… in Arm The Spirit, No. 14/15, August-December 1992 we ran an interview with Black Liberation Army political prisoner Abdul Majid … the interview originally took place on October 7, 1992 on CKLN, a progressive radio station in Toronto …
Abdul Majid passed away in prison in 2016…
Abdul Majid In His Own Words
The government incarcerates political leaders to silence them. Here is a biography of Abdullah Majid in his own words, written several years ago:
My name is Abdullah Majid, formerly Anthony LaBorde. I was born on June 25, 1949 in Flushing, New York. I am the father of four children, and the fourth child of five boys. My two elder brothers are deceased, as is my father. My mother lives in Jamaica, New York.
My political awareness began in earnest when I was 15 years old, around the time of the murder of El Hajj Abdul Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X). I can recall vividly in 1962–63 many of the news accounts of the struggle in Africa, particularly the Congo; the murder of Patrice Lumumba and several other patriots of the national liberation struggle in Southern Africa, and the civil rights (national liberation) struggle in amerikka by people of African descent. I realized, despite geographical differences, the stunning similarities between the oppressed as well as the oppressors both here and there.
As a result of this awareness, I began working with other brothers in Jamaica, Queens, starting with the Grass Roots Advisory Council. We attempted to get funding from the poverty programs in the community with no success. After about two years of this, we realized the limitations placed upon us struggling in this manner. By this time I became involved with the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Africa. I found both of these organizations to be much more relevant and effective with respect to the issues affecting our people. I worked in various programs such as free breakfasts for children, free clothing, liberation schools for youth, and adult political education classes, all with positive results. The Party and the RNA were also involved in important community issues, i.e., community control of the murderous police department and community control of the schools, as well as the struggle around health care in our communities. I was also in a leadership position, which required more and more time working with new Party members. From 1968 to 1971, I was a full-time Party member.
Needless to say, I became a target of this government’s “law enforcement establishment” (COINTELPRO) for my political work, along with thousands of other activists. Recently, some of the underhanded operations to disrupt, frame, and murder many of the imprisoned freedom fighters are coming to light.
In the spring of 1981, much to my surprise, I became a primary suspect in the shooting death of one cop and the wounding of another. Being familiar with how the police react to attacks on them, I decided not to wait for them to come to me. This led to a nine-month search-and-destroy campaign by the government both nationally and internationally. While being hunted by these gestapo I attempted to maintain a normal existence with aid from family and friends.
I was finally arrested in January 1982 by the Philadelphia gestapo after a physical confrontation with them during which I sustained injuries to my head. I was transported back to New York City to stand trial with Bashir Hameed (James York), who had been apprehended in Sumpter, South Carolina, for murder and attempted murder of the same two cops.
After five years and three trials, the state was finally able to engineer a trumped up conviction with flimsy and circumstantial evidence. I was sentenced to 33 and 1/3 years-to-life total on the two counts. Some five years after the murder conviction, our case was finally heard by the appellate division, second department (N.Y.), November 19, 1991. True to form of not dealing with the law where political prisoners are concerned, the court pandered to the desires of the “law enforcement” community. The court wasted no time in dispensing “justice” by issuing what has to be the fastest decision in its history (December 19, 1991). Just one month later, the court affirmed this conviction. This was no mean feat for the court, considering the fact that it has the largest caseload of any state appellate court in the nation and is backlogged by over one calendar year with cases waiting either to be heard or for rulings on cases already heard, according to court personnel. After a motion for re-argument, the appellate court remitted the case for hearing on our Batson claim (Batson vs. Kentucky), wherein we raised the issue of racial discrimination during jury selection. After a hearing, the appellate court reinstated its original decision. Our last resort in state court was denied in June 1996 by the New York court of appeals. All appeals (state and federal) have been exhausted for Bashir and me. We are exploring the possibility of a collateral attack on the sentence.
Bashir Hameed returned to Allah on August 30, 2008 at Comstock Prison as a result of medical (murder) neglect by agents of the state.
