Incarceration Nation

Good Night, Kiilu!

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

To the people in California, the name Kiilu Nyasha is familiar, like an aunt or some other relative.

For them, she was a voice of resistance heard on public radio, mostly heard on her show, called “Freedom is a Constant Struggle.”

To former members of the Black Panther Party, she was Sister Kiilu, a former member of the New Haven chapter. During the 1970 murder trial of Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins, Sister Kiilu served as a legal assistant to attorney Charles Garry, who defended many top Panthers.

During the trial Kiilu was known as Pat Gallyot.

In 2002, she published a remarkable article recounting her years in the party, titled: “A Chapter in the Life of the Party.”  Kiilu explained what attracted her to the Party, and the many roles she played as one of its elder members, by doing that which others could not. At the May 1, 1970 rally to Free the Panthers and Halt the Vietnam War, she saw things she’d never seen before:

“Never in my life had I seen so many gathered in one place. Estimates ranged from 20,000 to 50,000 people, from all over the country and beyond.  The entire movement was represented.  To the fliers announcing the May 1 event, we added: ‘Bring a can of food.’ So much food was collected; we filled a whole room of Garry’s offices (close to the Green) for our Free Food Program.

“Rumors of impending violence sent a third of the Yale student body scampering home. It was the first time I ever saw National Guardsmen lining the side streets of the city, standing at attention holding rifles with bayonets. Bayonets!”

After she left the Party, she suffered from MS (Multiple Sclerosis) that left her paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.

Yet, MS neither defined her, not stopped her.

She became an immensely talented artist. She worked as a journalist, commentator and host of radio shows.

She worked for years as a supporter of Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, the late political prisoner.

She was an endless and brilliant source of resistance to the System. She became a beloved and respected elder for young people in the Bay Area.  We remember Kiilu Nyasha, mother, artist, commentator, revolutionary and inspiration.

Source: Nyasha, K., “A Chapter in the life of a Panther,” San Francisco Bay View, October 23, 2002, pp, 1, 2, 10

—Prison Radio, April 12, 2018