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Elephant quilt by Margaret Gregg, Abingdon VA
Graphic: Elephant quilt by Margaret Gregg, Abingdon VA,

Our uncompleted journey collectively and individually toward the ideals of tolerant coexistence and responsibly free equality of opportunity has been punctuated historically over millennia by disruptively violent confrontation, extensively voluble misunderstanding and voluminously documented protest and progress on a field littered with names of the known, and unremembered, of those who've stood for healthy egalitarianism and true justice and others who've fallen under the heavy boot of tyrannical oppression and restrictive prejudice....

"Remember Jackson"

ACR collage by jH of Jonathan David Farley pix
Graphic above:ACR collage by the publisher of extant historic photos of article's author

by Dr. Jonathan Farley

Jonathan Farley is one of the world's most impressive young mathematicians. He is a model of excellence for young people of all backgrounds, but especially African Americans who may see their intellectual potential in him. Harvard is proud to honor his achievements and acknowledge his fine example."
--Dr. S. Allen Counter, Consul General of Sweden, on Dr. Farley being designated 2004 Harvard Foundation SCIENTIST OF THE YEAR

It’s not news. It’s probably not even remembered anymore, except by the principal actors and their families. But at the time, August 7, 1970, it caught people’s attention like the sound of a shotgun blast in a crowded courtroom.

The place: Marin County, California. The Halls of Justice. The person: A 17 year-old whose desire for Life was greater than his desire to continue living, armed with weapons of war and with even more foreboding weapons of truth: the ten-point program of the Black Panther Party. His name: Jonathan Jackson.

In 1970, America was at war. Not only in Vietnam, but in the streets of America—Watts, Rochester, Detroit. And while the embers had cooled from the fires that raged after the Dreamer’s death, the conditions that King had preached against—economic and social inequality—still persisted. The Black Panther Party’s program was the beginning of a solution: free health clinics, free grocery give-aways, free breakfasts for children, independent black schools, and community control of police, in part through the mobilization of legal, armed patrols to curb incidents of brutality, like the episodes we just witnessed in Montgomery, Alabama, and in Philadelphia. (Not to mention the Republican Convention.)

While many blacks, and most whites, feared the militancy of the Panthers, mostly due to the spreading of negative propaganda by government agents, 43% of blacks under 21 had “great respect” for the Party. It would take a miracle of Biblical proportions for Gore-Lieberman to get such numbers.

The reason was that the Party didn’t merely talk about solving problems: they found answers. Their only obstacle was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who wrongly branded the Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and mounted a vicious campaign to disable their leadership. One of these leaders was Jonathan’s brother, George, a Black Panther sentenced for one year- to-life, ostensibly for stealing $70. He, along with other politically active prisoners, was being railroaded to the gas chamber by the authorities.

Jonathan Jackson decided that the roll-call of black martyrs, from Medgar to Malcolm to Martin, to the Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Bunchy Carter, would stop here. He walked into the Marin County courthouse with a .38 pistol and a carbine rifle, saying, “All right, gentlemen... I’m taking over now,” and demanded the release of Black Panther political prisoners.

The State’s response was as vicious and violent as the Soviet response to the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Jonathan Jackson was shot dead. Angela Davis, falsely linked to the incident by the authorities, went into hiding.

George Jackson, who was himself to die in a barrage of police gunfire a year later, wrote: “Terrible Jonathans teethed on the barrel of the political tool, hardened against the concrete of the most uncivilized jungles of the planet—Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco -- tested in a dozen fires.... They will be the first to fall. We gather up their bodies, clean them, kiss them and smile. Their funerals should be gala affairs... We should be sad only that it’s taken us so many generations to produce them.”

It may seem strange, even wrong, to pay homage to someone who abandoned non-violence in order to save others’ lives. But is it really? This summer we honored thousands of black veterans who, on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, used violence to advance other men’s aims. We honor Martin, but also Colin Powell, whose Gulf War campaign left 200,000 dead. We should not balk or feel ashamed to remember the sacrifice of a man-child, a revolutionary, who saw that we have “to make people organize and resist the ruin of their lives,” that “the time for talking has ended, the time for acting has begun.” A boy who would certainly have become one of the black leaders whose absence we lament today, had he lived. We can praise his passion and his principles, even if we disagree with his tactics.

We should be sad only that it’s taken us such a short time to forget him.

Lion Collage by jH
Graphic above: Lion collage by jH

Having resided and lectured in Austria for a few years, Dr. Farley has returned to the USA mainland as a professor and citizen resident in the New England state of Maine.

In 2005, Seed Magazine named Dr. Jonathan David Farley one of “15 people who have shaped the global conversation about science”. He is the 2004 recipient of the Harvard Foundation’s Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award, a medal presented on behalf of the president of Harvard University in recognition of “outstanding achievements and contributions in the field of mathematics.” He obtained his doctorate in mathematics from Oxford University in 1995, after winning Oxford’s highest mathematics awards in 1994. Jonathan Farley graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1991 with the second-highest grade point average in his graduating class.
Dr. Farley’s mathematical work has been profiled in The Chronicle of Higher Education, in Science News Online, in The Economist Magazine, in USA Today, on Fox News Television, and on Air America Radio. In 2001, Ebony Magazine named Dr. Farley a “Leader of the Future.” He has also been profiled in Jet Magazine, in Upscale Magazine, in Black Enterprise Magazine, and on the cover of the NAACP’s Crisis Magazine.
Dr. Farley has been an invited guest on BBC World News Television, BBC Radio, and U.S. National Public Radio. On November 18, 2001, Dr. Farley was an invited speaker at the “Stop the War” demonstration in London, which drew 100,000 people. His essay, “My Fellow Americans: Looking Black on Red Tuesday,” appeared in Beyond September 11: An Anthology of Dissent, which also featured essays by Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky. Dr. Farley has written for Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Guardian newspaper, Essence Magazine, and the hip hop magazine The Source.
The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts (home to both Harvard University and MIT) officially declared March 19, 2004 to be “Dr. Jonathan David Farley Day”.
Dr. Farley and the publisher met in 2001 as incipient members and officials of the Green Party of Tennessee and have maintained personal and professional communications as he moved recently to a professorship in Austria from Stanford University in California. They also share a certain level of separation anxiety about their personal belongings. His work has appeared in ACR previously (see Up-To-Date Archives or Key Search for listings).

"Remember Jackson" is republished with author permission from the Black Radical Congress newsletter. Check their World History Archives for a related, relevant bibliography.

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text © Jonathan David Farley, graphics © A Country Rag, Inc. and Jeannette Harris,
January 2011. All rights reserved.

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