29 year-old Darren Seals was found dead in his car on September 6th. Reports have indicated that Seals was shot in his car before it was set on fire. While it is not yet clear what or who killed Seals at this moment, what is clear is who Seals was. Seals contributed immensely to the Ferguson rebellion that followed the police murder of Michael Brown in 2014. He fought consistently for Black liberation until his untimely death.
That Seals was likely murdered in cold blood raises many questions. Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton once said “the first lesson a revolutionary must learn is that he is a doomed man.” Black Panther political prisoner George Jackson affirmed Newton, stating to be both Black and a revolutionary is to be doomed twice. Both Newton and Jackson were Black revolutionaries, and both died at an early age. The trajectory of their lives confirmed their theory.
The reality is that Huey Newton, George Jackson, and Darren Seals died at an early age because they fought to transform the power structure that enslaved them. This power structure currently called the United States was built on the enslavement and genocide of Black Africans, a phenomenon that has long been acknowledged but yet to be repaired. During the transition from colonial slavery to Jim Crow, Black American resistance remained a crime. Many Black Americans and their supporters were lynched for sympathizing with communism and abolitionism. Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh describes the practice as a backlash to the Black freedom movement in his 1924 essay on lynching.
Black oppression has been central to the maintenance of racism, capitalism, and war. The US government’s repression of the Black liberation movement displayed clearly the lengths it would go to deny Black America true self-determination. In the 1960s. the FBI created the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to neutralize the Black Liberation Movement. It immediately declared the Black Panther Party in particular a “threat to the internal security” of the United States. The FBI collaborated with every organ of the US government to infiltrate, assassinate, and imprison Black Panther Party leaders.
COINTELPRO had a long ranging impact on the Black liberation movement. Some Black Panther leaders such as Fred Hampton and Bobby Hutton were murdered by the state. Others such as Mumia Abu-Jamal remain in prison to this day. And Assata Shakur has lived in exile in Cuba for decades with a bounty of 2 million dollars on her head. This is the legacy of COINTELPRO. Although COINTELPRO formally disbanded in the 1970’s, the machinery that birthed it is larger than ever.
State terror of Black American communities is even worse than it was in the period of the Black Panther Party. Practices such as stop-and-frisk have become a common experience for Black youth. The surveillance apparatus now encompasses the whole population. There are more Black prisoners in the US now than there were slaves in 1850. It is from this backdrop that the Black Matters Movement emerged. And this movement has been thoroughly policed by the US government since its inception.
It should come as no surprise that inquiries into Seals death would lead to suspicions of government involvement. Suspecting that the US government is actively attempting to repress the Black liberation movement is not without grounds. Indeed, state forces have made this a central objective ever since the first African slave reached the shores of North America. Seals is the second Ferguson activist to be killed since 2014. DeAndre Joshua was murdered in 2014
when the rebellion first erupted in Ferguson. Seals was murdered in a shockingly similar manner to Joshua.
When someone is murdered, feelings of sadness, anger, and grief are natural. When someone is murdered by the state, a particular type of fear is added into the equation. This fear is rooted in the character of the state. The state’s primary role under capitalism is to manage class antagonisms for the ruling class. State institutions stand above society. Most people oppressed by US capitalism and racism consciously or unconsciously believe that the state does not work in their interests.
The movement for Black lives has shown that now is not the time for fear. It is the time for a new generation of freedom fighters to fulfill their destinies or betray them, to paraphrase Frantz Fanon. The murder of Seals cannot be called a state-sponsored act just yet. However, the question needs to be raised. All of us in this movement must ask such questions in order to come to a consensus of how the system works. Only then can we build a clear path to liberation.
The murder of Seals brought me to a quote from activist and UK hip-hop artist Lowkey in his song When I Die,
When I die please don’t mourn, cry not for me.
When I die please don’t lie, write a song for me.
Tell ’em what I did right and what I did wrong.
Don’t say rest in peace, help me live on.
Long live the movement for Black Lives! Long live Darren Seals!