Activist gives lecture at UH
Former political prisoner and Black Panther Ashanti Alston drew in a diverse crowd Wednesday at the University Center.
Alston was only 16 years old when he joined the militant group, and for him, it was a life-changing decision.
During the prime of the Civil Rights Movement, Alston watched unforgettable images on his television as a young boy. He became enraged and motivated to provoke change. It was then that he found comfort and empowerment within the Black Panther Party.
“I learned to not fear my enemies,” Alston said.
Also a member of the Black Liberation Army, Alston spent many years engaging in what he calls “guerrilla warfare.” Though Alston spent more than a decade in prison for armed bank robbery, he does not hesitate to say that he has never committed a crime.
“I was captured for banks appropriation; it is not a robbery, not a crime. We were guerrillas trying to fund our revolution,” Alston said.
Alston said the BLA was at war, and the police were their front-line oppressors. All that he and his fellow members desired was freedom.
“We knew we had to be daring and take risk because we were at war,” Alston said. “You cannot wait for justice, where justice does not exist.”
As an anarchist, Alston said he believes no form of government is tolerable. He believes that one does not need an all-powerful authority, but that society should be governed solely by face-to-face relationships, having faith in oneself, as well as, their fellow human beings.
“Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can vote in change,” Alston said.
Although President Barack Obama is seen as the first black president, Alston said he is not impressed.
“Obama ran as an American to promote America, so he is not a friend,” Alston said.
Though times have significantly changed since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Alston said that the war is not over. He solicited the crowd at the event to continue the fight and to go underground and organize.
Alston remained optimistic that true change can really come if this generation will step up to the challenge.
“You can contribute to stop the madness, it ain’t gonna happen without some people getting hurt,” Alston said.
Students for a Democratic Society hosted the event as part of its agenda to raise awareness and promote human rights. Students of all ethnicities, religions and beliefs were in attendance.
Elizabeth Brignac, an English major and member of SDS, said she is a staunch activist for social justice.
“It was amazing to hear his story, and extremely inspiring,” Brignac said.