What to read while you recuperate

On December 4, 1969, Chicago police murdered Fred Hampton while he slept. They also murdered Mark Clark, possibly “collateral damage”, and shot Verlina Brewer, Doc Satchel, Blair Anderson, and Brenda Harris. Since Fred didn’t die in the initial hail of gunfire, but due to two shots in the head at close range, the term “execution” is entirely appropriate.

At the time of his assassination at the age of 21, a documentary about Mr Hampton was being filmed. He was an up-and-coming leader in Chicago, having been a community activist in high school and rising to the chair of the Chicago Black Panther Party. That film became “The Murder of Fred Hampton” (full film at the link) and was released in 1971. In 2010 a longer retelling of the story was published by one of the attorneys who represented the survivors of the massacre and the families of those killed. I spent the past few days reading “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther”, by Jeffrey Haas.

The police termed it a “shootout”. The evidence showed it was a hit; a planned takeout as part of COINTELPRO, designed to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement” (from an FBI memo). More than 90 rounds were fired into the apartment. One was fired out, by a dying Mark Clark.

In his short life, Hampton said, “You can jail a revolutionary, but you can’t jail a revolution. You might run a liberator like Eldridge Cleaver out of the country, but you can’t run liberation out of the country. You can murder a freedom fighter like Bobby Hutton, but you can’t murder freedom fighting….Nothing is more important than stopping fascism, because fascism can stop us all.”

I saw the film when it first came out. While more recently looking for it as something I wanted to show my children, I came across the book; and reading that book is how I spent the past two days. I recommend it highly, as well as the film. With the current off-the-wall right-wing conspiracy theories, younger readers may not recall that it was not so long ago that there was a real-life conspiracy to eliminate the movement for self-determination by African Americans, by any means necessary. Most white people heard more about the Black Panthers arming themselves for self-defense than about their free breakfast programs for school children. Many white people may still think that the stories of police and FBI abuse were exaggerated. This book documents the truth exhaustively, including the coverup that lasted more than ten years.

At the beginning of my recovery, I read Roy Meals’ “100 Orthopaedic Conditions Every Doctor Should Understand”. Also see his blog “About Bone” (no need to be a doctor for the blog). “Murder on the Red Cliff Rez” by Mardi Oakley Medawar, a Cherokee writer living on the Red Cliff reservation, is an entirely fictional murder mystery, and was my next book. Mixed in there was the new book by Jane McAlevey, “A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy“. Jane and I worked together in Nicaragua in 1987. She went on to work as an organizer for the union of which I was a member. She also worked at the Highlander School and earned a doctorate along the way.

Constructing a Water Pipeline in Matiguas, Nicaragua, 1987
Jane (right) in Nicaragua; photo from her website. If I’m not mistaken, Patrick Liteky is second from right. Patrick and his brother Charlie, an Army Chaplain, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, and former priest, were active in protests against the School of the Americas, the training ground for Central American death squads at Ft Benning, GA. Patrick was also a veteran and trained at Ft Benning. Charlie later renounced his Medal of Honor.

A central premise of Jane’s book can be summed up by these graphs:

In this first graph, you can see that there is an inverse correlation between union membership and the share of income going to the top 10%. In other words, when union membership goes down, the rich get richer.
Another way to look at this is that, as union membership declines, middle class incomes decline in parallel.

Jane is more optimistic about the chances for unions to make a comeback than I am right now. That might have something to do with Wisconsin Act 10, which eliminated collective bargaining at my place of employment. By state law, a union is now illegal.

On my second visit to Olbrich Gardens last week, I saw the Ancora String Quartet perform Randall Thompson’s String Quartet #2 in G Major. I discovered that quartet music works with riding on a trainer, too.

Back to work!

Finally back to work after six weeks of disability. I must say, working beats the heck out of sitting at home fighting to be able to use the benefits I spent 20 years earning. Not working took about 2 hours/day for the past six weeks. pat mAcdonald said “Lookin’ for work is worse than working”. [The link goes to a live version by TImbuk 3. I gotta say the demo EP version by Pat MacDonald and the Essentials is better, but I don’t have that in a digital format. (Note: The different formatting of his name is by Pat’s choice, or should I say pat’s choice – the old and new ways he writes it.)] At any rate, working beats looking for work or fighting for benefits.

The first day back at work felt, in some ways, like I never left. I don’t know that that’s a good or bad feeling, it just is. My legs felt the ride…a ride that is normally short enough to do in my sleep, though it’s way more fun to pay attention. I guess I’m a bit out of shape. Less than five months to get ready…

Magic Sam Maghett lived on the West Side of Chicago and died three days before Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed. I don’t know if they ever met.

Interview about 50 seconds, then you get to hear him play and sing.