Ashanti Alston: Anarchist Revolutionary and Former-Member of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army

1954 — ?

Revolt Library People Ashanti Alston

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About Ashanti Alston

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Ashanti Omowali Alston is an anarchist activist, speaker, and writer, and former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. From 1974-1985 he spent time as political prisoner which caused him to become engaged in politics. He is currently on the Steering Committee of the National Jericho Movement to free U.S. political prisoners and resides in Providence, Rhode Island.

Alston grew up in the inner city of Plainfield, New Jersey, which he has described as being, at that time, "Niggertown with all the customs and traditions of racism, sexism and powerlessness". Alston was 11 years old during the assassination of Malcolm X and 13 years old during the 1967 Newark riots, events that both took place near his home town of Plainfield. In a 2010 interview, Alston said that he did not remember Malcolm X's death in 1965, but he began to understand the significance of Malcolm's legacy as rebellions occurred throughout the United States in 1967. Alston described the impact of seeing his older brother's copy of Malcolm X's autobiography with the subtitle "former pimp, hustler, robber, who becomes leader of the Black Revolution", which demonstrated to him that "people that come from that kind of background can play a heroic role in the struggle." He also recalled how witnessing the 1967 Plainfield rebellion gave him "an image of black men and women in heroic roles in our community crashing all the myths about us being 'niggers', all that stuff."

Both Malcolm X's assassination and the Newark riots influenced Alston's decision to join the Black Panther Party at age 17, as he believed the Panthers were "taking Malcolm's teachings to the next level". At this time, Alston attended Nation of Islam meetings despite not being a member himself. He also felt a strong disdain for white people; however, upon joining the Panthers he changed his views.

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In 1971, in the face of the Panther 21 trial which saw several of his peers possibly facing the death penalty, Alston joined the Black Liberation Army, a spin-off group from the Panthers that advocated for and attempted armed struggle against the United States government. In 1974, he was arrested and imprisoned for 11 years for taking part in a robbery designed to raise funds for the BLA. Alston credits his time in prison with helping him to learn about political movements, economic theories, political organizations, religion, and guerrilla theories. During this time he became an anarchist, in contrast to the Marxism-Leninism and Maoism explored by the Black Panther Party. While imprisoned, Alston also became disillusioned with the BLA, particularly due to its endorsement of drugs, as he understood the intention of the BLA to be the liberation of Black communities from the tyranny and influence of drugs at the time.

Alston observed much sexism during his time in the Black Panther Party, despite the group's stated intention of gender equality, which he didn't fully realize until his stint in prison. However, he has acknowledged that some women still felt empowered by the Black Panther Party to fight sexism despite experiencing it within the party, recalling, "Sisters would tell you that because everybody had guns there were certain ways that they could tell a brother, 'you're not going to fuck with me, I'm not going to be your sexual object because I got a gun'."

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This person has authored 14 documents, with 175,213 words or 1,088,013 characters.

