The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison, and Fighting for Those Left Behind
Black Liberation Army member, vice-president of the Republic of New Afrika, prisoner of war, comrade, activist, mother, grandmother.
Safiya Bukhari was all of these things and many more during her time. When she died on August 24, 2003, she was only 53 years old. The veteran of a war undeclared and unacknowledged, waged within and outside of the borders of the u.s.a. — a war unfinished — a war for liberation.
Bukhari’s was a life of work, and in the years after her release from prison she was known as a tireless advocate for those comrades who remained behind bars, amerika’s political prisoners and prisoners of war. She was not a “writer” and like many, spent years ambivalent and suspicious of the place of theory in struggle. As she wrote in 2002, at a university conference on “imprisoned intellectuals”:
“Intellectual” had always carried the connotation of being a theorist, an armchair revolutionary, if you will. Therefore, the idea of being seen as an intellectual was anathema to me. I had always thought of myself as an activist, an on-the-ground worker who practiced rather than preached.
The conference forced me to face a reality. I was there because I had spent some time in prison writing and thinking. Thinking and writing. Trying to put on paper some cogent ideas that might enable others to understand why I did some of the things that I had done and the process that had brought me/us to the polint we were at. I had also come to the conclusion that if we didn’t write the truth of what we had done and believed, someone else would write his or her version of the truth.
If we can’t write/draw a blueprint of what we are doing while we are doing it, or before we do it, then we must at least write our history and point out the truth of what we did – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In the spirit of these words, in the time since her death Bukhari’s daughter Wonda Jones, former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn, and other friends and comrades have worked to collect some of Bukhari’s writings from over the years, to help pass on the lessons and thoughts of this comrade to future generations. This book — with contributions by Jones and Whitehorn, as well as Angela Davis and Mumia Abu-Jamal — has been published by the Feminist Press and CUNY, and is now available for purchase from a variety of sources, including Kersplebedeb’s leftwingbooks.net. This is an important book, containing the classic autobiographical Coming of Age: A Black Revolutionary, as well as essays on sexism in the movement, Islam and revolution, the emotional/psychological toll of repression, and many on the struggles to free political prisoners that she led during her last years.
Comrades in Montreal are planning on organizing a book launch in the weeks to come (details to be posted here), but in the meantime a whole slew of launches and book events have been organized across the united states. A partial list follows:
Book Launches and Events for The War Before
NEW YORK CITY:
- Monday, February 1st, 7:00 pm — Barnes & Noble, Broadway at 82nd St., Manhattan — “Black Women, Black Freedom” – Celebrating “The War Before” and “Want to Start a Revolution? Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle,” with Wonda Jones, Laura Whitehorn, Dayo Gore, and Komozi Woodard. Free. (http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/3020723)
- Wednesday, February 3, 6:00-9:00 pm — Launch party for “The War Before” and celebration of Safiya Bukhari — hosted by the Center for Women’s Empowerment at Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, Rm. B-1008, with Wonda Jones, Pam Africa, Safiya Bandele, Cleo Silvers, Robyn Spencer, and others. Free.
- Friday, February 5, 7:00 pm — Bluestockings bookstore, 172 Allen Street, Manhattan, with Joan Gibbs, Laura Whitehorn, Bullwhip (Cyril Innis), Paulette D’Auteuil, and others. Free. (http://bluestockings.com/events/)
- Saturday, February 13, 7:00 pm — celebration of Safiya Bukhari and “The War Before” at the Brecht Forum, 451 West Street, Manhattan, with Wonda Jones, Cleo Silvers, Bullwhip, Dequi Kioni-Sadiki, Laura Whitehorn, and others. http://brechtforum.org/events/war-true-life-story-safiya-bukhari (sliding scale: $6/$10/$15; free for Brecht subscribers)
- Saturday, Sunday, March 20-21 at the Left Forum, Pace University, 1 Pace Plaza, Manhattan – workshop with Cleo Silvers, Vikki Law, Asha Bandele and Susie Day, date/time TBD (http://leftforum.org/node/63)
- Thursday, February 18, 7:00 pm at Porter Square Books, Porter Square Shopping Center, 25 White Street, Cambridge, MA 02140 (http://www.portersquarebooks.com/event/laura-whitehorn-war)
- Thursday, February 25 7 pm, Red Emma’s Bookstore, 800 St. Paul St. (http://www.redemmas.org/event/1778/)
- Thursday, March 11 with Yuri Kochiyama, Billy X Jennings, Claude Marks and others; at Freedom Archives, 513 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
- Friday, March 12, 7:00 pm with Vikki Law at The Green Arcade bookstore, 1680 Market Street @Gough, San Francisco CA 94102
- Saturday/Sunday, March 13-14 with Vikki Law at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, SF County Fair Building, Golden Gate Park (all day; time of panel TBD) http://sfbookfair.wordpress.com/schedule/
- Saturday, March 13 Yuri Kochiyama, Jewelle Gomez, Susan Rosenberg, Linda Evans, Laura Whitehorn, others, at Sparks Fly! benefit for political prisoner Marilyn Buck
JERSEY CITY, NJ:
- Saturday evening, April 3 Black Waxx Studios (280 1st Street, 2nd Floor), Laura Whitehorn, with musical artists Melanie Dyer and others. A Scientific Soul Session on “womyn and revolution.”