A Life to be honored…

A Life to be honored…
John Bowman Warrior left to be with the ancestors!

John H. Bowman III, born December 6, 1947, passed,December 23, 2006
after a courageous battle against liver cancer. This well-loved and respected
brother was a former member of the Black Panther Party
for Self Defense, a devoted family man and a dedicated
community organizer. He was a proud man who committed his life
to his people and the struggle for their liberation.
A dear friend and comrade to many of us, John will be deeply missed.
Join us for a celebration of his transition 1/11/07 2:30 PM at True
Church, 36th and Spencer Rd. Spencer, Oklahoma.

Interview with John Bowman
Published in the SF Bayview
October 2005

It was clear to me that the federal government tried to destroy and did
destroy the Black Panther Party, and tried to destroy me as a member of
the Black Panther Party. They used deceit, they used false information,
they also participated in overt assaults on people’s lives. I was
assaulted, and two other people were assaulted and shot and imprisoned
in Los Angeles. I was imprisoned for six years for assault with intent
to commit murder on police officers, when in fact it was the police who
initiated the assault – and eventually charges was dropped. It was
to me then that this was an attack to destroy us, and I survived. And
2003, it became clear to me that they wanted to continue their campaign
to destroy me by visiting me, accusing me and wanting to talk to me
about things that happened in 1971.

From 1968 to 1973, I experienced false arrests, I experienced
assassination attempts, I experienced being railroaded through the
courts, I experienced police brutality, experienced torture – because
my association with this organization called the Black Panther Party
Self Defense. So, how does it make me feel in 2005? I feel like it’s
something that’s never gonna end; that my commitment is being
again by the United States government. Because of the commitment that I
made in 1967, I’m still being persecuted and punished for that
commitment and believing in the ten-point program of the Black Panther
Party and implementing some of the programs of the Black Panther Party
in some of the social programs that myself and my colleagues are doing.
So, I’m very concerned. I’m angry. I don’t feel like it’s right, and I
don’t feel like it’s something that should go unnoticed, and I don’t
feel like the government should be able to get away with this
harassment. The same people who tried to kill me in 1973 are the same
people who are here today, in 2005, trying to destroy me. I mean it
literally. I mean there were people from the forces of the San
Police Department who participated in harassment, torture, and my
interrogation in 1973. And these same people I have to come in contact
with, I have to go before courts in front of, who are asking me the
questions that they interrogated and tortured me for. I have to be
confronted with these people, and none of these people have ever been
brought to trial. None of these people have ever been charged with
anything. None of these people have ever been questioned about that. So
I think if they have to put me in court, I think they should be brought
to court and questioned about their behavior as it related to John
Bowman, Harold Taylor, and Ruben Scott, and dozens of other people in
New Orleans in 1973. So if I have to be brought before a grand jury and
questioned in secret, where no one is there but the grand jurors, John
Bowman, the US Attorney and the State’s Attorney, no lawyer for me, why
can’t there be some forum where some questions are put to the police
department from San Francisco about their behavior in 1973 which is the
basis of this grand jury investigation today. That’s what I’m asking
is some justice.

What makes John Bowman tick? Well, one of the things that makes me tick
is that I have two children. I have twenty-eight nephews and nieces who
I care quite a bit about. I’m a man [who thinks] that each one could
teach one, and that each person has an obligation to give something to
the community in which he dwells. I learned that concept and principle
through my parents. I learned that by growing up in what is now called
the Western Addition, but [which was] the Fillmore district of San
Francisco where I went to school and where I was raised. It took awhile
for me to understand who I was. In fact, I had dropped out of high
school. There was a program in the community called the Neighborhood
Youth Corps program, and I had a job counselor who gave me books,
Malcolm X’s autobiography, and James Baldwin’s book, Go Tell It on the
Mountain. So I read the books and that excited me quite a bit. And then
I heard about Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party. So I was
beginning to be socially conscious [when I was] 17 years old. So, who
I right now? I’m 57 years old and still feel like I need to contribute
to my community and contribute to my family. That’s what I try to do on
a daily basis. One of the things that I was able to do is to appreciate
the programs that would give things to the people, and one of the
that attracted me to the Black Panther Party was their ten-point
platform and program which spoke to the issues of housing, education
employment, spoke to issues of social justice and justice in the
criminal justice system. And in my community, in the Fillmore district,
there was lots of social injustice, there were lots of businesses that
didn’t contribute anything, there was dilapidated housing and absent
landlords and all of that was just pressing me. I felt like it was time
for me to do something besides just talk about it. And that’s when I
decided to pay attention to the ten-point program of the Black Panther
Party. So I joined their organization, and I began to work with their
programs – the breakfast programs, collecting medical supplies, having
clinic and programs inside the housing projects, working with tenants
and families, organizing rent strikes. Those are the kind of things
shaped and molded me to be a contributor to the community.

