Report-back from the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee’s 20th Anniversary Political Prisoner Family Dinner

by Sharon Shoatz – January 2016

When asked to write this piece, I was transported back some two decades ago, when the dinner was held in Harlem at the Adam Clayton Powell State Building. I began looking at pictures prominently displaying the many years of Political Prisoners Dinners shared with my brother Russell, sister Theresa, Sunni (Sundiata Acoli’s daughter), and even Yuri Kochiyama, who during the era of the infamous Judge Sabo, was willing to give up her courtroom seat to my brother and I, so we could enter the room jam-packed by the F.O.P. (Fraternal Order of Police) during Mumia’s trial. I of course have so many memories and pictures of comrades and cubs, far too many to name. I thought, “Wow, what a flashback, and these throwback pictures with me looking like…” Well, we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

I began to think about the overwhelming support and outreach garnered for and from the Political Prisoners Dinner, and how this annual event has been and will always be one of the many great legacies of Iyualaa and Herman Ferguson.

Upon arriving, I was greeted by none other than the strong warrior shero, the lovely Iyualaa. Greeting her and her family brought back fond memories of Safiya Bukhari, who invited me to my first New York City Political Prisoners event.

The room was filled with guests, supporters, comrades, cubs, and family members.  Dequi was visibly roaming the room as the drums were being played and Zayid began as he always does with libations for the ancestor sheroes and warriors. His voice permeated the room as the kick-off for the 20th anniversary of the dinner began. Guest speakers included Sekou Odinga and Lynne Stewart. Sekou was released in November of 2014, and received a resounding standing ovation for his ongoing struggle, and his 14 months of freedom. He spoke about how the money garnered from the Political Prisoners Dinners sustained him during his incarceration. He went on to speak about how everyone could do something—anything—from monetary support, to transportation for family members, to visiting loved ones.

Lynne Stewart, the revolutionary lawyer, echoed Sekou’s sentiments, and spoke about the injustices that still exist, while also reading a piece of poetry that was near and dear to her heart.

The food and desserts were well-prepared and in abundance. The legendary raffle and auction of sponsored items—from CDs, books, artwork, and clothing—was tremendous.

Dequi’s commitment to carrying on the torch and the legacy of the Political Prisoners Dinner with such an indelible spirit is commendable. For all of you reading this, dig deep and acknowledge how a small deed such as a monetary contribution to or communication with any of our Political Prisoners can mean so much.

Joan Gibbs, General Counsel for the Center for Law and Social Justice, has shared with us 10 ways in which we can support our revolutionary sheroes and heroes, for which this event was ultimately designed.

The Struggle continues…

Free all Political Prisoners and POWs.

Ten Things YOU Can Do for the Freedom of Political Prisoners by Joan Gibbs, Esq.

The Freedom of all Political Prisoners requires the building of a mass united Movement. To that end here are ten things you can do to contribute to the building of such a Movement:

  1. Write to, and if you can, send money to the Political Prisoners. Let them know that you support and care about them. The addresses of all the Political Prisoners can be found at
  1. Join Jericho &/or one of the other Political Prisoner support committees;
  1. Challenge the myth that Political Prisoners do not exist in the united states. Educate your family, friends, co-workers, and members of your faith-based community, if you belong to one, about the existence of the Political Prisoners and campaigns for their Freedom;
  1. Organize a meeting on Political Prisoners at your home, union hall, faith-based institution, local coffee shop, bar, wherever you regularly hang out;
  1. Post information about Political Prisoners on your Facebook page;
  1. Send e-mails and Twitter messages to your friends/followers calling for the Freedom of Political Prisoners;
  1. Even if you didn’t vote for them or don’t vote, let your elected representatives know that the Freedom of Political Prisoners is one of the issues that you are concerned about. The addresses of all elected officials from the President to the City Council are readily available on the Internet;
  1. Put up a poster/picture of Political Prisoners in your home/windows;
  1. Organize, support, and attend rallies, pickets, and demonstrations calling for the Freedom of Political Prisoners;
  1. Be Creative! Be Creative!

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