Los Angeles

On Talibah Shakir

Talibah Shakir

I was born on December 27, 1951 in the city of Los Angeles. My life mirrored the lives of 90% of African-Americans for that time period. I was born in the County General Hospital; the first house I lived in was in Avalon Gardens, a step above the projects. Later my family moved to 29th and Central Ave.

Central Ave in Los Angeles held the memories of the greatest Black entertainers of our time. This street housed such famous places like The Dunbar Hotel, Bill Robinson Theatre, and The Sentinel Newspaper. This Central Avenue before my time was reflective of the Harlem Renaissance Era.

In 1958, my family moved to 46th and Figueroa Street, the neighbors all came out to wish us well, for my family was “moving on up”, we finally had a piece of the “pie”.

We moved to 545-˝ W. 46th Street, in an upstairs back house, our neighborhood was comprised of well-to-do blacks, working class and welfare recipients. Nonetheless, we all got alone beautifully, we watched out for each other, we shared and learned from each other.

What I remember most about this period in my life was to very important events that would later change my life and make me into the person I am today. The first change would come through the unveiling of my grandmother’s special powers that gave her the ability to “see”. My grandmother (we affectionately called Dear) sat me down one day and told me how she had to run out of Mississippi, because she had hit a white man, because his mule had stepped on her foot, she hit the mule and the man hit her. As the story goes, my grandmother whooped his ass!

Dear told me that in our family the power of the field Negro came every other generation, and I would be the chosen one for my generation. The completion of my change came when Kennedy was assassinated. My prayers for that night were, “God, please don’t put us back on the plantation.”

In 1965, we left 46th street and moved to 88th Place and Wall Street. Our introduction to this new community came via the Watts Riot. I remember the National Guard being camped at Green Meadows Park on 88th Place and San Pedro. This park stood in the middle between the Avalon Gardens, where I had once lived, and my new spot; I had come full circle.

I attended Bret Harte Middle School, I graduated in 1966, and I went on to Fremont High School. My life was somewhat unusual, My mother was very strict, not easy to talk to, not very motherly (in terms of emotions), and she read everything she could get her hands on, including anything from the Nation of Islam. My mother knew our history here in America very well. My mother was educated, and made sure all her children could read, write, spell, and think before they went to school. Unknowingly my mother lit the fire of resistance under me, by taking me to demonstrations and the candle light vigil for the three murdered civil rights workers.

As a teenager I was not allowed to hangout, party or spend the night at my friend’s house. In 1968 my mother began to work the swing shift, at the local Telephone Company. My mother’s job started around 4 p.m., she left home around 3 p.m., and I hit the streets by 5.p.m. My road dogs were Rosalie and Hattie; we were great dancers, well liked at school and in the hood.

Our party spot was the All Nations Pool Hall on 84th and Broadway, our drink of choice was Pagan Pink Ripple, and our drug of choice was F-40s a.k.a. Bulletheads or Red Devils. Thinking back, I did not enjoy getting high, but it was in rebellion to my strict and unemotionally connected mother.

One day as I strolled down Broadway to the pool hall, I saw this fine brother, standing in a door way, he beckoned me and I went smiling and ready to get my mack on! The brother asked me if I knew who I was, and why did I spend time in a pool hall, when I should be learning about black people and the injustices that we faced.

The brother was Roland Freeman, he was fine, but he was not talking about anything I wanted to hear, so I eased on to the pool hall. My favorite record came on, I got up to dance, and I froze. Roland’s words were bouncing all through my head, for the next 2 hours, I was unable to get my grove on. I was mad at him for messing with my head.

I went across the street, offered everyone in the Panther Office some wine and red Devils; they looked at me like I was the fool of the year. Roland invited me to partake in the political education class that I had interrupted. I agreed, within a few minutes he called on me to read. I stood up and they all watched me, expecting me to fail. I read a page, broke it all they way down, laughed at all of them and left. Regardless to being high, I could read and comprehend my ass off.

On Monday I went to school, yet Roland’s words kept hunting me. I began to drop by the 84th Street office, once a week after school, then every other day until I was there all the time. A few months before my 17th Birthday, I became a member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Panther Party.

My orientation to the Party consisted of memorizing the 10-Point Program, basic law, and basic medical procedures, attending the political education classes regularly, meeting community members, survival skills, learning the history and ideology of the Party and being introduced to the members of the Los Angeles Headquarters on 41st and Central Ave.

