• Remembering Zayd Malik Shakur
    By Black Panther Party & Young Lords Party Veteran Cleo Silvers

April, 2017

Comrades,

We probably don’t realize it but the whole country of the United States, the entire Black Community, and Communities of color owe a great debt (in the areas of healthcare and other important issues), to brother Zayd Malik Shakur and his leadership.

Zayd along with his brother Lumumba and Brother Rashid (Ray) were the primary mentors for all of us who were involved in the struggles around
Lincoln Hospital as well as the work in which our collectives were engaged on a citywide and a national basis. Zayd supported us in the takeover of the Mental Health Center at Lincoln Hospital by the 1199 union workers who were fighting for training and upgrading
and a college education for the paraprofessional, as well as better compensation for our work. We also wanted respect and recognition for the members of our community, our patients. We also demanded an end to the use of psychotropic drugs which were being wholesale prescribed to our residents without recognizing the importance of addressing the outright horrendous conditions of poverty facing our people. We demanded that the administrators, Harris Peck, MD and Mel Roman, PhD, step down and recognize how dreadfully inept they had been in overseeing the work of treating the Community who came to the Lincoln Hospital Mental Health Center, and the South Bronx community. Zayd as a leader and the entire Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party gave us day to day support, bringing food and water, as well as helping the workers to strategize and make our demands stronger and with absolute clarity.

Zayd along with Dr. Curtis Powell and members of the Harlem leadership led the struggle to have Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Anemia effectively recognized by the medical and scientific communities even though this disease is only suffered by African Americans and people of color. Under the leadership of Zayd and his comrades, the Black Panthers led the struggle to inform and educate the community as well as the activists, members of the medical community, and the leadership of the BPP. They led the struggle to have more funds invested nationally for research, studies and a search for a cure for this disease. Sickle Cell Disease became one of many important issues emphasized by the l Black Panther Party throughout the nation.

Zayd played a role in the struggle for quality, free, preventative healthcare for all, and in a very direct way in the Harlem and the South Bronx communities. Zayd helped in the drafting of the “Patients’ Bill of Rights” which could then be found in every hospital room at Lincoln Hospital then every room in the hospitals in New York City and now in every hospital room across the United States, (although this document has been significantly watered down from the original 10 Point demands) made by community healthcare activist including members of the Young Lords Party, HRUM (The Health Revolutionary Unity Movement) and members of the BPP.

Zayd was one of the main activists in the struggle against the overwhelming epidemic of heroin addiction in Harlem and the South Bronx. Also, Michael “Cetawayo” Tabor and his pamphlet Capitalism Plus Drugs Equals Genocide, gave us guidance. At that time, sometimes one in four members of the Black and Puerto Rican community were addicted to this drug. The community talent and resilience was being drained by this scourge. And with all this, there was only one drug rehabilitation center available for this army of addicts, and this center only offered Methadone as the answer to this condition. As we found out from medical researchers and supporters, this Methadone, a derivative of heroin, had a devastating effect on the health of the addicts even to the point of impacting their bone marrow, and causing great pain.

Zayd and his crew were with us when we decided we needed to demand an effective drug rehabilitation center in the community which used community education and community service along with acupuncture and more progressive measures and methodologies that would truly help addicts make the necessary life changes to help others and themselves in the community. Panama, Butch (Wilfred Ford) Our two activist addicts, and myself, along with the help of the leadership of the Young Lords, the Harlem Branch of the Black Panther Party, and the Think Lincoln Committee, decided the best course of action would be to seize the auditorium of the Lincoln Hospital Mental Health Center and demand the establishment of a real drug rehabilitation center. But to be sure it would be done correctly we began the program right there and then with the assistance of our medical colleagues and supporters. This is an amazing story because the Lincoln Hospital Drug Rehabilitation Center is still open and in operation in 2017. There is much more to this story and how Zayd and the brilliant and determined Harlem Branch of the Black Panther Party, The Young Lords Party, HRUM and many other community activists began and continued the struggle for healthcare as a right for all people. I would be remiss if I omitted the impact and influence of comrades like Brother Sundiata Acoli, the New York 21, (the leadership of the Harlem Branch) Sister Assata Shakur, and Brother Mutulu Shakur who served as Director of the Lincoln Detox program.

Zayd’s memory, his intensity, his kindness, his intelligence and his determination to fight himself for the right things as well as educate and support all others who struggled is a testament to how a well-organized, disciplined and dedicated group of young people, recognized or not, with leadership like that given by Zayd can be successful and change conditions for others locally, nationally and throughout the entire world.

All Power to the People!!!
Zayd Malik Shakur Presente.
Cleo

 

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