By Vicente Alba Perez – Panama

September 9th, 1971 is a date many who were alive then will never forget; and those who were not should get to know about. For many it’s the Attica Rebellion and its aftermath. For me, those memories actually go back to, maybe two weeks priors.

One balmy morning in late August, 1971 I got a call at the Bronx Branch office instructing me to report to our Deputy Minister of Information, Richie Perez at our National Headquarters in El Barrio (East Harlem). Once there I was introduced by Richie to Jose Paris or G.I. as we all came to know and love.  G.I. had arrived at headquarters where Richie had been O.D. sometime close to midnight.  As told by Richie, G.I. knocked on the office door, and when asked who he was, responded “Jose G.I. Paris, Young Lords Party, Attica Branch, reporting for duty.

Now, G.I., Richie, sister Olguie Robles and I  made our way to a local Spanish restaurant were we shared breakfast and G.I.’s story. He shared details of the inhumanity being those in the penitentiaries were being subjected to, the fact that some months earlier the inmates at Auburn Correctional facility had decided to rebel, an uprising which had been squelched by massive transfers of the inmate population. He informed us that Attica was about to blow.  

After some discussion, a preliminary work plan was developed, and assignments were made. On September 9th, 1971, the brothers incarcerated in Attica stood tall and demanded their human rights. G.I. and Juan “Fi” Ortiz from the Y.L.P.’s central committee joined the national team of negotiators from outside the prison walls. When the negotiations failed and the negotiating committee was ordered out of the prison, G.I. refused to leave the prison yard. He had decided to die with his brothers. Those brothers were the ones who forced him out, because in their words “if anyone had to leave the yard it was G.I. because he was the only one there that day that could tell the world about the hell they were living in Attica”

We were clear of how little they valued the lives of people of color and people in prison. Attica showed us how worthless were the lives of those at the lower end of their own food chain had. On September 13th, 10 prison guards and 29 prisoners were massacred during the military assault to retake Attica.

I never got to meet Sam Melville, but knew about him and will never forget him. He never came home. Over the years I met and bonded with other Attica brothers who came home to make their contributions to our communities. Akil Aljundi, Frank “Big Black”Smith, Jose G.I. Paris  worked on Attica until their passing. They worked on many other issues as well. So did George “Che” Nieves, Mariano “Dalu” Gonzales, and Dacajeweiah. They each made their own contributions. We built and we bonded.  Many others who I never had the privileged of meeting also wrote history. They will never be forgotten.


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