobody else. He spoke to all of us like me, too. They had to kill him. They killed him. They did not kill the Revolution, but they sure as hell wounded it. Two young black men assassinated in Chicago. Such was life in 1969. All of us who were in the struggle then, all of us, of all races have our own thoughts and memories about that day. I won't take up space with my thoughts. Here are a few thoughts of others. There are many, many more.
From Sons of Malcolm
REMEMBER FRED HAMPTON - ROLE MODEL FOR THE YOUTH
From Opine Season...
Remembering Chairman Fred
Fred reached out to work with the Young Lords Organization in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, and to a group of white working class youth who called themselves the Young Patriots. He made time to speak to and with student groups in high schools and colleges all over Chicago and the surrounding area. He organized community surveys to get snapshots of the actual and perceived needs of some neighborhoods. 1969 was well before the epidemics of powdered and crack cocaine put large and permanently corrupting sums of money into the hands of gang leaders. Fred was instrumental in crafting a principled approach not just to individual members but to the rank and file and leaderships of black Chicago’s two major street gangs to put aside their differences and work for the good of the entire community. His efforts met with some initial success, and earned him some extra special attention from the FBI.
There was much more, really an awful lot going on for a young man of 20 or 21, all the more amazing as most members of the organization he led were a year or two or three younger than Fred. Despite arrests and threats of imprisonment or death hanging over him, Fred persevered and challenged us to do the same. He was impatient with injustice, as the finest young people of every age always are. Fred was animated, almost consumed by a love for our people and for all of humanity and determined to do whatever it took to end the exploitation of woman and man by man.
Times do change and the mechanisms of oppression evolve into new forms. Political organizations and strategic visions crafted for the needs of one era don’t make the grade in another. If Fred was alive today he’d be a middle-aged grandfather in his fifties. It’s hard to know exactly how he’d be doing but there is no doubt that Fred would still be teaching and learning and inspiring, still tirelessly organizing and struggling in the great cause of human liberation. Chairman Fred called us to a lifetime of service to humanity. If we weren’t doing something revolutionary, Fred told us many times, we should not even bother to remember him. So we continue to work hard to be worthy of his memory.