I was honored to fall under the leadership of Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter. I rose quickly within the Party and become one of the first sisters to become a Section Leader in our Chapter. The Section Leader was assigned a large geographical area of the community, it would be my job to educated the masses who lived within my area, to serve them body and soul and to be aware and resolve any form of oppression that faced them.

The Los Angeles Chapter was instrumental in the Free Breakfast Programs, Free Medical Programs, Food Give-Away, Sickle-Cell Testing, Elder Care and so much more.

The Los Angeles Panthers policed the police. Investigated police involved murders in our community and became victims and fatalities. The police jailed Panthers on real and trumped- up charges. Panthers were harassed, followed, and killed, on a daily basis.

We carried on our work regardless, because our mission was just. We were to be the liberators of our people; we were to secure social equality for all oppressed people. Our lives were a small price to pay. It most be noted that the rule for the Panthers was not to attack anyone, we had the God-given right to self-defense and we must exercise that right, by any means necessary.

The Party was not anti-white we were anti- oppression. Every Panther understood that the oppressors came in all colors. Our duty was to educate the masses, and we did by words, deeds, and actions.

The Panthers were loved worldwide, we were organizing the masses, we referred to each other as “My Brother, or My Sister”. Black loved flowed everywhere. We embraced the liberation struggle of all people of color. The Panthers were accepted, respected, and modeled by many groups and individuals seeking the Liberty and Justice that we all had recited day after day in America’s school, during the flag salute.

It was that love that the Panthers received from the oppressed people that made us Targets for annihilation. WE became too popular and too powerful, and we all paid a very heavy price for our liberation struggle.

Soon we were under attack by every law enforcement agency in America; our members were killed and jailed. Many fled the country or the state to return another day. The FBI was heavily on our case. Cointelpro was started to discredit and to wipe out not only the Panthers, but an all Freedom Fighters in the United States. Even Martin Luther King Jr. a peaceful man that promoted non-violence was under surveillance by Cointelpro.

My life was in turmoil, my mother thought I was in a cult; she had me placed in Juvenile Hall. I stayed in Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall for 3 months. I recruited two serious sisters into the Party while being confined to juvenile hall. The authorities at Los Padrinos told my mother to come get me; they told her that nothing was wrong with me. I was a very intelligent and strong-willed person and there was no point in keeping me confined.

My mother and my new stepfather picked me up. They greeted me with the fact that Jackie Kennedy had remarried. As we wrote home, I planned my escape. Within one month I escaped out of my bedroom window, and resumed my role in the BPP. It would be 10 years before I would have a relationship with my mother.

Upon my return to the 84th street office, I was informed of all of the panthers that were incarcerated. I took it upon myself to write and send money to 17 of our members who were incarcerated across the country. One thing I did not like that I witnessed was whenever Panthers got busted, as long as publicity was there, so were the Panthers, when the lights faded, the comrades were stuck in jail, especially those who were charged with serious crimes. So, I took it upon myself to write them and be their runner if necessary. It would be years later before I fully understood that what I had witnessed was unselfish acts of sacrifices.

In 1969, the darkest day of my life came; members of the US Organization assassinated Bunchy Carter and John Huggins at UCLA. I was supposed to be at UCLA with Bunchy that day, but a male Panther and I got into a physical fight, I left the office and left information for Bunchy to pick me up at my Aunt’s he never showed. I will never forget the pain I felt upon hearing about their murders. Some of the Panthers got together at a small house off 84th Place and Broadway; we poured out Panther Piss (Dark Port and Lemon Juice) for our fallen comrades. I cried and questioned God. I demanded that God tell me why life in America was so cruel to Black People.

I often wondered, if I had been there would things have turned out differently. To know Bunchy was to know as real man, he was immaculate, intelligent, fine, a true revolutionary, and a great poet.

After the murders at UCLA and the shoot-out at head-quarters on 41st and Central, we began to close down the offices and open up Black Houses; these houses contained 10-15 Panthers that undertook a collective lifestyle we shared all responsibilities, and duties. There were no male or female jobs, we all worked, struggled and if we died we all would be dead!

Life in the Black Houses was so beautiful for me, we were family in every sense of the word (most of us had been kicked out of our families homes and rejected by those who should have understood our mission). The most amazing thing that many overlooked about the Black Houses is that we were all youngsters. No parents, no one over us.

Nonetheless we keep our morals and principles in tact, it was not about sex or getting high, most of the time, sisters, and brothers agreed that the revolution would be first, then you and I as individuals. Very few babies were born, and of those who were the parents were married, or very true to one another.

