Former Panther works for reform

By
February 12, 2004

Mills College Weekly

Over 200 Mills students and Oakland community members crowded
the Student Union leaving standing room only and forcing people to
gather on the front steps of the Rothwell center to hear the only
woman to lead the Black Panther Party, Elaine Brown, on Jan.
29.

Brown, a prominent activist, came to Mills to address the crowd
about her most current work as Director of the National Alliance
for Radical Prison Reform, under the theme ” The New Age of Racism
in America”.

The Condemnation of Little B., Brown’s most recently
published book, addresses the case on Michael Lewis who was charged
with murder in Jan. 1997 at the age of 13 for a murder he did not
commit, according to Brown and Lewis’s legal defense committee. He
was then sentenced to life in an adult prison at the age of 14.

Brown spoke on the conditions in which Lewis was raised, in a
neighborhood known for its drug activity and violence known as the
“Bluff” in Atlanta. At eight years old he lived in what was deemed
the crack house of his community. At age 11, he was removed from
his mother’s custody. By age 14, he was incarcerated in an adult
prison.

Brown expressed that the case of Lewis was not an isolated
incident. “We know Little B because there are millions of them,”
said Brown. She stressed the point that “crime in America is a
political question.”

“How is it that we [black people] remain in the situations that
we do today? Is there something wrong with black people or is there
something wrong with America?” asked Brown. Through her analysis of
America’s history of oppression against black Americans, Brown
explored possible roots to the problem.

“We’ve spent decades fighting lynching, we’ve fought to go to
good schools. In 1955, we had to fight to get a seat on the bus.
We’ve fought for the right to vote. From 1865 to 1965, we have had
to fight for our basic needs. There has never been a break in black
history,” said Brown.

Brown clearly noted that the prison industrial complex is the
new slavery, reciting statistics such as, “50 percent of the
incarcerated are African-American, for every 2 million imprisoned,
6 million are affected, half of our black fathers are in prisons.
Most of the black youth that are in prison are in on armed robbery
charges,” said Brown. “Armed robbery, or even appearing to be armed
in Georgia is a minimum of ten years.”

I don’t think that America can be saved. I think that it is
going to have to be born again,” she said.

Although the rebirth of America may not be tomorrow, Brown had
inspiring words for eager listeners looking for guidance on their
continued fight for justice.

One woman made a comment about the lack of focus among youth and
mentorship specifically among black women. “Some of us don’t have
mothers to look to,” she said. Brown responded, “You don’t not have
a mother, you have me. We have a responsibility to ourselves.”

Brown spoke further on black unity, “Black people are who we
are. You’ve got to love your people. You can’t make them what you
want them to be,” said Brown.

Brown stressed that women in college are in a position of
privilege, “We are not here to get our certificates and move on,”
rather to make use of their advantage to strengthen their
communities.


Former Panther works for reform was published on February 12, 2004 in News

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