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Thursday, April 27, 2006 

¡Sanjulo Ber, presente!

I rarely post entire tributes to fallen comrades, opting to instead link to the amazing statements that others make. But this striking piece written by Jamala Rogers is too powerful, too moving, and too beautiful to simply point at. So here, in its entirety is a tribute to an amazing brother who is no longer with us in body. ¡Sanjulo Ber, presente!

by Jamala Rogers
Sanjulo and me. Our political histories were very similar. Our political paths were both parallel and intersecting.

Our first serious involvement came as black students from working-class neighborhoods. We were searching for our cultural and political identity and our place in the continuum of African liberation.

I first met Sanjulo as a Kawaida Advocate in the Congress of African People in the early '70s. I was in St. Louis building a CAP chapter there, while Sanjulo did the same in Pittsburgh. So when Art Young recalls that Sanjulo "did the jobs that others would not: going door to door and hanging posters," it was a reflection of the revolutionary work ethic that we had learned in CAP. We proudly worked to be real servants of the people.

When CAP embraced a Marxist-Leninist ideology, we became the Revolutionary Communist League. RCL eventually merged with the League for Revolutionary Struggle (M-L). Our political journey led us to embrace socialism as system that valued humanity and met the needs of all people. It was a vision for the reconstruction of a society free of all forms of exploitation and oppression. Ultimately, we found our ideological home with Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad. Sanjulo was a member of FRSO/OSCL at his death.

As organizers in the Black Liberation Movement, we sought political forms to advance that agenda. We were founding members of the National Black United Front, the Black Radical Congress and other formations. We worked locally in various groups over the years which shared our commitment to justice, equality and peace.

Sanjulo was a working class leader and dedicated soldier in the war against capitalism and globalism. Whether organizing workers at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory or working with youth, Sanjulo worked tirelessly to empower those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. He was a familiar and respected figure in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.

Sanjulo brought the same fighting attitude about the human rights struggle to his medical condition. As his health started to deteriorate, he would still push forward -- just slower -- in doing the tasks he thought were important. During this time of tenuous health, anyone who worked with Sanjulo had a story to tell about his amazing perseverance.

I vividly recall attending a national FRSO/OSCL meeting and was shocked to see Sanjulo there. Why? Because he had just had an organ transplant a couple of weeks prior and I just knew he would be home recuperating. Another time, he had to be hospitalized for pneumonia when he had pushed himself to participate in a gathering in Boston. He seemed unstoppable.

Sanjulo had been active in Black Voices for Peace and forceful in his views against the war and Bush's military policies. He insisted on participating in the local activities marking the third anniversary of the US attack on the Iraqi people. Poor health forced him to ride in the march but he was there.

Sanjulo died on April 8. A year ago, almost to the date, the Pittsburgh community held a fundraiser to cover the continuing expenses of his transplants. I remember being touched by the words on the benefit announcement: "…we are one house bound together by devotion, love, happiness and productivity… we are forever one family."

I got the word earlier this year that Sanjulo's body systems were failing and the doctors had conceded to his fate. Final arrangements were being made by family and friends as Sanjulo checked into a hospice. Before the sad news could truly set in, I was told that Sanjulo was sent home -- not exactly spunky, but definitely not fitting the criteria for the hospice residents. No doubt, the facility's staff heard and saw him continue to organize from his hospice room.

Happily, I called him. "San," I teased, "I heard you got thrown out of hospice for kickin' it up!" He chuckled. "Yeah." I think I detected a little smugness in his voice that once again he did a slam-dunk in the face of death.

Brother Sanjulo's tenacity and triumph over his medical hurdles gave many of us the false illusion that he would continue to beat the odds. That he would continue to be there with us, for us.

However, the time came that Sanjulo's body couldn't keep up with his indomitable spirit. He was inspiring in death and he was in life, always fighting the good fight.

Sanjulo stands apart from wanna-be heroes in our struggle. He dedicated his entire life to the liberation struggle. He now takes his deserving place, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the many revolutionaries who chose a life of sacrifice and service. He truly lived up to the meaning of his name -- finest. Sanjulo represented the finest of humanity and the best of our most valiant fighters.

Sanjulo Ber, my friend, my comrade, I am proud to have known you and will continue to be inspired by your life's work. ¡Presente!

April 2006

For those who could use a crib sheet for the photograph , the other CAP veterans in the phot with Sanjulo (Pittsburgh CAP) are, from the left, Kalimu Endesha (St. Louis CAP), Karega Hart (Detroit CAP) and Jamala Rogers (St. Louis CAP).

Thanks, I have yet to figure out adding captions to these blogger generated in-text pictures.

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