I married a brother by the name of Paul Redd, who was involved in the shoot-out at headquarters; he was sentenced to 6 years in Soledad Prison. His mind was soon messed up and it was believed by many that a Lobotomy had been preformed on him while being incarcerated. This was an experiment that was supposed to remove part of the brain to leave one non-violent. The marriage ended 2 years before he was released. Somehow mentally he was transformed into a playboy. So, I bowed out gracefully.

In 1971, the split came between Huey and Eldridge Cleaver, the Los Angeles Chapter choose to follow Eldridge, soon the entire party had collapsed. The government when about their hunt to wipe us out.

Many informers had came into the party, death and incarceration came via the police and lies by informers. A select group of panthers that were always tight in the party consisted of Long John Washington, Harold Taylor, Roland and Ronald Freeman, the Mobley Brothers and myself agreed to separate as a matter of survival, until we could pinpoint the informers, we would come together some years later. Remaining as family and loyal to one another.

Years later I married Harold Taylor, while he was incarcerated and facing 10 years to life. It took four long, hard years for he and his co- defendants John Bowman and Ray Bordeaux to be found not guilty. This trio was part of the first group of Political Prisoners.

While out on bail the trio fled to Louisiana, they were captured, and tortured in Parish Prison. Harold would later tell me of cattle prods being put on his genital organ, volts of electricity raged through his body, painful and humiliating. Plastic bags were tied around his head until he vomit and passed out, nearly choking to death on his vomit.

He was forced to sleep standing up in a small closet, with large rats biting him. For months they endured the torture, they were not allowed to contact anyone and the legal system turned a blind eye and deaf ears to their torture.

Harold and his co-defendants were found not guilty of the original charges in Los Angeles, of conspiracy to murder police officers, they were not allowed to sue. But for Harold it was not over, he suffered a serious form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his torture, his screams would wake me up in the middle of the night, many times I would find him staring blankly. He became very violent and hard drugs became his savior.

Harold did not seek help, who could analyze what Panther had gone through when no one would believe that America would treat it’s oppressed citizens this way for fighting for the freedom, justice and equality that was supposed to be so freely given to them.

Harold and I had one daughter; Rashida is now a teacher. We divorced when Rashida was 2 years old, the divorce was necessary to dave my life from his violent attacks caused by the tickling down of violence that he endured in Louisiana, and because of his drug use to slow down the effects of his stress disorder. Harold was first my friend, then my comrade, this system of brutality did not allow him to remain my husband or my daughter’s father.

I went on to become and Eligibility Worker for the Department of Public Social Services, I later earned an AS Degree in Electronic Engineering, a BA Degree in Child Development. a MA in Multicultural Education and a Teaching Credential.

Through all of this my concerns were focused mainly on the comrades that were/are incarcerated, their treatment in the belly of the beast, and why so many people hailed them as heroes without giving them time to heal. Our comrades were tortured, experimented upon, dehumanized, murdered, maimed, locked away like animals; all rights denied, deserted by friends, family, and community, and loved ones.

Yet! They were expected to get out and become the shepherds of the very people that they stood up for, suffered for, never receiving counseling for the tortured they endured, and women expected them to come out being their man or husbands.

How could that be? How can we continue to expect so much of them, when we did not/do not have a healing system in place for them? We welcome them home and them demand that they stand up for us again. Never stopping to think of what they endured, the emotional effects of prison, the fact that they were young, and under the threat of death 24/7.

When will you understand that we jumped over so many bodies until we did not have time to mourn our own. There is no healing in place for those who survived the People’s Revolution of the 60s and 70s here in America.

Inside we are the walking wounded some of us worse than the others. When we are alone, the tears come; we are still searching for the answer to why we are still in the condition that we are in today as a race of people.

I am currently a teacher with Los Angeles Unified School district. I am still dedicated to making the public aware of the plight of our Political Prisoners. I am currently working on a Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition, and I hope that others will follow in pursuing some type of healing system to help the incarcerated in particular and the public in general.

What would I say now, given the opportunity to stand on the world stage? I would thank Huey, for my education and dedicate this poem to all our fallen comrades.

"Love didn’t live at my house.
No one listened to me,
One day as I strolled
I was introduced to this Black Cat
As fine and elegant
As could be
He was the Revolutionary Panther
The BPP"

Talibah Shakir of Los Angeles, formerly Linda D. Myles Linda Redd-Taylor