Tuesday, November 18, 2008
President Barack H. Obama: My Son
By Eddie G. Griffin
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I have children and then I have children. Some of my children are adopted. As a servant of the Lord, sometimes a man has to adopt children who are not his own. And, so I have adopted Barack H. Obama, as my own son by kindred spirit, because he did all the things that would make a father proud.
He ran a good, clean, and honorable race to win the presidency of the United States. He has made his life an open book and has chosen to put his life under a microscope to lead by example. People will be watching him everywhere to see if he makes a mistake. I can understand that some people not too comfortable with having an African-American lead the greatest nation in the world.
But for these times, he is our chosen leader. He is my son by adoption, because he did everything I would have hoped to raise my own three sons would have done while growing up... to be honorable men and leaders in the community. In an age of foolish children, Barack stands out in a crowd.
Spiritually, I feel like King David, a man of war all my life, unfit to build a house for God. My adventures, as a Black Panther, was a life lived with fierce suicidal rage and rebellion, a desperado at war with the government, and at war with the world and myself.
But when all the wars are over and all of your enemies defeated, then there is still that war within, and it's hard to turn off a 62 year-old rage.
I had to find peace to make peace with myself. And, I am even more at peace now that I have found a wise son in Barack Obama, at least wiser than the previous leader, and surely wiser than his opponents. With him, he brings a refreshing attitude and sense of hope. Personally, it gives me great relief.
I need not study war any more. I must learn now to defend, and how to root our corruption, and vanquish the threat of terrorism, and build a new world.
But I would not rush to judgment as to who represents a terrorist threat when our own brutish ways make us a bigger threat to ourselves. We must do unto others as we would have others do unto us. The vanquished do not negotiate the terms and conditions of peace.
It was terribly hard for members of the Black Panther Party to renounce the use of violence against the government. Pride was the big factor. However, we were rotting in jails and prisons, classified as enemies of the state, domestic terrorists, convicted criminals, some with life sentences and beyond.
But one of our comrades was dying of cancer, and the government offered him a chance to go home before he died, only on one condition: that the revolutionaries renounce the use of violence to achieve their political objective.
The debate within our ranks ended in tears. We notified government lawyers that Rafael Cancel Miranda would speak for us all, to renounce the use of violence to overthrow the U. S. government. With this, President Jimmy Carter issued conditional pardons to many, but not all. And some of us left prison, recognized as international political prisoners.
The case of Mwana
A Panther prison rebel leader named Mwana was released from a refrigerated strip cell at Marion Federal Prison by a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Southern Illinois University professor Jim Roberts established the Prisoner Rights Project at SIU Law School. Roberts named Mwana to be a member of the board of directors, the first prisoner to serve on a board of a project at a major university.
This provided Mwana, a jailhouse lawyer, with free access to law students attending the university. All inmate grievances would go to Mwana for screening of prisoner rights violation and then to the law students who, in turn, prepared the cases for court.
Mwana had met Professor Roberts and his law students after a prison hunger strike in 1976. For Mwans's role in the protest, the warden had placed him in the long-term segregation unit, known as the Control Unit, which became increasing restrictive, over the years. When Finney blocked the professor entrance into the prison for a visit with Mwana, Prof. Roberts went to court and eventually won a $39,000 settlement against the Bureau of Prison, for denying him access to his prisoner client and thereby denying him the right to practice law. It was the first such successful lawsuit against the Bureau, and later withstood a Supreme Court challenge.
Around 1979, President Jimmy Carter released a select group of radical prisoners, on the condition that they renounce violence. Mwana was the one who convinced Rafael Miranda that this was the best choice. The dispute within the ranks of radical prisoners was fierce, because some did not want to give up the fight. But the fight was over.
The revolutionaries had won what we could win, a reprieve of sorts. They had won their freedom and some vindication and redemption for their politically motivated crimes. (Herman Bell of the BLA, and Leonard Peltier of AIM, remain incarcerated)
In any case, the Revolution of the 1970s ended with a public renounciation of violence.
I have been blessed to have survived the internment and the future shock effect of reentry, and to have helped teach a new generation.
I have raised children, and children’s children, and children’s children’s children, since my release almost 25 years ago. I am a new person, a new man. In prison, no one would even know me by the name of Eddie Griffin, except the wardens and the FBI. My inmate-in-arms, however, called me “Mwana”, a Swahili name given to me by the brothers incarcerated, known as the Marion Brothers.
I tell this story not to glorify my violent and riotous past, but that others might understand that it is hard to turn off WAR. For me, it is tempting to search for enemies and make new enemies if I find none, just to have somebody, something, or a cause to fight. But the only fight now is against the forces of nature and the state of the economy, and against the few who are aroused by a man skin-color, instead of his vision.
As I said before, so say I now: I have children and I have children... good children and bad children.
Barack Obama is a good son.