Recalling the murders of the Panthers
By Wendell Hutson
Family, friends and former Black Panthers remembered the 44th anniversary of slain Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton at a December 4 memorial. Hampton’s widow Akua Njeri (formerly Deborah Johnson) said her late husband was 21-years-old when Chicago police rushed inside their home at 2337 W. Monroe St. and killed Hampton and Mark Clark.
“It was a conspiracy between the FBI, Chicago police and state police to destroy the Black Panthers,” said Njeri. “They figured if they cut off the head then the body would die too. They came for him early in the morning thinking we were sleep but we were not.” According to Njeri, it was 4:35 a.m. when police knocked on their door.
“Once we responded with ‘who is it?’ the police began shooting through the door. I was eight months pregnant and he (Fred) jumped on top of me to protect me,” she added. “By the time the shooting stopped Fred was dead.”
Fortunately Njeri was not injured and 25 days later gave birth to Fred Hampton Jr.
“I never met my father but through his teachings he left behind I know he was a proud man who believed in standing up for what was right when it came to Black people,” said Hampton Jr. “He would be disappointed to see so many young Black men killing each other but he would understand that due to a continued war against our people it has taught young Black men that they are not respected and should not respect each other.”
Clark., a Peoria native was the state chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party and was visiting Hampton and other BPP members.
All the Black-on-Black crime is a direct result of youths not knowing their history, said Arthur Drake, who said he grew up with Hampton Jr. “Youth nowadays lack education about their culture so they act up by being violent and that is a behavioral pattern that needs to stop,” Drake said. “The Black Panthers are still needed because racism still exists and until it ends the fight for survival is on.”
A crowd of about 100 people gathered at Hampton’s former home, which is currently occupied by a family, to reenact the day he died. After a moment of silence where the crowd held one arm in the air with their fist clenched [a symbol of power the Black Panther Party instituted] everyone lined up and walked toward the home as if they were going inside to see for themselves what had happen to the Black revolutionists.
Several investigations revealed that police fired as many as 98 bullets once inside the home, and the lone shot that came from the Panthers was a “reflex shot” from Clark’s shotgun. Other investigations cleared the law enforcement officials who planned and carried out the raid, often referred to as the “Massacre on Monroe.”
A former Black Panther members said while their leader is gone his legacy is still going strong. John Preston, 59, joined the Black Panthers November 1968 because “I felt a need to do something to change the culture in the Black community.”
He added, “the Black Panther Party is not dead and is very much alive but we now operate in a different manner.” In October of 1966, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton formed the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Calif. Initially Seale and Newton said they started the group to protect local communities from police brutality and racism, but it later became a revolutionary group, which sponsored free medical clinics and breakfast programs for needy children.
Hampton founded the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party in November 1968. He was born Aug. 30, 1948, in Chicago and grew up in west suburban Maywood and graduated from Proviso East High School in 1966.
Stan McKinney, 60, said he worked with the founders and remains a Black Panther today. “I joined the Black Panthers January 1969 and I will be a Black Panther until the day I die,” McKinney said. “When I saw all the police harassment, I knew I could not stand by and do nothing. That’s what motivated me to join.”