The government has been very uncooperative about turning over requested documents being sought by me under the Freedom of Information Act. During the three trials, there were deliberate acts by law enforcement agencies to hide certain evidence helpful to the defense. Attorneys are still in the process of trying to make law enforcement agencies turn over all evidence in this case. In spite of my long incarceration, prison has not broken my spirit of struggle. I have been harassed, seriously assaulted twice, denied proper medical treatment, then placed in the special housing unit (SHU) as a result of being assaulted. I have also been refused certain programs offered to the general population because of my political background, supposedly due to the “influence” I am alleged to have with other prisoners. I have been repeatedly transferred hundreds of miles around the state away from my family, friends and supporters.
However, the government has not been totally successful in its attempts to criminalize our struggle for self-determination. The masses do understand the courageous positions of those who are jailed as a result of their political acts. It will be just a matter of time before that understanding by the masses turns into action. While we have had setbacks as a result of subterfuge and subversion from both within and without, we must intensify our current efforts to mobilize the masses for survival and liberation. I believe the only real guarantee we prisoners of war and political prisoners have of staying alive and surviving these prisoner-of-war camps is by keeping our conditions and status before the public both domestically and internationally.
Insha ALLAH (ALLAH willing) we will get the relief (freedom) denied us for the last four hundred years in Babylon.
Interview With Abdul Majid – Black Liberation Army Political Prisoner
The following is an edited transcript of an interview that took place October 7/92 on CKLN, a progressive radio station in Toronto, Canada. The interview was transcribed and published in Arm The Spirit, No 14/15, 1992 …..
Could you give us an update on, and maybe a bit of a background to, the case of the Queens 2?
Right. The case stems from a shooting incident in the spring of 1981, in the county of Queens, which is in New York City. Two police officers, during the course of their tour, pulled over a van during the early morning, and two men allegedly got out of the van and opened fire on the police. As a result one police officer was killed and one was wounded.
Myself and my co-defendant, Bashir Hameed, were subsequently marked as the individuals who allegedly were involved in the shooting. And as a result of that, warrants were taken out for our arrest. I was arrested in January of 1982 and Bashir was arrested in August of 1981.
We went to trial on the charge of murder and attempted murder of police officers back in 1982 which resulted in a hung jury on the murder charge and we were convicted of one of the lesser charges of attempted murder of one of the officers.
We were tried again in 1983 and that ended with a 8 to 4, 9 to 3 verdict of jurors leaning towards acquittal. After this second trial we were tried again in 1986, which resulted in our conviction on the murder charge. So we were tried three times on the same indictment, and presently, in 1992, we are back in Queens on an appeal, not an appeal actually, but an evidentiary hearing on an appeal resulting from the murder conviction. The hearing begins on the 13th.
The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether or not during the course of the third trial the prosecutor used his pre-emptory challenges, which each side had, to exclude a certain number of jurors – whether or not the prosecutor used his pre-emptory challenge to prevent Blacks from being on the jury.
So we can see that the prosecutor was running a very political prosecution against you and Bashir. They don’t try too many people three times in order to get a conviction – especially after two hung juries. What sort of tactics did you see the prosecution using, besides as you mentioned the jury selection and the barring of Black jurors. Did they do anything else in terms of manipulating evidence against you?
The case was very highly publicized, and it was political. One of the reason for that was that both Bashir and I were former members of the Black Panther Party, as well as being still very politically active in the New York/New Jersey area, in the Afrikan-American community, and working with the progressive white community as well as with the Latino community. And so we were pretty well known from our Black Panther Party days, and through our still active involvement. So, we became the likely suspects.
In the third trial not only did the prosecutor do everything possible to eliminate Blacks from the jury, as well as other Third World and non-white people, but he also manipulated evidence. Evidence was withheld from the defence. One example of withheld evidence was the reports that were made by the investigating officers. At the first trial we were given about 350 or 370 of these, and by the third trial we had been given about a total of 400. After the third trial I instituted a Freedom of Information suit to find out what stuff the police and prosecution had in their possession pertaining to the case. I just recently learned that they had some 3000 documents in their possession, and we were given only approximately 400 of these documents. So now we are in the process of trying to obtain these documents to see what other materials there are that may have
been helpful to exonerate us, or to explore other areas that the prosecution could have but refused to for whatever reason. So we are waiting for these documents now.
