Al Prentice “Bunchy" Carter” Would Have Rode with Nat Turner

by Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali

October 12 is the birthday of one of the most talented and promising young men martyred in the massive State repression against the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. “Unlike Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson, Carter has almost been forgotten from the history of Africans in America except for die hards.” But Al Prentice “Bunchy" Carter was a true renaissance man, a man of many talents – and a man of the people.

Al Prentice “Bunchy" Carter” Would Have Rode with Nat Turner

by Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali

If Bunchy had been on the same plantation as Nat Turner you can believe he would have rode with Nat Turner. That’s the type of person Bunchy was.” – Kumasi

Carter embraced revolutionary nationalism while others like Newton, George Jackson and Fred Hampton took a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (MLM) position.”

NBC television has resurrected Al Prentice “Bunchy" Carter with a new series called Aquarius. The imperialist media has brought back both Carter and Charles Manson.  Carter was an iconic black revolutionary from Los Angeles. Manson was a cold-blooded serial killer who led the Manson Family that murdered many in California. Somehow Hollyweird has united these two polar opposites for television. It is not that weird when we understand that these forces are part of the State whose job it is to keep Africa, Africans and all oppressed people confused.
Gerald Horne, whose upcoming volume is Confronting Black Jacobins: The U.S. the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic, taught Carter's daughter Danon at the University of California, Santa Barbara and has written extensively on Hollywood. Horne says Hollywood has done a number on Africans in America from Birth of a Nation to Gone With The Wind, depicting black women as mammies, servants and sex objects. Linden Beckford, Jr., a graduate of Grambling University, is currently writing a biography of Carter.

Unlike Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson, Carter has almost been forgotten from the history of Africans in America except for die hards. Yes, the Fugees (Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel) mention Carter on the 1996 soundtrack film When We Were Kings about the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" heavyweight championship match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman which took place in 1974. And yes M-1 and Stickman (dead prez) did “B.I.G. respect” a song on their Mix tape “Turn off the Radio” that mentions Carter. Elaine Brown, who was the first woman to head the Black Panther Party when Huey P. Newton was in exile in Cuba, recorded a song “Assassination” about Carter and John Huggins.

Who were Carter and John Huggins and why are they important for the 21st Century? Carter was born on October 12th 1942 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was assassinated on January 17th 1967 along with John Huggins (February 11, 1945 – January 17, 1969) at Campbell Hall at UCLA in Los Angeles. Huggins was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He was briefly enlisted in the United States Navy before attending Lincoln University, where he met his wife Ericka Huggins. They moved together to Los Angeles and both became deeply involved in the Black Panther Party. Huggins had a Caribbean connection. His father was born in Nevis and his mother was born in the United States. Unlike Carter, Huggins was from a relatively well-off middle class background. Carter’s background was working class.

Carter and Huggins were gunned down by members of the cultural nationalist US Organization.”

It is a tragic coincidence in history that eight years before Carter and Huggins joined the ancestors the first democratically elected president of the Congo, Patrice Emery Lumumba, Joseph Okito, vice-president of the Senate and Maurice Mpolo, sports and youth minister were killed by an unholy alliance of the CIA, Belgian imperialism, and other agents of imperialism headed by Mobuto Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga aka Colonel Joseph Mobuto on January 17, 1961.

Carter and Huggins were gunned down by members of the cultural nationalist US Organization. An FBI memo dated November 29, 1968 described a letter that the Los Angeles FBI office intended to mail to the Black Panther Party office. This letter, which was made to appear as if it had come from the US Organization, described fictitious plans by US to ambush BPP members. The FBI memo stated that "It is hoped this counterintelligence measure will result in an 'US' and BPP vendetta.”

Many feel that the leader of US, Ron Karenga was working for the other side. An article in the Wall Street Journal described Karenga as a thriving businessman, specializing  in gas stations, who maintained close ties to the eastern Rockefeller family and L.A's Mayor Sam Yorty. The newspaper cited Michael Newton in the volume, Bitter Grain: Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party, and wrote: “A few weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King ...Mr. Karenga slipped into Sacramento for a private chat with Governor Reagan, at the governor’s request. The black nationalist also met clandestinely with Los Angeles police chief Thomas Reddin after Mr. King was killed.”

At that moment in history many cultural nationalist maintained that the cultural revolution must take place before a political one could proceed. Huey P. Newton, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party countered with the view that, “We believe that culture itself will not liberate us. We’re going to need some stronger stuff.”

The Black Panther Party led by Newton and Bobby Seale was like the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC). It was an anti-imperialist alliance; many like Carter embraced revolutionary nationalism while others like Newton, George Jackson and Fred Hampton took a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist {MLM} position. Hampton openly said he was fighting for socialism leading to communism.

Carter was a firm supporter of the Native American struggle. It was Carter who changed Elmer Pratt into Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt (September 13, 1947- June 2, 2011) after the great Native American warrior. Geronimo, "the one who yawns," (June 1829 – February 17, 1909) was a prominent Apache leader who fought against Mexico and Arizona for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades. Geronimo replaced Carter as the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Southern California Chapter of the BPP after Carter was taken out. Carter left a memo expressing his wish was for Geronimo to replace him.

