1967- A Year Of Hate

The legendary summer of 1967 was for a select few, a time of love and peace. However the majority of the world’s population continued to suffer from the afflictions that have blighted human societies for centuries.

Poverty, mental illness, addiction and racial exclusion remained painful realities for many people throughout this mythical year. Many self appointed political prophets attempted to find solutions to these longstanding problems. Some took a utopian approach, establishing political collectives and were pacifist in their outlook.

These collectives were engaged in a protracted campaign of civil disobedience, “dropping out” of conventional employment and adopting non-traditional family networks. Other movements were deliberately confrontational and violent.

The Black Panthers in America were an armed resistance movement created by African-Americans in Oakland, California. Oakland was a poor district and black people endured years of police brutality. The Panthers were committed to violent revolution to achieve their aims, to them the police were the ultimate enemy.

In the summer of 1967 Bobby Hutton joined the Black Panther party. He was just 16 years old. He immediately came under the radar of Oakland police and was subject to a campaign of surveillance. He was shot by police in disputed circumstances a year later.

In Britain there were pockets of violent radicalism. In spite of the historical differences, the sentiments of racial injustice were felt to be the same. While most British people of African or Caribbean heritage were law abiding, there was a minority who vociferously maintained that they had no faith in the political system.

This minority found themselves susceptible to American ideas about revolution and black power. In London a young man from Trinidad called Michael X established his own “Black Power” commune. He was militantly opposed to any notion of equality between black and white people and he was the first black person to be prosecuted under the Race Relations Act. In spite of this obvious hostility he accepted financial donations from people like John Lennon. Michael X attracted numerous acolytes, including a troubled African American called Hakim Jamal.

Jamal was born Allen Donaldson in 1931. His early life was characterised by abuse and neglect, and he abused drugs and alcohol throughout his teenage years. In his adulthood he spent time in prison and state mental hospitals. In one period of incarceration he believed that Islam and the Black Nationalist cause provided the answers to his intolerable state of existence.

Jamal`s fractious mental state bedevilled him despite his enthusiasm for this new religious and political direction. Under the wing of Michael X he moved to a collective in Trinidad, where he believed that he would be helping to educate local black children. However he became increasingly paranoid and violent. He reportedly ordered Michael X to murder a fellow collective member Gale Benson.

Michael X, real name Michael de Freitas was convicted of Benson`s murder and was sentenced to death. John Lennon paid for a legal appeal but the Trinidad authorities were unmoved by the pleas for clemency and he was hanged. Jamal denied any involvement with the murder and returned to his childhood home in Boston. He died from gunshot wounds in a suspected feud in 1973.

The fallout from dangerous radicalism is rarely discussed, but it is harrowing to remember that a seventeen year old boy and a mentally ill man aged only 42 were the real human victims of this brand of politics.

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