Ex-Black Panther Pratt Lauded as "Our Mandela"

Ex-Black Panther Pratt Lauded as "Our Mandela"

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LOS ANGELES—The one-time falsely imprisoned Black Panther leader Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, who died June 2, was hailed by local community activists as "America’s Nelson Mandela" in tributes to his influential life.

According to his former lawyer, San Francisco-based attorney Stuart Hanlon, Pratt — also known as Geronimo ji-Jaga — died in a small village in Tanzania where he lived with his wife and child.

He was 63.

Pratt spent 27 years in prison for the 1968 murder of Caroline Olsen on a Santa Monica tennis court before his conviction was overturned with the help of the late Johnnie Cochran.

Najee Ali, founder of Project Islamic HOPE, who organized a vigil Friday night in Leimert Park attended by about 70 people, called it a “sad day for the activist community around the world.”

“I was shocked and overcome with emotion when I heard the news,” he told a reporter.

“Over the last decade, Geronimo was a mentor, a friend, a big brother. His legacy is that of a true American hero … a former Vietnam War veteran who risked his life to defend the country and then came home and saw his own people under attack by a racist government and police force throughout the nation.”

He added: “Geronimo then took upon himself to become a leader within the Black Panther Party and fight for justice and he was so feared that he was ultimately framed for a crime he did not commit.”

Ali began his address by reading out a statement from founding Black Panther member Bobby Seale.

“My revolutionary friend, Elmer G. Geronimo Pratt, became the deputy minister of defense of our Southern California, Los Angeles Black Panther Party Chapter, following the FBI’s Cointelpro assassination of Alprentis Bunchy Carter and John Huggins in January 1969,” Seale wrote.

“Geronimo Pratt’s case and court battle became a cause celebré for many elected officials, Amnesty International, clergy and many celebrities and even a former FBI agent who believed ‘G’ was framed by the U.S. government.

“‘G’ has now passed away. My heart goes out to his sister and family and his wife, Gieju. In remembering ‘G’ we must always let society and our youth know that our human liberation struggle continues. Geronimo was an exceptional and methodical leader in our Black Panther Party.”

Former Black Panther Wayne Pharr, recalled Pratt’s tireless resolve and energy.

“His life was a life of struggle,” Pharr said. He would always keep moving and never sit still … [but] his knowledge and education meant we were able to come out alive when we were attacked by the forces of imperialism and the racist power structure.”

Meanwhile, the younger activist generation was defiantly represented by General T.A.C.O (Taking all Capitalists Out), of the Black Riders Liberation Party, who said Pratt was a “symbol of resistance.”

“He represented the struggle ever since Nat Turner [and] ever since these folks bust us upside the head, put us in chains, forced us to pick cotton and built this damn country,” the activist said.

“Now they act like they don’t know who we are. This brother knew why he was going into the White man’s army. He wasn’t going to represent America or be patriotic, he was going to steal the White man’s killing skills.

“Yeah, I said it. And he brought those back at a time when high-powered water hoses were blowing the flesh of Black women and Black babies who stood in those civil rights marches.”

Melina Abdullah, an associate professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State Los Angeles, who attended the vigil with her 8-year-old daughter Thandiwe, paid tribute to Pratt and his inspiration to today’s youth.

“I think the Black Panthers are serving as inspiration to a whole new generation of leaders,” she said.

“On our campus we see a burgeoning of organization amongst Black students and students of color. They’re inspired the legacies of the Panthers and others who have come before them.”

Author and Project HOPE board member Donald Bakeer admonished the crowd to not see this as a “sad affair.”

“His life was one of triumph … a man who was symbolic of strength and tenacity,” Bakeer said.
“He was a hero, a man who inspired revolutionaries all across the world. He should held in poetry and history … he was our Mandela.”