Carter was influenced by Jean-Jacques Dessalines of Haiti and Dedan Kimathi of the Land and Freedom Army (so-called Mau Mau).”

While not an anticommunist, before joining the Party Carter was recruited by Raymond “Maasi” Hewitt to a Maoist study group called the Red Guard. I was a part of the same group. However, Carter came in after I left Los Angeles. Carter was influenced by Jean-Jacques Dessalines of Haiti and Dedan Kimathi of the Land and Freedom Army (so-called Mau Mau). The Los Angeles Chapter under Bunchy leadership required that members take the Mau Mau Oath:

“I speak the truth and vow before God
And before this movement.
The movement of Unity,
The Unity which is put to the test
The Unity that is mocked with the name of "Mau Mau.
That I shall go forward to fight for the land,
The lands of Kirinyaga that we cultivated.
The lands which were taken by the Europeans
And if I fail to do this
May this oath kill me
May this seven kill me,
May this meat kill me”

Carter and a small segment of people who lived in my area of Los Angeles had an international world view. He was a legendary figure in my neighborhood. He and others like Sigidi Abdullah, (S.O.S Band), “Take Your Time (Do It Right)”, Rhongea Southern (now Daar Malik El-Bey) who worked closely with Abdullah, Earl Randall, who went on to work with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records and wrote Al Green’s “God Bless Our Love,” Fred Goree who became  Masai Karega Kenyatta and a DJ on WCHB 1440AM in Detroit, went to L.A.C.C. at the same time. Sigidi told me that Carter asked him to organize a talent show at L.A.C.C. I remember singing the Spinners’ "I'll Always Love You" at this event. El-Bey was my guitarist.

Carter's  political consciousness was raised before he joined the Black Panther Party. According to Kumasi, who Huey P. Newton ask to replace Carter as the leader of the Southern California Chapter of the BPP talked to me about the L.A. legend, “When Malcolm X first came to Los Angeles he built the first outpost right there in our neighborhood. The Mosque (Temple 27) itself was close to us and all of us had visited the Mosque.  As a matter of fact, Bunchy, and many of the Renegade Slausons (Bunchy had his own set of Slausons inside the Slausons) were the first youth Fruit of Islam (FOI) in L.A. Carter was only 15 years old at that moment of history.”

Carter was a 20th Century Renaissance man, a man of a great many things, a poet and a singer. Elaine Brown has written that many Panthers sang together. "John [Huggins] sang bass, to my contralto and Bunchy’s falsetto." Carter was also a great dancer. David Hilliard maintains that if it were not for racism Carter may have become an Olympic swimmer. Brown says while all this is true Carter was first and foremost a revolutionary. This is extraordinary if you consider that Carter suffered a childhood bout of polio, and moved to Southern Central L.A., where his mother Nola Carter enrolled him in a “therapeutic” dance class.

Carter’s Louisiana-born mother is still in the land of the living at the time of this writing. She is almost a century old and has lost two sons. Arthur Morris, Carter’s older step brother, acted as Bunchy’s bodyguard. Morris was the first member of the BPP to lose his life. He was killed in March of 1968. (Little Bobby Hutton, who was influenced by Carter, was killed on April 6, 1968). Ms. Carter’s youngest son, Kenneth Fati Carter, is currently locked down in Pelican Bay Prison in California.

David Hilliard maintains that if it were not for racism Carter may have become an Olympic swimmer.”

Raymond Nat Turner’s (Black Agenda Report’s poet-in-residence] mother, Caffee Greene, hired Carter to work at the Teen Post in Los Angeles. Greene first hired Raymond “Maasi” Hewitt, who was replaced by Carter. It was at the Teen Post that I first heard Eldridge Cleaver speak. Cleaver and Carter were both Nation of Islam Ministers in prison. Raymond Nat Turner saw the cultural side of Carter.  Says Turner, “Yeah, I heard Bunchy sing Stevie's "I'm Wondering" and "I Was Made to Love Her" and I used to hear Tommy (Lewis) play piano at the Teen Post my mom directed.” He continued, “It was also fun to watch Bunchy dance—Philly Dog, Jerk & Twine...a lil’ 'Bitter Dog' with the Philly Dog ever once in a while... ‘Bebop Santa from the Cool North Pole’ and ‘Black Mother’ were also great to hear.” Tommy Lewis, Robert Lawrence and Steve Bartholomew were murdered by the Los Angeles police at a service station on August 25, 1968.

Kumasi opines that Carter and George Jackson were like Henri Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. While they were well-versed in history, revolutionary theory and current events both were soldiers ready to take to the battlefield. Carter made a contribution to Africa, Africans and oppressed humanity. We should remember him every October 12th.

Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Viet Nam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects. Jalali is producer/host for the Diasporic Music show on UhuruRadio.com every Sunday at 2pm ET. His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper. He can be contacted [email protected]