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The Ballad Of a Dead Soldier

by Jaye Swift on 03/05/12

The Ballad of a Dead Soldier.

The Memorial Ceremony of Elmer Gerard Pratt aka

(Geronimo Pratt Jijaga) ...R.I.P. (September 13, 1947- June 2, 2011)

written by Jaye Swift

 It was a great day to be remembered. It was a Saturday afternoon July 23, 2011, the sun was shining bright, but the heat was not unpleasant, the traffic was normal, but there was no road rage, even the police were not their usual foul self. I felt when I woke up this morning, this was a history making day. There was a massive text the night before that awakened me to the tiny telling tones of my time piece as to the gathering, and the celebration of life.

When I arrived a little behind schedule, there out front were the most dependable, with signs welcoming us to the Agape International Spiritual Center, with directions for parking. And just in case we had to park in the distance there was a shuttle bus to, and fro.

Entering the lobby was a transformation back in time, there was a shrine of photographs dedicated to Geronimo in his glory days, on tables covered with Kente’ cloth.  The usual candles, and these were lightly scented, this brought about a spiritual introspection.

The chatter in the lobby was that of family who hadn’t seen one another in ages, and they loved each other. It was beautiful, It was the family of The Black Panthers all over again, who were in full attendance, to bid farewell, to their brother, their comrade, their confidant, their uncle, their cousin, their father, but most of all, to a fallen soldier, of a movement that changed the policies of a system, which debased blacks.

The Agape choir (that sang him into the Promised Land), looked to be a hundred strong, and darned African garb. They had dreads, naturals, head wraps, and voices that illuminated, when they resonated harmonies from the Mother Land.

My eyes filled with tears, because I remember the struggle. I was about eight years old, but I remember the terror in my heart, I remember the revulsion of the police, and after time I also remember the victory. The victory that endorsed blacks to infiltrate the work forces, and schools, they so shamelessly tried to keep for themselves.

The keynote speakers were distinguished, Congress woman Maxine Waters.(who exposed the C.I.A. as the culprit of the insertion of drugs in our communities, and I’m sure there were some in the crowd cowering in the shadows)

 Stuart Hanlon, JD, Shawn Chapman Holley, JD (who were the actual attorney’s on Geronimo’s case alongside Johnnie Cochran) Kathleen Cleaver, JD (the wife of Eldridge Cleaver, also a great attorney in her own right.) Mrs. Mollie Bell, Wayne Pharr, Roland Freeman, Patrick Pratt, and their adaptation of Geronimo was so honorable, I was gratified.

The eulogy by Michael Bernard Beckwith was as inspirational, as being in the midst of some of the most incredible minds the movement had to offer. You had to be there.  The message was not where Geronimo had gone, but that the legacy he left lives on, and moves forward.

It was a hero’s send off, and a hero he was. Geronimo Pratt was a decorated soldier, two tours in Viet Nam, two purple hearts, a silver star, a gold star, who was framed for a murder in 1968, in Santa Monica Ca. Who at the time also had several witnesses that testified he was in Oakland Ca. at the time. He served 27 years of his life, before his sentence was over turned after it finally came to light that the witness lied, about working as an informant for the FBI.

“G”as he was affectionately christened, was released in 1997, and moved to Tanzania in 2005. Where he passed away on June 2, 2011, may he Rest In Peace.

 My question is how come a decorated war hero couldn’t get the benefit of the doubt? He had several alibies; he was a million miles away. The witness was a documented F.B.I. informant. He was a plant for J Edgar Hoover, and COINTELPRO. Why couldn’t he receive a fair trial?

This is what African Americans were up against just a short 40 years ago, and it hasn’t stopped, we still have police killing black youths today, this is why we need to prepare our youth’s boys, and girls for a reality that’s harsh. The truth is yes police racially profile us, yes they will kill us. When pulled over by the police this is not the time to become a lawyer, and fight the injustices of the judicial system. You must pick, and choose your battles wisely.

          I’d like to end on a good note though. I’d like to end by saying, we as Africans not just African Americans have had a history of forgiveness. It’s embedded in our genes, we have a forgiving nature. It showed when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 25 years, and it showed again when Geronimo Pratt Jijaga was released after 27 years of unlawful incarceration. I think it’s fair to say if these two great men can put the pass behind them, and move on with their lives, and forgive, but not forget, then we should be able to do the same.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds… Albert Einstein…Thank you… God Bless.. And Rest In Peace my brother….Jaye Swift…

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