Oct 302013

November 9 talk at Wild Fig Bookstore

By Janet Tucker

On November 9, Jakobi Williams, a former faculty member in UK’s history department who is now an Associate Professor at Indiana University, will speak and sign from his book From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago at the Wild Fig Bookstore (1439 Leestown Road).

With the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, there has been a renewed interest in the history of the Civil Rights and other race-based social movements.  Williams’ powerful book tells another and often overlooked part of that national racial history: that of the Black Panther Party in Chicago and the long history of racial segregation in Chicago. From the Bullet to the Ballot focuses much of this story on Fred Hampton, a charismatic, highly effective and visionary leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party (ILBPP) whose life was cut short by a brutal murder by the guns of police on December 4, 1969 at the young age of 21. (Hampton was shot while sleeping in bed.)

Speaking of the legacy of the ILBBP, Williams stated, “the story of the Illinois Panthers is a multifaceted one. So too is the chapter’s legacy, touching on race, poverty, and politics in Chicago and the nation.  Fred Hampton’s conviction that the Panthers had to ‘unite with as many people as possible’ as Jose Jimenez puts it, lay behind the three most significant elements of this legacy: the ILBPP survival programs (free breakfast, medical clinics, etc.); the influence on racial coalition politics (particular through the Rainbow Coalition), and its ongoing effect as a catalyst for 21st century racial and political conflict in Chicago.”

The talk is sponsored by Central Kentucky Restoration of Voting Rights Campaign (ROVRC).  Kentucky is one of only four states that choose to punish convicted felons by taking their voting rights away for life. This has led to a quarter-million Kentuckians who have lost their right to vote, including one in four African American Kentucky men.

This is a huge insult to our democracy.  As we work toward building a broader and better functioning democracy, these are important discussions to have. Let us come together and discuss this rich history and what it means for our democracy today.

Williams’ talk and book signing will take place at 4:00 pm, November 9, at Wild Fig Bookstore. Wild Fig is located at 1439 Leestown Road in the Meadowthorpe shopping center.

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