Geronimo Ji Jaga: Soulja's Story Pt 2

AllHipHop: How did you join the Panthers?

GJJ: I never joined the Panthers. My function, after Martin Luther King was killed, was to come and defend our community. That was something we had to do. So, when I came out, I worked in the South and then East – New York. I didn’t get to California [main location of the Panthers] ‘til last. So, California has control of the media so when history is written, California gets so much credibility that it doesn’t deserve because they write these things. When I got to California, the name of that group was the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. There was an office in Oakland, a half of an office in San Francisco and an office in Los Angeles. I took that assignment as an challenge. I did the same thing with the New Republic of Africa. I worked with that group, I worked with S.N.I.C. [the 60s group Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee] with Stokely Carmichael aka Kwame Ture an any number of other organizations. I come from the Deacons of Defense down here. We were assigned to help train them [the Panthers]. Teaching our soldiers to defend themselves. We were very successful.

AllHipHop: As far as you personally, being set up, by the government – did you know you were being watched by CointelPro?

GJJ: No. Our ministry was the first to become suspicious. We had no idea it was being orchestrated at such a high level of the government. We knew that it was beyond the local borders but we had no idea it was such a widespread operation against us.

AllHipHop: When you were accused of killing a school teacher, did you feel that you were going to get convicted?

GJJ: Well, I was accused of quite a few cases. The first and most notable was the one Charles Mansion was convicted of. I was picked up on that before him. And then there were quite a few other murders or 187s that they would put on me so I couldn’t make bail. So, this was common practice and when the killing of teacher came up, I thought it was another tactic that they were using to keep me without bail.

AllHipHop: And, at that time, Johnny Cochran was your defense lawyer, right?

GJJ: I would teach all of my Panthers that if you are charged with a murder or any crime that means taking your life is: The Last thing you wanna do is turn around and say “Hey, I got an attorney to take care of me.” That’s the last thing you want. I was my own attorney. He would come in and assist – Johnny would be one the attorneys that we would get to assist the Panthers. He’s like my brother. We are like family members.

AllHipHop: One thing that I felt was really inhumane is, after they convicted you, you spent eight straight years in solitary confinement. What state of mind were you able to maintain to survive that period?

GJJ: You talking a long period of time, through a lot of torturous situations. You name it, I went through the gambit. I struggled to survive at every turn. It was the resistance that deep within me. We were born into struggle – we didn’t joint. You born seeing the Klan lynching people and all sorts of racist terror. After Viet Nam and all that stuff, I was tempered to anything they had coming. It wasn’t easy, because California had the worst “hole” (solitary confinement) at the time.

AllHipHop: Did you have support from your peers or family?

GJJ: Yeah, but you have to understand it wasn’t [a lot of communication] similar to the way they are doing suspected Taliban and sh*t like that. The country was up and arms about anything militant. We were cut off from newspapers, television, radios – that was unheard of. And visits.

AllHipHop: How did you manage…were you struggling to get a new trial?

GJJ: Well, the initial reaction was to escape. Because, in our minds, we were in a liberation struggle. We were taught, when you are captured by the enemy, you escape. Its hard to do that when you are in a box. By the time I got out of the hole in 1978, I had more privileges and I was able to use their judicial system to affect the release of other prisoners. And also, get myself out. At that point, the FBI’s CointelPro operation was being released to the public. I had documentation that showed that I wasn’t around during the time of the murder – way back then – from the FBI.

AllHipHop: In getting out, Johnny Cochran was then instrumental, right?

GJJ: Johnny was always there. It was a white boy named Stewart Handlin was my runner. I met him in ’74 when I was on death row. During those years, he was the one right across the bay that would make runs if I needed any outside legal assistance. And he also had Johnny’s personal telephone number. Anytime he called Johnny, Johnny was there. If you go to jail, you go and get yourself. I want to let you know that Johnny was instrumental in a lot of tactic. He is a media personality. Johnny is family.

AllHipHop: Can you speak on the $4.5 million settlement you made?

GJJ: I never settled. It was a suit I filed after getting the FBI’s documents years ago. They were clearly engaged in criminal activity against us yet we were held as criminal. To me, something is wrong with that, so I filed a suit. The FBI and the Los Angeles [police] admitting their wrongdoing and they gave us $4.5 million. I didn’t settle that. I wanted to go to trial because I got comrades in jail. I got Assata Shakur [Tupac’s aunt] in Cuba. I got Peter O’Neil in Tanzania. We wanted to use [the trial] as a platform as absolve them of any crimes that they were being charged with. So Mutulu – Set’s daddy [Tupac’s sister] – these freedom fighters, can come home. The lawyers didn’t understand that. I’m broke, I need money, right? But, f**k that, I need my comrades out of jail.

AllHipHop: Do you have any parting words?

GJJ: I’m very happy that the family came out of the dregs that they were in. It was very ugly back in the day. Afeni, she’s pushing forward the legacy, the dream of Pac. And Sekyiwa, Jamala, the family – everybody. People will be educated. I want to remind all Africans, please come to Africa. It’s right across the water. Come look at yourselves. Momma is waiting.