Rest in Power: Gil Scott-Heron & Geronimo Pratt

Gil Scott-Heron was a poet, musician, and author beginning in the late 60s and early 70s. His work as a spoken word soul performer and his fusion of jazz, blues and soul music is often associated with black militant activism and has received much critical acclaim for one of his most well-known compositions “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. On his influence, Allmusic wrote “Scott-Heron’s unique proto-rap style influenced a generation of hip-hop artists”. Scott-Heron continued to record through the 70s and early 80s and briefly returned to the studio in 1994. That album featured the track “Message to the Messengers,” in which Scott-Heron cautions the hip-hop generation that arose in his absence to use its newfound power responsibly. He has been cited as a key influence by many in the hip-hop community. Scott-Heron struggled publicly with substance abuse in the 2000s, and spent the early part of the decade in and out of jail on drug possession charges. He began performing again after his release in 2007, and in 2010 released a new album, I’m New Here, to widespread critical acclaim. He was as a pioneer in the revolutionary Hop-Hop community as any rapper and he will be greatly missed.

Geronimo Pratt was the Minister of Defense for the Black Panther Party who was targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program which sent infiltrators into their gatherings and recruited informants. One of them, Julius Butler, was the key witness against Pratt when he was charged in 1968 with a Santa Monica shooting. Pratt, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said he was innocent and maintained there were audiotapes that would prove he had been at a Black Panther meeting in Oakland the day of the killing. His lawyers later said that FBI agents and police hid and possibly destroyed wiretap evidence from the meeting which they had under surveillance. In 1972 he was unjustly prosecuted and eventually served 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. He also served eight years in solitary confinement under terrible conditions. For years, Pratt supporters including well-known civil rights activists pressed for his release to no avail. But two lawyers, Stuart Hanlon and Johnnie Cochran, were relentless in pursuing the case. Each time they were turned down, they filed new motions. In 1997, they won and Pratt was released. Prosecutors announced two years later that they would abandon efforts to retry him, but they never acknowledged he was wrongly convicted. It should also be noted that Pratt is the godfather of Tupac Shakur, one of the most revered artists in the world, especially within Hip-Hop culture. For a great interview with Pratt where he discusses 2pac at length go to http://allhiphop.com. During the remaining 14 years of his life, Pratt divided his time between his home in Louisiana and his adopted home in Tanzania, Africa. Pratt worked with the United African Alliance Community Center in Arusha for the last nine years that he lived in the community, which sits near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Geronimo Ji Jaga died in Tanzania on June 3, 2011.

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Categories: National News, Political History, Racism

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