Brother Geronimo Remembers Johnnie C
Alisema Kama Atakuja
(He said he would come)
I woke up this morning at 4 am, wide awake. Something led me out of my bed,
and out the door of my shamba home here in Tanzania. I walked outside and
looked into the Afrikan sky and wondered what this strange feeling was that
had come over me. It wasn't bad, it was just a feeling that something was
amiss. I just couldn't put my finger on it. I walked back inside and went to
the computer and right away i saw Johnnie's face, and i knew it was Johnnie
who woke me up.
Johnnie, who last time we spoke had told me, "G, I'm coming. I told you I was
coming. I am coming to the mama land with you!!!" And true to his word, he is
right here with me. I can feel his presence grow stronger as the sun ascends
over these sacred lands of the Great Rift Valley where life began. He is
talking to me now. "Look out for Chief." "Tell Ed to be cool." "Tell Stu not
to worry." "Take care of Ginny." ..
It's not easy to try and put into words one's feelings at a time like this. So
many words and pictures come to mind that it is very hard to put them in order
and transcribe them. What i can say is this: Johnnie was a beautiful brother,
who even after becoming well versed in the ugly reality of Cointelpro, always
remained a calming influence for me, encouraging forgiveness for all those
puppets that were being exploited by the system. Despite the sick, sadistic
practices of the government and its stooges, as documented in their own
records, Johnnie continued to believe in the goodness of everyday people, who
were being used as he used to say, "For they know not what they do." Johnnie
would want us all to keep forgiveness in our hearts, but to remain vigilant of
these rats, who are now going to come out of the woodwork and claim
friendships with Johnnie and sing his praises just to promote themselves and
their egos. Johnnie never bought into the ego trip, and was always willing to
give his time and energy to represent the most underrepresented in society. He
was a man with a heart as big as Yogi Pinell's.
Johnnie and i connected long before he began defending members of the Black
Panther Party against police repression in Los Angeles. We both came out of
the Mississippi Delta and the great tradition of struggle by Africans in the
south to liberate ourselves from oppression. We were born into this glorious
history of resistance to the slavocracy, from the Bras Coupee Uprising and
many other insurrections, to the Afrikan Blood Brotherhood and the Garvey
Legionnaires in the 1920s to the Deacons for Defense during the civil rights
movement. Johnnie and i were comrades in struggle, sometimes employing
different methods but fighting for similar goals, the freedom and self-
determination of Afrikan people in particular and all oppressed people in
The tradition of struggle continued in Los Angeles where Johnnie "Chief"
Cochran Sr. was one of the first men in Los Angeles to support the Free
Breakfast for Children's program of the Black Panther Party at the Second
Baptist Church with Rev. Kilgore. Soon after, his son, Johnnie Cochran Jr.
began defending the members of the Black Panther Party in court against the
racist police and other agencies who set out to destroy our movement as part
of the federal government's illegal Cointelpro pogrom.
People were surprised, but not us, that Johnnie was willing to come to the
fore of our struggle for Reparations. In 1975, while i was imprisoned on san
quentin's death row, he and i began to dialogue via mail about the legal
predicates regarding the money owed the descendants of African slaves. Johnnie
was impressed with the arguments being made under international law, and the
legitimacy of our right to reparations as was being taught by the great legal
minds of Imari Obadele and Chokwe Lumumba.
His commitment to our struggle and his eager willingness to begin to engage in
the struggle for reparations for Mama Afrika, who was raped first by
colonialism and slavery, makes me suspicious of the suddeness and speed in
which this healthy, picture perfect man, was taken from us by this strange
illness. Johnnie also recognized that there were many other political
prisoners in the United States such as Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Mumia
Abu-Jamal, Mutulu Shakur, Marilyn Buck, and too many others to list here.
Johnnie was just as supportive of them as well. He would agree that we needed
to go beyond domestic law, which is inherently racist, and use international
law to escape the many racist trappings of domestic law that have been
instituted since the early days of the slavocracy.
We had spoken about him joining me in Afrika to work on some of the issues
facing our people here, and he had told me it was his next quest. He was
anxious to address the problems of orphans, HIV/Aids, poverty, genocidal
sorties, and patterns of economic exploitation that have continued since the
days of colonialism. Johnnie wanted to come and pay homage at the Altar of Mt.
Kilimanjaro, but he also wanted to meet two of our greatest heroes, Pete and
Charlotte O'Neal. Johnnie was amazed at contradictions surrounding Pete's
case, and the fact that he ,Assata, Don Con and Cetewayo had to remain in
political exile clearly and only because of the FBI's war against the Black
Many of Johnnie's detractors like to claim he played the race card in the OJ
trial by exposing the misconduct, racism and ineptitude of the Los Angeles
police. But those critics fail to accept the truth that Johnnie knew all to
well; the Cointelpro card. This dirty, pernicious, secret, illegal war, that
victimized even Johnnie when the police pulled him out of his car and had him
prostrate on the ground in front of his children. His past experiences on my
case and many others having shown him how deliberately and shamelessly the
police would manufacture evidence, lie on the stand, and generally use all
sorts of nefarious tactics to get a conviction. Johnnie stood up and refused
to blindly accept the testimony of police or other government agents.
Unfortunately too many people still refuse to acknowledge the corruption and
injustice that is rampant within the so-called justice system in America. But
Johnnie knew it, and fought against it at every opportunity.
But Johnnie is home now. Another great son of Afrika has returned to the
Ancestors. He has been a great son. A father, a brother, a friend and a
comrade. We can all feel a little more secure knowing that while our brother
is no longer able to look after us individually in the courtroom, he now
watches over us collectively alongside Bunchy, Red, Toure and all the other
Freedom Fighters who have gone before him. Johnnie fought not only for
justice, but also for peace. And he has finally found his. I could talk all
day about my beautiful brother, but I know he didn't wake me up for that this
morning. I can hear him calling me now, telling me to get up, get out, and
continue to "Fight the Good Fight!"
Pamberi ne Chimurenga!
(Ever Onward to Liberation)
Geronimo Ji Jaga
Tanzania, East Afrika
Wednesday, March 30, 2005