It was a typical Monday afternoon during my senior year at the University of Wisconsin when my fellow linebacker, John Borders, would prompt down next to my seat. John informed me that he had made another deal with Professor Rosenstein. He said this deal was to do separate papers on the Chicago Black Panthers per interviews with Chicago Leader Fred Hampton. Our documented grade would be a “B” each. I became interested and that night we went to hear the mysterious Fred Hampton for the very first time. It was sponsored by the SDS – Students for a Democratic Society. Basically, they were a blend of radicals and communists and totally white.
Fred spoke for a straight two hours and mesmerized the large crowd. I went up to him on the stage as they were breaking up and told him we would like to come and visit him at his weekend headquarters the following Saturday. He said, “Come on down to Chi, we would love to chat with you.” So, early Saturday morning we jumped into my little red Opal Cadette (Buick) and drove to the westside of Chi Town. They were expecting us and we had no problem getting into the Saturday morning breakfast meeting. Fred told us to just raise our hand when we wanted to speak or ask any questions.
We stayed a good two hours and learned a lot about the Chicago Black Panthers which was very different than the Los Angeles or Bay Area groups. Every Saturday morning they would sponsor free breakfasts for the local community and the kids would come in masses. To listen to the mesmerizing Fred Hampton on a full stomach was quite a treat for a “ghetto child.”
Fred had a way of listening intently to whoever was speaking to him and would put on a serious stare. It was scary but yet serious. The local kids worshiped them and the panthers were reciprocal. The white establishment hated this relationship. We would soon learn just how much they hated the notorious Fred Hampton and his Chicago Panthers.
We gave our reports to Professor Rosenstein and he loved them. We got our “B”s (3 hours) which went well with our grade point average at the prestigious University of Wisconsin. I had decided to start working continuously with the Chicago Panthers. They were doing good things for the ghetto communities and I felt we could help them get their message out. In about two weeks that ambition became short lived.
On my way to school I would buy a Chicago Sun Times and a donut and then hitch-hike a ride to class. One cold morning (15 degrees) the bold print on the first page hit me like a ton of bricks. “Chicago PD Murders Fred Hampton.” My mind was messed up for months. They broke into his bedroom and shot him multiple times as his pregnant wife lay next to him. It was a blatant assassination. The guy who was becoming my hero was murdered in cold blood by the Police establishment.
Prosecutor Hanrahan and his police goons did this without any recourse from the law officials. They all walked away “clean.” A Black hero was slaughtered and nothing was done about it. It was a message to all of us. Fred Hampton is still regarded as a “Hero” and books and movies are still being made about him.
It is too bad he could not have blessed us with a full life. Things would be so different now. I learned the hard way of just how crooked our society is and how difficult any positive change is going to be made.
Help us Jesus.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. www.nationalbcc.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
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