The Beauty of Black History

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Photo by Rut Ortiz

Fred Hampton Jr. spoke on the Black Panther’s fight for civil rights and his father’s legacy in that battle.

Activist and son of Black Panther Fred Hampton Sr. never received the opportunity to meet his father.

Addressing the members of the audience with a baritone “Right on,” Fred Hampton Jr. visited NEIU last Monday to speak on the history of the Black Panther movement during the 1960s and the current committee that he chairs, which was founded while he was imprisoned during the 1990s.

“Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud” was an event to celebrate Black History Month held within Alumni Hall.

“We attempt to carry the legacy of one of the most revolutionary organizations that North America has yet to witness, that being the Black Panther Party,” Hampton Jr. said referring to his father as “Chairman Fred.”

Hampton Jr. is the chair of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee/Black Panther Party Cubs (POCC/BPPC). It’s inception came from the nine years Hampton Jr. spent in prison for an aggravated arson charge in 1992, a Class X felony.

Originally founded in 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party (BPP) soon swelled into a human and civil rights phenomena giving birth to chapters and branches across the United States including the Chicago branch.

Hampton Jr.’s father was the deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter, which was the largest of the BPP and was slain in 1969, the year police raided the Illinois headquarters and shot bullets into Hampton Sr.’s bedroom until he was dead. Hampton Jr. was born not even a month after his father was shot to death.

“The worst gang in Chicago is the Chicago Police department,” Hampton Jr. said. “We must purpose to distinguish a war from a revolution.

“A war is when you get two occupying armies … a revolution, you get the mass of participation, the mass of people.”

Citing his father’s words, Hampton Jr. spoke on what keeps him motivated to continue working towards the cause.

“’I am too proletarian, revolutionary, intoxicated to be astronomically intimidated,’” he said. “It’s a beat, it’s a feeling from the people. In fact, Chairman Fred used to say, ‘I’m high off the people, I’m charged off the people,’ so that’s the best way I can say it, the people.”

The Black History Month celebration included various participants including a song by an NEIU student known under the rapper name “BGI” who said  he wanted to celebrate his intelligence through music. Jazz artist Madeline Morgan sang songs appropriate for the occasion and NEIU Professor Josef Ben J. Levi from the college of arts and sciences gave a lesson on the rich history of Haiti.

A biographical poem was recited by the emcee of the event, NEIU Senior and history major, Jason Ferguson that described his experience of losing his mother to murder and the love of his grandmother who took him and younger brother and raised them as her own while also raising eight other children.

“When bad things happen to us, sometimes those bad things define us and we let that bad thing…destroy our life,” Ferguson said. “We are all in this world together and until we learn to work together, the problems that we’re experiencing now, today, they’re going to continue to get worse.”

Ferguson played a game of trivia with the audience in which the winner received novelty $1 million bills with the face of President Barack Obama on them.

“One person can make a difference, if you are that one person and you connect with another and another,” he said.