Friday, October 10, 2014

Elder Ronald Freeman, Presente!

This summer Elder Freeman, his wife Carmelita, grandson and good friend, Sheba Makeda Haven, and I got together for a late lunch at Shashamane in Oakland. Elder was getting ready to travel to visit family and friends in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and hopefully get to Cuba.

It was wonderful watching Elder and Sheba reflect on Black Panther history, some of it off the records (even now). Laughing and smiling the old friends stood on Elder's porch in West Oakland chatting, as Sheba pulled out some of her handcrafted gifts for Elder and his grandson and Carmelita (whom we met later at the restaurant).

I think Elder put his kufi on right away, (one was too small) and when we got to the restaurant, his grandson looked really grand in his (smile). Carmelita liked her gift and we all liked the meal, which Elder (a true gentleman) paid for.

The owner of the restaurant came by to chat with us a bit. It was my first time at the restaurant since my trip to Addis Ababa last summer. So we had an opportunity to catch up a bit. Later when the meal came. I think Elder had chicken maybe lamb (smile) --all was quiet. It was that good, even the little one, who'd said he wasn't hungry enjoyed his shared meal with his grandparents.

The two, grandson and grandpa went across to the street to the drugstore and came back with a toy, clearly pleasing the youngster who was skipping as Elder held his hand firmly as they crossed the busy intersection of 51st and Telegraph.

Everyone posed for photos in front of the restaurant and I took photos of Carmelita and grandson as they walked back to her car and then we turned and walked back to mine.

Sheba and I dropped Elder off, who was unclear about when he was going to New York, the first stop in the trip.  He and I spoke again before he left, when he returned from New York and LA and while I was in New York and he was in Oakland getting ready to travel. I was sorry our travel to the East Coast didn't overlap. I was looking forward to Garveyite tour with Elder Freeman.

When I learned of his crossing over or ascension, I was sorry but not surprised. He'd taken his life into his own hands. Instead of suffering through a treatment protocol which made him so sick he couldn't eat, he opted to take medicine to help him manage the constant pain and make a farewell tour.

He had it all planned and traveled more in his final months than many travel in a lifetime (smile).

I was on the subway on my way to Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn when he and I spoke last. I was calling to see if he was back in New York.  We had a nice talk. Elder sounded strong and happy. We were to speak again and just this week I was thinking that I needed to check in with him again.

As I lay in bed early Wednesday morning willing myself to get up and see the Red Moon, I looked over my shoulder and next to my bed was a lion-- sitting looking at me calmly. I blinked and he was still there--no words passed between us. There was a string of dental floss our mouths connecting us across the room, then all of a sudden the thread broke.

When I looked later, the string was on the night table where the lion had sat.

Hum. Elder stopped by to say goodbye? His locks made him look like a lion, so I don't think it was farfetched to imagine it was he.  The time was about the time he was pronounced dead, according to Carmelita. The hospital called her and said it was 4:58 a.m. October 8.

I had Elder on my radio show more than once with his friend, Sheba and alone. He participated in a Tribute to Geronimo ji jaga and to Marcus Garvey. I broadcast the tribute to Geronimo this morning on the show:

(Elder is in the last part of the two hour tribute. He and Kiilu close the show.)


Today we will celebrate the life of Geronimo ji jaga, decorated US veteran, Black Panther, father, husband, sibling, friend, humanitarian, former Political Prisoner and POW, and founder of Kuji Foundation. Guests include: Kathleen Neal Cleaver, JD, former Communications Secretary, BPP, writer, professor, activist; Emory Douglas, author, artist, former Minister of Culture BPP; Robert King, author, prison abolitionist, Angola 3; Mujah Shakir, Ph.D., Detroit native & former member of the Nation of Islam, is a founding member of the International Campaign to Free Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) in 1987 and served as its Chair for 8 yrs. She is also a founding member of the national Jericho 98 Campaign to Free U.S. Political Prisoners and the local bay area Jericho Amnesty Campaign; Tiyesha Meroe, activist, member of Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and State Repression. She worked with the ICFGjj for 7 yrs. She will co-host the memorial and tribute to Geronimo with Emory Douglas at East Side Arts Alliance in Oakland, beginning at 6 PM July 15, 2011. Elder Ronald Freeman, Detroit, native, moved in LA in 1961. He was Field Secretary for Southern CA BPP chapter in charge of political and military activities, member, All of Us or None. Black Panther veteran, Kiilu Nyasha has been in the liberation struggle for over 40 years.  An internationalist, she is a supporter of political prisoners, a death penalty and prison abolitionist & revolutionary journalist. Billy X Jennings& Dr. Gail Shaw Special greetings from Tanzania, in order of broadcast: Joju ji jaga Cleaver, Brother Pete O'Neal, Mama Charlotte O'Neal.


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