Profiles in Unconditional Commitment: Fred Hampton and Patrice Lumumba
By Todd Banks
Presented By Omni-University
Ancestors Fred Hampton (left) and Patrice Lumumba (right)
"If you walk through life and don't help anybody- you haven't had much of a life." [Ancestor] Fred Hampton
The impetus behind the quest to uplift our people may be political, economic, spiritual, social, or all of these. But, there is no denying that, for the two men under discussion herein, it was unconditional. That they might be martyred, for their unrelenting pursuit of liberty and justice, was not a deterrent to their commitment.
Like the many brave Ancestors who preceded them, such as Nat Turner, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, and countless other nameless soldiers,the probability of suffering persecution and death were not sufficient reasons to abandon their mission.
For the purposes of this essay, I have reviewed the profiles of two Black men who never wavered in their commitment in spite of the odds against their survival in the struggle for the liberation of our people. Each of them shared a determination to improve the quality of life for their people as well as what I view as common traits.
[Ancestor] Patrice Lumumba ( July 2, 1925- January 17, 1981) was, first and foremost, a Congolese independence leader and, secondly, a politician who served as the First Prime Minister for the Independent Democratic Republic of The Congo. His primary objective was to liberate the Congo from the status of a colony under Belgium rule to an independent Republic. When he was unsuccessful in getting support from the United States and the United Nations in combating Belgium- backed military opposition to this effort, he turned to the Soviet Union for assistance. This created conflict within his own political party as well as with the United States and Belgium, who were enemies of the Soviet Union during the "Cold War".
[Ancestor] Lumumba was jailed and ultimately assassinated for his attempt to liberate the Congo from Belgium. Still his life has left a legacy of a man who was uncompromising in his efforts to free his country from colonialism. He, thus, became the symbol for Pan Africanism both domestically and abroad.
[Ancestor] Fred Hampton ( August 30, 1948 - December 4, 1969), was an activist and organizer at an early age. At ten years old, he started a weekend breakfast program- cooking the meals himself- for the children in his neighborhood. While attending Proviso East High School in Maywood, illinois, he led walkouts in protest of the lack of quality education, Black teachers and administrators at the school.
After high school, he became a Youth Organizer in his local branch of the NAACP. In this capacity, he wielded influence in getting young people involved in influencing the allocation of resources to support the underserved Black communities of Maywood. As the Black Panther Party rose to national prominence, Hampton aligned himself with the Chicago chapter embracing their philosophy of self-reliance and the empowerment of Black communities against systemic racism-specifically from law enforcement.
As his leadership and influence within the BPP continued to grow, he organized rival Black street gangs into community allies. Additionally, he was the architect of a multi-racial alliance between the BPP and two non-black community-based organizations in Chicago: The Young Patriots- who were white-and The Young Lords, who were Latinos. These combined groups became known as "The Rainbow Coalition".
As with most Black leaders with national prominence and influence, Hampton became the target of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who reportedly collaborated with former Cook County State's Attorney, the Late Edward Hanrahan, Chicago law enforcement and an agent of the F.B.I., William O'Neal, in the assassination of Chairman Hampton and Mark Clark, another member of the Black Panther Party, in 1969.
As far as I know, Fred Hampton is the only person who was able to unify Chicago Black street gangs and non-Black grassroots community- based groups under the same umbrella. His ability to unite diverse groups under the common causes of social justice, economic and social equity are unparalleled. The void left by Hampton's leadership and example has yet to be filled.
Unifying divergent groups around a common cause for the purpose of freeing them from the governance of an oppressive entity - were strategies employed by both Lumumba and Hampton.Among other traits, they shared the recognition that with unification, historically opposing groups could use their combined power and influence to address economic equity and independence utilizing a non-traditional model that yields to the weight of united effort.
In the case of Lumumba, this was represented by the unification of the various tribes of the Congo in the common cause of liberation, from the oppressive colonialism of Belgium, to form an independent nation. For Hampton, this was evidenced by the uniform struggle of the diverse groups that he united to bring about relief from the oppressive law enforcement levied against the Black community.
Amidst the real threats to their lives, both of these men forged ahead in their unrelenting quest for liberation from oppression. Fortunately the struggle, led by Lumumba, that resulted in the Congo becoming an Independent Nation, is still ongoing.
In our review of the common characteristics shared by both men, another attribute comes to mind: "Service." Lumumba and Hampton epitomized a level of service that put the needs of their country/community and its citizens above self.
Patrice Lumumba embraced his mission of making The Congo an independent, post colonial nation. His call to service compelled him to bring together diverse groups, which included civic organizations, unions and other multifaceted groups around the ideology of Pan Africanism. The principle of leading Economic Development From Within The Congo was paramount to Lumumba's mission.
Similarly, Chairman Fred Hampton's call to serve Chicago's multilayered underserved communities was realized through the coalescence of groups from diverse backgrounds. Founded under the name "The Rainbow Coalition" this group included Hampton's Black Panther Party, the Latino group- the Young Lords- and the white group- The Young Patriots. The Coalition's unifying principles were directed toward ending poverty, political corruption, police brutality and economic inequity. Both Lumumba and Hampton were dedicated to the cause of creating economic equity and political independence within their nation/community as well as to ending the use of oppressive force against them.
Unfortunately The Congo has been an oppressive dictatorship mostly devoid of economic growth since Lumumba's death. The dearth of economic development and the continuation of police brutality in the Chicago communities Hampton once championed, has become more pronounced subsequent to Hampton's death.
Yet in spite of all of the seemingly insurmountable challenges, neither [Ancestor] Patrice Lumumba, Fred Hampton, nor their predecessors were lacking in the faith that, by the Grace of God, this mission- to uplift, to serve and to improve the quality of life of our community -should we as a people choose to accept it- will be accomplished. Ultimately, the struggle led by Lumumba resulted in the Congo becoming an Independent Nation. And though the struggle continues- as it must- since this outcome is still being challenged and it remains to be achieved.
"History will one day have its say but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington, or the United Nations will teach; But that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets: a history of glory and dignity." [Ancestor] Patrice Emery Lumumba
"Congo My Country" by [Ancestor] Patrice Lumumba
"Africans at the Crossroads: Notes for an African World Revolution" by [Ancestor] Dr. John Henrik Clarke
"Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party and their Legacy" by Kathleen Weaver and George Katsiaficas
"From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Radical Coalition Politics in Chicago" by Jakobi Williams
"Cointelpro" by Nelson Blackstock