The Black Panther Party was educating people to some of the realities,
some of the criminal realities of the system that was governing them.
the local communities and nationally, the Black Panther Party was,
through its newspaper, educating people to what is wrong about the
structure and the policies of housing. What is wrong about the prison
systems and about the criminal justice systems. And people began to
listen to the Black Panther Party, and they began to support the Black
Panther Party.

The environment was very oppressive. The Tac squad that was created by
Joseph Alioto [former SF mayor], their task was to disrupt our
And we would get pulled over if we were driving, if we were walking. We
would get held up on the streets, we’d be laid down in the streets. We
would have AR-15s or machine guns pointed at us, that’s when I first
learned, got introduced to AR-15 automatic weapons through watching the
Tac Squad put them in my face and other members of the party. Wherever
we would go, they would come and disrupt, they would kick in our doors.
Or they would sit outside our houses waiting for us to come home. And
when we got home, before we got into our house, they would search us.
it became very clear to me that not only was this a social service
program that they were attacking, they were attacking me as a person
because of my beliefs. This is when I began to feel that my life was in
danger, always. Because everywhere I went, I had to be confronted with
police. Organized harassment is what we came to realize was taking
against us. And as a means to protect ourselves, we had to go out in
groups of threes and fours, even if just to sell newspapers or to go to
community meetings and set up community meetings. It was clear that
things had changed. And that on a national level, the Black Panther
Party was the focus of an organized attack against the leadership. In
Chicago, and in New York, in San Diego and in Los Angeles, there was
people dying, people being assassinated in their cars. Fred Hampton
himself, who was a member and a leader in Chicago, he was assassinated
[as was Mark Clark]. And there was people assassinated in New York City
and people arrested by the dozens in New York City. So it was clear to
us here in San Francisco that something like that was gonna happen to
us. And eventually it did happen where our office got raided on
Street. And they shot tear gas in our office. And they didn’t shoot
anybody, but they destroyed thousands of dollars of materials and food
and medical supplies. And then simultaneously they raided different
homes that people were living in. So it was clear to us that this is
what it was gonna be about. It was gonna be about us being violently
attacked and unjustly shot and put in jail. We knew it was the local
police, but we didn’t know [at that time] it was coordinated by the FBI
and the CIA and the United States government. So what we were going to
do about it, we had no idea.

The Black Panther Party built coalitions with people who were against
the Vietnam War, who were against the murders of citizens in El
Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, with people who were against
apartheid in South Africa. People who were on college campuses who
wanted to protest the war and protest exploitation of people of color
all across the world. The Black Panther Party even went as far as to
communicate with other governments – the Vietnamese government, the
North Korean government, the ANC government – the organization that
Nelson Mandela was a part of which is called the African National
Congress. We all had one thing in common – we all were being oppressed.
And there was a need to stop war and a need to stop oppressing and
exploiting people. And the Black Panther Party was a very vocal part of
this movement on a worldwide basis. This is why the Black Panther Party
took the brunt of all the murder of its membership and the jailing of
all its membership, because we were an organization that was very
People embraced the Black Panther Party, and that’s why the federal
government created a program called the Cointelpro program. And that’s
why they had a senate committee hearing, and people admitted that J.
Edgar Hoover orchestrated and created mass hysteria and mass murder,
because of our relationships with people all over the world. Eldridge
Cleaver and Don Cox and Kathleen Cleaver and other members of the
organization who went into exile traveled all over the globe
internationally and were telling people what this government was doing
and giving them documented evidence, just like Malcolm X did when he
went to Africa – he talked to people all over the African continent
about this government and its treatment of people. Well, the Black
Panther Party did the same thing. They never talk about the
relationships between people all over the world and the Black Panther
Party. They only create criminal images of Black Panthers. So it’s
important that people take a broader look as to what it is when they
speak today of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, and what does it
do to affect us today, us ordinary citizens. I think I’m a victim of
Patriot Act. We all became victims of the Cointelpro program.

In fact, it was the Black Panther Party that enabled me to grow as a
and as a person, because it taught principles, it taught integrity. And
I’ve been doing this for, I can’t even count the years – 35, 40 years.
And I continue to give this example to my son, who is 19 years old, and
to my daughter who is 26. I am a community activist. I’m a social
program developer. I don’t consider myself a member of the Black
Party today. But I do consider myself someone who have learnt from the
principles, the basic principles and ideology of the Black Panther
Party, which was to reform and revolutionize the social system so black
people and all people could benefit more from it.

Interviewed and edited by Claude Marks
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977


About kiwihighlander

I was born in New Zealand (Kiwi) I do not necessarily agree with or endorse all of the views presented here. This is a learning curve! I have a wide range of interesting trivia or facts on a variety of topics with-in this blog, also like to show a presentation of some of my photography & art. Hope your day has been kind :-)
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