In the Black Panther Party, when someone said, “Power to the People!” the response would be “ALL Power to the People!” After many years of political imprisonment, employing the easy-to-use Malcolm-Eldridge Educational Supercharger, that call/response would take on more anarchistic meaning. This is about my experience in the now as an anarchist (a baby one) within a generally hierarchical Panther formation. It was just this year, Jan. 1995, that I decided to publicly identify myself as anarchist. In playing around I came up with a term to identify me fully: @narcho-pantherista (thinking about the word Sandinista, ha!). Though, just in fun, I decided to keep it. It’s me. Silly, anarchistic, for... (From:
“What motivates me more than anything else about anarchism and its relevance to Black revolution is that it has offered me some powerful insights into why we have not been able to recover from our defeat (the 60’s revolution) and advance forward to the kinds of unities, organizations and activities that make for invincible revolutionary movements.” – Anarchist Panther, Vol. 1 #1 “…we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our... (From:
Introduction Many classical anarchists regarded anarchism as a body of elemental truths that merely needed to be revealed to the world and believed people would become anarchists once exposed to the irresistible logic of the idea. This is one of the reasons they tended to be didactic. Fortunately the lived practice of the anarchist movement is much richer than that. Few “convert” in such a way: it is much more common for people to embrace anarchism slowly, as they discover that it is relevant to their lived experience and amenable to their own insights and concerns. The richness of the anarchist tradition lay precisely in the long history of encounters between non-anarchist dissidents and the anarchist frame... (From:
Introduction – Black Rose Anarchist Federation In the expansive terrain of anarchist history, few events loom as large as the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). Countless books, films, songs, pamphlets, buttons, t-shirts, and more are rightfully devoted to this transformative struggle for social revolution by Spanish workers and peasants. But digging through the mountain of available material, little can be found on black militants in the Spanish revolution, like the one featured in the powerful photo on the cover of this reader — a member of the Bakunin Barracks in Barcelona, Spain 1936, and a symbol of both the profound presence and absence of Black anarchism internationally. For more than 150 years, black anar... (From:
The following is an interview with Ashanti Alston Omowali, an African descent anarchist activist, who started his political militancy back in the ‘60s in the Black Panther Party. He was also a member of the Black Liberation Army, and because of his revolutionary activities spent more than a decade in prison. In prison he moved forward to anarchism and after his release he has participated with numerous libertarian initiatives and publications, and is one of the founders of Anarchist People of Color (APOC), a network that brings together anarchists of color in the remarkably racist US. Ashanti also participates in a number of initiatives ranging from solidarity with political prisoners in the US to the Institute for Anarchist Studies. ... (From:
Sometimes the QUESTIONS are just as important as the Answers. Here are some questions that i drew up while in prison that developed from my continuing criticism and learning experiences of the movement. See if you can follow my thinking and my overall concerns for those who have chosen and are choosing the roller-coaster path of Revolution: Why have we accomplished so little over the past 20–25 years? Has our PRACTICE matched our IMAGE or VISION of what we consider our ROLE in the Revolution? Or should we even question what one’s ROLE is? What would make us PANTHERS and/or FIGHTERS of the BLA and what would make us WORTHY of presenting ourselves as the kind of new human beings who would be socially... (From:
The following was written back in March 18 ADM (18 years After The Death of Malcolm). I was still a Black Liberation Army prisoner-of-war. This period of reflection shows a developing anti-authoritarian awareness coming out of a strong Black Panther Marxist-Leninist-Maoist influence. Why? Because we, as a movement, had suffered a defeat at the hands of the External Enemy. But we had not sufficiently looked at how deep was our own internalized oppression and the part that WE PLAYED in our own undoing. At this time, the Frankfort School of radical psychologies, radical feminism and anarchism, provided me with some powerful insights into the psychological and structural reasons for our failures. Reflection is so important and prison gives you ... (From:
Anarchy as a journey in the human story has a long and crazy road. In fact, it is where the Human Story begins. It is the story of human life BEFORE the advent, the institutionalization of The Muthafuckas. (Eldridge Cleaverian definition, ha). Increasingly, anthropologists, archaeologists, etc., have been finding pieces to a fantastic set of puzzles. And notice that I used the plural! As they begin to lay these pieces down, pictures are forming of our social beginnings that will shock, surprise and amaze many. Most of us may even find them revolting because these pictures go so extremely contrary to all that we’ve been raised to believe about the stories of the human species on this planet. In the Beginning was the WORD?... (From:
THERE ARE CATS, AND THERE ARE CATS... THERE IS KUWASI BALAGOON In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful… Kuwasi Balagoon is dead. “Surely we are Allah’ and to Him we surely return.” The Quran tells us each soul shall have a taste of death and all too often we make the mistake of seeing death as a process outside of life. Kuwasi was full of life, therefore his death seems odd. Because it has been reported that Kuwasi died of AIDS people have a tendency to speculate on how he came by it. In Amerikkka we are told the high-risk groups are homosexuals and intravenous drug users. And for the Black Nationalist, these are no no’s. So to make his death acceptable some may theorize th... (From:
Volume One Over the last decade, Third World peoples’ movements against globalization, neoliberalism and related issues have captured the imagination of the world. From the militancy of street protests to the fight for autonomy advocated by the Ejércitio Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN, also known as the Zapatistas), radical politics led by people of color is quickly evolving. We are hearing less of old top-down strategies and more about popular education and grassroots organizing. A small but growing movement of people of color is developing a new conversation that advocate anti-authoritarianism and anarchism as solutions to our collective struggle. Such a movement is largely led by youth, a... (From:
I want to get started off in a way that helps me get rid of the butterflies, and helps get us stirred as well. You know we always say, “Power to the People.” And usually the response back is, “All Power to the People.” If you don’t mind indulging me: “Power to the People!” (audience response) “All Power to the People!” Second thing, to just take us back, again. There’s a little chant that goes along with a little march, that we used to do. I need your participation with it, if I may. It’s gonna go something like this: I’m gonna say, “Hold Your Head Up High, Panther’s Marching By. We Don’t Take No Jive.” When I say, “Sound Off,”... (From:
I have been preparing my self for a new venture, a kind of sharing outreach, you might say, because that’s what I want to do - Share Something Real Special With You. My preparations have been/ are in disciplining myself to read, read, read - and test out some new ideas in revolutionary struggle. What I have to share has come to take on a supreme importance for me, as if in answering a “CallIng". I give it in that kind of spirit, seriousness and sincerity, too! There's so much I've learned over the years. In fact, these 10+ years of POW-ment has been a virtual advanced learning course in Life & Struggle. I learned a hell-of-a-lot about movements, political economic theories, organizations, religions, guerrilla theories... (From:
I am always on the search for cutting edge, challenging thinking within anarchism and other fields of revolutionary theory: the search for how to get beyond 'stuck.' As a Black anarchist I have looked for writings specifically related to the problems and challenges that I face, and that my people face here in the United States, and that can help us organize for self-determination and destroy the very basis upon which all oppressive systems operate. Of the activist "isms," anarchism, at least in theory, promotes the kind of openness and risk-taking that actually encourages the constant regeneration necessary to meet new revolutionary challenges. The price to pay, often, is getting "uncomfortable," being "jarred," even in terms of what one un... (From:
I was on a Talk Show (Steal This Radio) in the Lower East Side of New York City the other day. I was invited to speak on my recent trip to Mexico. More specifically, ZAPATISTA LAND., One of my Sistuhs said jokingly that we should title this talk: “What’s a Black Man…” we all laughed. But upon second-thought, hmmm … Why not. I’d like to share with readers my experiences on this my first trip to Zap Land, in particular, and Mexico in general.. I was encouraged to keep a journal and actually ended up keeping two separate ones. There were two reasons for going on this trip. One was to support the on-going Zapatista revolutionary experiment in post-modern liberation struggle, and two, to use the time ... (From:

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