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16th annual tribute to society's political prisoners

W.A.T.E.R. 17 Special to the AmNews | 2/1/2012, 7:03 p.m.

Midtown's Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center played host last Saturday to its annual dinner and fundraiser meant to assist the many courageous political prisoners of war and their families. Much honor and respect was paid to the victims of an unforgivable system that punishes certain people for exercising their human right to be liberated from tyranny.

"This day is our community's way of giving back, reminding ourselves that while there is much work that needs to be done to free our freedom fighters, we can still come together to honor, eat, laugh and strategize in fellowship," opened Dequi Kioni-Sadiki, moderator and co-chair of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, the sponsor of the event.

Numerous individuals across the country endure the monotonous grind of being behind the wall after being hit with sentences resembling football scores-some, their supporters charge, simply for expressing their freedom of speech and other rights afforded to them by the Constitution. Documented targets of government scrutiny under COINTELPRO include Black Panthers and members of the Black Liberation Army and MOVE.

Kioni-Sadiki added, "[Tonight recognizes] those forgotten warriors who stood and stand for us and the oppressed, the hungry and the brutalized and have been in prison for decades. This dinner is about them, speaking their names, turning their invisibility into visibility-saying, 'Thank you,' to our political prisoners and their families for their infinite sacrifices."

She then read a letter by the people's attorney, Lynn Stewart, who is currently incarcerated. "In this struggle, once you are lit in this, it is for life," the letter read. "There are no guarantees and you will be disappointed, but you will also be uplifted when there are victories and enriched by friendship and dedication of the comrades.

"Most importantly, you can look in the mirror every morning and be at one with the person there because you made a difficult choice and decided to fight for the people against the evil empire. It is the best way to live."

This year's theme, "One Struggle, Many Fronts," emphasized the importance of unity as relatives of Stewart, Sekou Odinga, Abdul Majid, Mutulu Shakur, Robinson Hayes, Russell Shultz, Sundiata Acoli and others converged onstage.

"As the wife of a former political prisoner, I knew and understood the fear, the real terror, that's in our hearts because our loved ones were in the hands of these beasts and we couldn't do anything about it. The [families] of political prisoners, although not behind walls, are very much prisoners themselves," shared Iyaluua Ferguson, whose husband was once caught in the web.

"We need to find some way to move our political prisoners from out of those dungeons back over to you where they belong," suggested elder activist Baba Herman Ferguson. "They'll never be free unless we do something about it."

A few former political prisoners of war were present, some whom were removed from the free society by alleged illicit government agencies only to idly languish in the belly of the beast without ample effects on their communities. They included Eddie Ellis, Tarik Haskins and keynote speaker Dhoruba bin-Wahad.

"We have situations in this city where the Manhattan district attorney's office has indicted Black people for crimes they know they did not commit solely to get political points," bin-Wahad revealed.

He concluded, "We need to understand that law enforcement is a political and economic tool of oppression in this city, and we have to change [that]. Unless we create a context for people to understand how our political prisoners got there and why they've been there, they're going to stay in there. We need to understand that the world we leave our children today is the world they're going to remember us by."