Also, there was a manipulation of witnesses who were arrested across the south-eastern part of the U.S. and they were brought to New York to give testimony about matters which they had no knowledge of. There was also manipulation of the fingerprints that were supposedly lifted off the van that was involved in the shooting. Police officers themselves got on the stand and deliberately perjured themselves and gave falsetestimony, and this was common practice. So these are the sorts of things that went on during the third trial.
Did the witnesses and people supporting you and Bashir face a lot of harassment by the police and the state? I know that in other political trials, particularly of people whose testimony conflicts with the story that the state tries to put together, they are often faced with really high levels of intimidation and violence directed against them in order to silence them or get them to change their story. Were there any instances of this in your
Well, yes, in fact this is what was done; this is what I was referring to when I said that there were people dragged in from across the south-eastern part of United States. They went as far as South Carolina, and people were arrested and held under order of protective custody. Friends of mine and Bashir’s were arbitrarily arrested. These were people who had given statements to the police during the course of their investigation, and over a period of time they were coerced into changing their prior statements, in order to conform with what the police wanted them to testify to, and this was in contrast to their original statements that the police had gotten during the course of their investigation. It was at least six or seven people who were brought into court in this fashion – under protest you know – but nonetheless they were coerced into testifying. In fact, one of the witnesses came back and he recanted his original statement that he had made on the stand during the third trial, and he told the court and the jury about what had been done to him. And the jury nonetheless convicted us. This is just a small glimpse of what was being done to other witnesses who were brought in and intimidated.
Also, I might add, that at least three witnesses received reward money. There were some $30,000 in reward money, and one witness, who was a taxi-driver who had not witnessed the shooting, but who had picked up two men in the vicinity of the shooting, in 1982 he appeared at a preliminary trial hearing on the identification issue to see if he could identify Bashir or myself, and he unequivocally said that he did not see the two men that he picked up in his taxi in court at the present time. In 1986, during the third trial this man was called to testify – he did not testify at the first or second trial – and he positively identified Bashir and myself as the two men that he had picked up on the day in question. It was learned later that he was also a recipient of some of the $30,000 reward money that was put up by the police department and the Policeman’s Benevolent Association of New York City.
And there were also two other witnesses – a taxi-driver and his passenger – one identified both of us and one identified Bashir as being the persons they saw exit the van, shoot the police, and then get back in the van and drive away. And they got some of the reward money. In fact, one of them, the one who identified both Bashir and myself, was subjected to hypnosis, and so his whole identification was questionable because in his pre- hypnotic statement he identified the two men as being in their early twenties and 5’6 or 5’7 in height, and around 150 pounds in weight. At the time, I was 32 and Bashir was roughly 39; I’m 6’3 and Bashir is about 6’1, so the descriptions were totally at odds with what became his testimony in court. And again, these contradictions were raised during the first two trials, and apparently the jury didn’t buy it, but I guess it was due to the pressure that was applied to the jurors because the first two trials they deliberated a week before coming back with a verdict – the result of the first trial being a compromise verdict, and at the second trial they could not reach a verdict.
You mentioned that both you and Bashir were working with the Black Panther Party (BPP). Could you tell us something of your own political development and your involvement in the Black Liberation Movement, and what sorts of activities led you to become a target of the government?
Back in the latter part of the 1960’s, J. Edgar Hoover, who was then the head of the FBI, had made a statement that he believed the BPP to be the most dangerous organization in
existence. He characterized it as a terrorist organization, an extremist organization, a militant radical organization, etc., etc. It was his position that the BPP should be destroyed at all cost; and you are probably familiar with the infamous COINTELPRO program which has been divulged by members of Congress, as well as by people in the legal and political community, and they have gone into great detail about the tactics that were used by the FBI to disrupt and destroy the BPP.
I’ll give you a short history of the BPP. It was started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966, as a result of the police brutality that was rampant in the Afrikan-American community and Latino and other non-white communities in America. The Party put its emphasis primarily on controlling police in the Afrikan- American community, and this was done in a lawful manner. It started out in Oakland, California, and then spread throughout California. It then grew and expanded to become national and international.
