The late African revolutionary Sekou Odinga in his own words.
The mighty African revolutionary Sekou Odinga joined the ancestors January 12, 2024, less than ten years after he was released from prison after serving thirty-three years as a political prisoner in the U.S. In the days after his ascendance, brother Ajamu Baraka wrote a moving obituary for The Black Agenda Report that captured the arc of Odinga’s revolutionary life — from Malcolm X’s OAAU to the Black Panthers to the Black Liberation Army and the Republic of New Africa—while powerfully evoking his revolutionary spirit.
Today, we reprint Odinga’s own words: his courtroom statement during the preliminary hearings held in Rockland County, New York on September 13, 1982 (and first published in the Arm the Spirit: A Revolutionary Prisoners Newspaper). After nearly a decade underground, Odinga had been captured during a police chase in Queens (NY) and hit was a raft of charges linked to his involvement in the escape of Assata Shakur from prison and to his connections to the Black Liberation Army’s (BLA) attempted robbery of a Brinks armored car in Nyack, New York in 1981. As a member of the Republic of New Africa, a group of Black radicals advocating reparations and the creation of an independent Black republic in the southern United States, and of the BLA, Odinga did not accept the U.S. government’s control over his life. Odinga and his his co-defendants — BLA members Kwesi Balagoon, Solomon Brown, as well as the white anti-imperialist freedom fighters, Judy clark, David Gilbert, and Kathy Boudin – all refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court and the right of the US government to try them. They argued that they were instead freedom fighters, political prisoners, and prisoners of war.
“I am not an American citizen,” Odinga declared. “I am a victim of America…America has proven itself to be the most devilish and barbarous people that has ever called themselves civilized.”
Read the words of this beloved revolutionary below. Rest in power, Brother Odinga.
From Sekou Odinga–New Afrikan Prisoner of War, 1982
Let me say at the outset of this statement that I am a Muslim and a New Afrikan Freedom Fighter. Both positions leave me out of the jurisdiction of this court and make these court proceedings null and void (illegal).
As a Muslim I am subject to the laws of the Qur’an which clearly tells me to fight oppression. To enjoin what is right and to forbid what is wrong. As a Freedom Fighter, fighting for the freedom, liberation and self-determination of my people, the United Nations Charter and all other legal bodies dealing with the subject of liberation of an oppressed people, recognize my right to wage armed struggle against my oppressor. It is important to understand who I am and who my people are.
I am the descendant of Afrikan slaves, brought to this country in chains as captives of a brutal slave war waged against the Afrikan people. My people have been fighting for our survival, liberation and self-determination since the first Afrikan was illegally kidnapped and enslaved for the profit and the pleasure of the European.
We the Afrikan descendants are now called citizens of the United States, but like everything else that has been forced on the Afrikan slaves and their descendants, we were never asked if that is what we wanted or needed. This title of citizen was forced upon us, but the rights that go along with this citizenship for the European American citizen, was never given to the ex-slave and his descendants.
I am not an American citizen. I am a victim of America. I am a citizen of the Republic of New Afrika. I do not want to be an American citizen. America has proven itself to be the most devilish and barbarous people that has ever called themselves civilized.
Black people in the United States are a colonized people and have always been a colonized people. What is meant by “a colonized people?” A colonized people is a people whose land, labor and resources are controlled and exploited by another group of people. It makes the colonized dependent on the exploiting group of people. Dependent on them for almost everything. Their laws, their livelihood, their protection, their every way of life. A colonized people don’t ask to be dependent, it is forced on them, usually with arms, as it was forced on my African forefathers. And it is with arms that their hold is usually broken by the oppressed people. The U.S. Declaration of Independence declares, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem more likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their duty, to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security.” On Jan. 24, 1979 the United Nations passed a specific resolution stating: “The General Assembly declares that Freedom Fighters captured during the struggle for liberation must be entitled to Prisoner of War status in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention.” In 1950 as part of its “Program of Action'' to end Colonialism the General Assembly has specifically insisted that the captured anti-colonial freedom fighter may not be prosecuted as criminals under the domestic law of the detaining colonial power, but must instead be treated in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War. (This is resolution #2621.) So as a Prisoner of War international law, which Article 6 of the United States Constitution states supercedes domestic law, prohibits me from being tried in a Criminal Court by the colonizing power, which the U.S. government is in relationship to the descendants of Afrikan slaves.
So I do not recognize any legitimate right of this Court to try me. My only participation in these proceedings will be to push for my legitimate political rights as a Freedom Fighter and Prisoner of War and to denounce these illegal proceedings in particular and the colonial government of the United States of America in general.
“All Power to the Righteous People.”
Free the land.
“From Sekou Odinga–New Afrikan Prisoner of War,” Arm the Spirit: A Revolutionary Prisoners Newspaper No. 14 (Fall 1982).