The Crusader Newspaper Group

Chairman Fred Hampton Streetz Party celebrates slain leader’s 74th birthday

Self-determination, economic development, cultural identity and political empowerment are the banners under which a series of celebrations will commemorate the life and legacy of Illinois Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton, Sr.

On Tuesday, August 30th, organizers are planning a robust celebration of the slain leader’s life with events in both Chicago and Maywood, IL.

The annual commemoration begins at noon at 2337 W. Monroe, the site where Hampton and Panther Defense Captain Mark Clark were assassinated by the Chicago Police Department on December 4, 1969. The gifted orator and revolutionary leader would have been 74 years old.

The celebration concludes with an outdoor concert later in the evening, not far from his childhood home. On April 19th, the modest property received historic landmark status through unanimous vote of the Maywood Village Board.

“Our communities have undergone tremendous changes in the last two years,” said Fred Hampton, Jr., chairman of the Black Panther Cubs and the leader’s only son. “Not only are we recovering from a pandemic that has left us disjointed and disconnected from each other, our people continue to be on the receiving end of police regression, economic exploitation and political neglect.

“This event is not only a way to celebrate my father and the Panther’s campaign against injustice and racism,” he said, “but also serves as a way to energize and encourage the new generation of leaders to continue the fight. The community rallied to save the Hampton House, and today it forever stands as a public testament to the struggle. Rather than see my father’s birthplace as a house museum, we’d rather the community see it as a living resource for social change.”

The two-flat is one of three local house museums commemorating the past of famous African Americans, including blues legend Muddy Waters and Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago boy whose lynching in Mississippi sparked the modern Civil Rights movement and the emergence of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Organized by the Black Panthers Cubs, the December 4th Committee and the Coalition to Save Hampton House, the “Chairman Fred Hampton Streetz Party,” will feature community outreach activities, food, vendors and evening performances by a bevy of artists and musical performers. In addition to Grammy award-winning poet J. Ivy and his wife, recording artist Tarrey Torae, the street party also features Mia X, Shawna, Kapitol P, DJ Tyrell, Butta DaPrince, GSO Phat, Jay Brown the Cowboy Boxx, Daniel Swift, Uncle Beats, and others.

Prior to the concert, attendees are expected to participate in a caravan that kicks off at 4:00 p.m. from the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Oak Street, in Maywood. Volunteers will work in a community garden at the Hampton House, 804 S. 17th Avenue, in Maywood, and engage in civic activities throughout the community.

“Our legacy is more important than our lives,” said Akua Njeri, widow of the slain leader, and a well-known freedom fighter in her own right. “This block party was created to serve as a reminder that there were people who stood up to fight against injustice and for people to have control over their neighborhoods.

“Chairman Fred lost his life for self-determination and justice,” she said. “Many others remain political prisoners for doing this work. The street party is not only our way of saying ‘thank you’ to people in the community who do this work, who stand up for what is right, and who struggle against tremendous odds, but it is also our way of creating creative and safe spaces for people doing the work to thrive.”

Fredrick Allen Hampton was born on August 30, 1948. He came to national prominence at the age of 19 in Chicago as chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), and deputy chairman of its national arm. As a skilled organizer, political strategist and leader, the young leader politicized gang members, developed what would become the nation’s free lunch program for public school students, and created a health clinic to combat the rampant lead poisoning of Black children.

Hampton’s unique skill and rhetorical style was so feared by the federal government that it ordered the FBI to begin a surveillance file on him at the age of 14, while he was a freshman at Proviso East High School.

Two years before making FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s domestic hit list to “stop the rise of a Black messiah,” a then-12-year-old Hampton organized a massive, non-violent demonstration against the City of Maywood due to a lack of swimming pools that admitted Black children.

Hoping to become an attorney, Hampton became president of his local NAACP youth chapter and, in 1968 was recruited by the BPP by local Minister of Defense Bobby L. Rush, an Army veteran who went on to become a U.S. Congressman.

Hampton was only 21 years old when he was drugged by William O’Neil, his bodyguard and undercover FBI informant, who also provided the police with a floor plan of the apartment. The charismatic young leader, known for his powerful oratory and ability to organize across racial barriers, was gunned down as he lay in bed next to his wife, Deborah (Njeri), who was eight months pregnant with their first child.

Also killed in the hail of 90 bullets fired by the police was 22-year-old Mark Clark, a Panther from Peoria, IL, who had been in Chicago for a meeting and was staying overnight at Hampton’s apartment at 2337 W. Monroe St. on the city’s West Side.

His widow gave birth to Hampton’s son two weeks later, and later courageously testified as an eyewitness against the Chicago Police Department during a civil trial resulting from the heinous murder. Since then, the family has not only fought to preserve the leader’s memory, but to train generations of activists on how to “instead of looking at December 4th as solely a day of death at the hands of the system, we have joined people throughout the U.S., the Caribbean and Africa as recognizing it as International Revolutionary Day,” Hampton, Jr. told the Chicago Crusader.

“My father told us: They can kill the revolutionary, but they cannot kill the revolution. We honor his life–and Mark Clark’s life–when we continue the fight for justice.

“I never met my father,” Hampton Jr. said. “I was in my mother’s womb when police murdered him and attempted to kill her. But the Chairman’s words, legacy and challenge to us all remains. His life meant something. His legacy holds the memory and promise of struggle. Because of him, children don’t have to starve while trying to learn in these schools. Because of him, we know how to engage the political power structure and secure resources for our communities.”

This report is supported in part by the Inland Press Foundation.

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