Sundiata Acoli’s Statement to the 18th Annual Family Political Prisoner Tribute Dinner

Sundiata Acoli’s Statement to the 18th Annual Political Prisoner Tribute Dinner

Tribute to Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson

It is an extreme honor, and pleasure, to pay tribute to Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson, husband, wife and leaders of our struggle for the liberation of Black people –  and all other oppressed people. They blazed a trail together -sometimes Herman led, at other times Iyaluua – and they set examples for all of us who came after, to follow.

One such occasion was Herman’s leading role in the struggle for community control of NYC schools in the late ’60s. It spanned 3 years and 3 designated school districts: Ocean-Hill Brownsville, Harlem and the Lower East Side – and over time the predominantly White teacher’s union opposed community control by shutting down all the schools in NYC thru a teacher’s strike.

Black and Puerto Rican communities, teachers and leaders – and progressive White teachers – banded together in the three designated school districts to keep their schools open. Herman, as school principal, set up new teaching curriculums, helped solicit substitute teachers of color to replace the striking White teachers and helped recruit community parents to work as teacher’s aids and hallway monitors to keep their schools open and operating.

The late Jitu Weusi and the late Sonny Carson played prominent roles in the school struggle as did the NYC Black Panther Party (BPP.) The u.s. government brought into the fray, the FBI, the NY Police Dept., CIA and the various Military Intelligence services, plus the Ford Foundation was there from the beginning orchestrating intrigue and other underhanded schemes. Herman was arrested/convicted on spurious conspiracy charges and the NYC Panther leadership was arrested on the Panther 21 Conspiracy Case – all as part of the government’s collateral attack leading up its ultimate use of overwhelming force to crush the community control school board and movement. It could not have ended otherwise considering the great imbalance of forces between the government and the community at the time.

But it is axiomatic that one learns more in defeat than in victory. Many important lessons were learned that are applicable to future struggles for community control. Many examples were set that are worth following today – and Herman was instrumental in setting many of those examples.

And now ……Sister Iyaluua, who saw a glaring lack of financial support for Black Liberation Army (BLA) Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War (PP/POWs) and boldly stepped forward to fill the void. She came up with the brilliant idea of holding a dinner to honor BLA PP/POWs and their families – and to use the funds raised by the dinner for distribution into the prisoner’s commissary accounts. Then she, her daughters, Herman and other family members and supporters worked long hours over hot stoves cooking fabulous meals and doing all the other work to make the dinner  a most memorable occasion. And it was an astounding success, so much so that it has become an annual tradition of our movement.

So i give special honor to Sister Iyaluua for creating the vehicle that broke decades, yes DECADES, of hand to mouth existence for me and some other BLA PP/POWs, by providing substantial and consistent annual donations to our commissary accounts. Frankly, the Anarchist Black Cross Federation (ABCF), also raises funds for BLA and other PP/POWs commissary accounts but Sister Iyaluua’s example also inspired other Black organizations to make similar commitments though economic hard times have made most drop by the wayside.

Still MXCC, the originator of the PP/POWs’ Family Dinner, marches on –the gift that truly keeps on giving – and for that i and other BLA PP/POWs are eternally indebted to the incomparable Sister Iyaluua – and her steadfast husband, Herman – for leading the way. Thank you.

In Struggle,

Sundiata Acoli

Saturday, January 18th 2013