Our focus went from just the issue of police brutality to encompassing the whole issue of the right to self- determination of Afrikan-American people, that is, the right to control the police department, the right to control the schools, and housing, and the economy of our communities, and exemption from fighting for the racist government and its military which did not protect the civil rights and human rights of the Afrikan- American people.
We were demanding the release of Afrikan-American people from prison who had been imprisoned falsely or who had not been tried in a fair and impartial manner. We were
demanding justice in the courts and we also called for a plebiscite to decide as to what national course Afrikan-American people wanted to take in terms of their destiny.
There were also several programs that the Party initiated. We had a breakfast program because we realized that hunger was a real issue. We instituted free medical and health services in our community, Liberation schools and political education classes for adults.
We organized clothing drives from time to time. This was all done in an attempt to meet the needs of our people who were being neglected by the government and the various agencies of the government. These were attempts by us to take matters concerning
our destiny into our own hands and hopefully by the example that the Party set it would encourage the masses of our people to follow suit. So these were the objectives and aims of the BPP – to teach Afrikan-Americans the need for self-reliance.
You mentioned the counter-intelligence program of the FBI, and that both you and Bashir became targeted for this frame-up because of your involvement in political projects within the Afrikan-American community. At what point did you become aware that you yourself were being targeted by the FBI or other police agencies?
Well, I was aware at the time of my involvement in the BPP that the police and different law enforcement agencies kept files on Party members. At rallies they would take photographs, plus they had informants, and agent provocateurs and there was police
infiltration of the Party that we were aware of.
As to who they felt was an immediate threat, some of this information did not come to light until after my having been arrested and charged in this case. However, a fellow comrade of mine, Dhoruba Bin Wahad, who served 19 years in prison for a similar charge of attempted murder of a police officer – and back in 1975/1976 I worked with some people on Dhoruba’s case – he had a Freedom of Information request that he had sent in to the FBI, and maybe 3 or 4 years later after the suit began, the FBI was forced by the courts to turn over the documents that they had in their possession pertaining to a program they called “NewKill” – the codename of one of their investigations. And they turned over some 30,000 pages of documents. And through my reading of the documents, I learned that I was very much a target of the FBI – there was constant mention of myself and other Party members from the New York area.
So this gave me some idea of the level or the magnitude of interest that they had in BPP members here in New York
What should activists on the outside do in supporting comrades who are inside prison?
I’m sure you are familiar with the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is facing the death penalty, and that is imminent, and we need to try and work to get people to come out in support of him. There has been some success, as I understand the Governor of Pennsylvania has deferred to sign the death warrant. Pressure has to be kept on continuously because as soon as the concern and the vigilance lower, naturally the State will go and sign the warrant to execute this brother.
What we need, and what we encourage those on the outside to do is try to make inroads into the community. Because for those of us who are incarcerated – while it is true that we need support and that support is what keeps us alive – there is a need to mobilize the masses, not only around the issue of political prisoners and Prisoners of War, but around their own condition, because, here, from what I have been able to observe from the inside, there appears to be a great deal of apathy among the masses, particularly in the Afrikan-American communities, and the poor and Third World communities. People are concerned about their immediate survival, and they seem to look upon the system as being omnipotent or unchallengeable, or because of the failures they have seen as a result of the activities of some of us, they have taken the attitude that nothing, or next to nothing can be done, and that very little will change no matter what we do.
So there is a need for those with that level of political consciousness and awareness to become more involved and more active in the community.
I think by first concentrating on mobilizing the masses around the political prisoners and Prisoners of War will not solve the problem, and will not be the motivating factor in
getting the masses moving. There is a need to motivate and move the masses around their own existence, their own needs – housing, an end to police brutality, jobs, getting people involved in controlling their own destiny.
I think it has to be a two-pronged approach by those of us who still have political consciousness and the spirit to fight. There are those who have political consciousness, but do not display the fighting spirit. You not only have to have the will, you have to put that will into motion and into action.