After a series of recent deaths of African-Americans in the United States, which have prompted nationwide protests, we look back to December 4, 1969, when Fredrick Allen Hampton, head of the Illinois branch of the Black Panther Party, was slain while sleeping in his bed.
When the incident occurred, it was the result of a predawn raid conducted by the tactical section of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with the Chicago Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Hampton’s buddy and security guard, Mark Clark, was killed in the raid at 4:00 a.m. on the same day. To make matters worse, his pregnant fiancée Deborah Johnson, alias Akua Njeri, 19, was in bed with him at the time of Hampton’s death, as if killing the 21-year-old was not enough.
The following is what Njeri remembered about that horrible and unusual use of state force: “I looked up and saw gunshots coming from what appeared to be the front of the flat and the kitchen area in the back.” Bullets were being fired into the bed frame. I immediately knew it was over when I saw the flashes of light and felt the bed vibrate. It was like everything had come to a grinding halt. At some point, the firing came to a halt. Fred didn’t move for a long time. I made my way out with my hands raised. There were two lines of police officers that I had to get through. A member of their group grabbed my robe and opened it for me. At the time, I was eight and a half months pregnant. “Well, what do you know about that. “We have a pregnant broad on our hands,” said another officer, grabbing me by the hair and hurling me into the kitchen. When I turned around, Ron Satchel was sitting on the dining room floor. He had blood splattered all over his body. Verlina Brewer was bleeding profusely in the kitchen. She began to slip and fall. It was as though they had snatched her and thrown her against the refrigerator. Then there was more firing. “He’s barely alive,” said a voice that I didn’t recognize, and I looked around. I assumed they were referring to Fred when they said, “He’ll barely make it.” The shooting resumed, albeit for a brief length of time this time. It came to a halt. Then another voice, this one foreign, remarked, “He’s good and dead now.”
Njeri, who was eight and a half months pregnant at the time, gave birth to Fred Hampton, Jr., just 25 days after this callous treatment of black folks began.
Many years later, Njeri confessed, “The only reason I wasn’t killed, despite the fact that there were numerous bullets fired into my bed, was that Mark stood at that door and slowed them down for a long enough period of time.”
Former member of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, Njeri is a former member of the Black Panther Party. As the head of the December 4th Committee, which works to safeguard and preserve the history of the Black Panther Party, she was a driving force behind the movement. As stated by the POCC, “December 4th coincides with the annual August 30 birthday celebration and commemoration of Chairman Fred Hampton as well as the life, work, and commemorative events surrounding the annual December 4th International Revolutionary Day (IRD), the anniversary of the “Massacre on Monroe,” in which Chairman Fred and Defense Captain Mark Clark were both assassinated.”
She is also a co-author of a proposal to rename a Chicago block – 2300 W. Randolph – after a woman who died in a car accident. “Chairman Fred Hampton Way” is the name of a street in Monroe.
Njeri works with other survival initiatives, such as POCC, to arrange free clothing and fresh vegetables distributions. The campaign against police terrorism and for the release of political prisoners in the United States is still ongoing for her. In addition, she serves on the POCC Advisory Committee.
Clark and Hampton’s families, as well as those who survived the December 4th deadly raid, were compensated with a $1.8 million settlement. The government’s motivations and efforts to silence the Black Panther movement were revealed as a result of this raid, which took place decades ago on December 4.
The Black Panther Party Cubs are led by Fred Hampton Jr., a former Marine.