Alston speaking in 2005
Ashanti Alston Omowali
|Organization||Black Panther Party|
Black Liberation Army
Safiya Bukhari (m. 1984)
Ashanti Omowali Alston is an anarchist activist, speaker, and writer, and former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. From 1974-1985 he spent time as political prisoner which caused him to become engaged in politics. He is currently on the Steering Committee of the National Jericho Movement to free U.S. political prisoners and resides in Providence, Rhode Island.
Alston grew up in the inner city of Plainfield, New Jersey which he described at the time as "Niggertown with all the customs and traditions of racism, sexism and powerlessness". Alston was 11 years old during the assassination of Malcolm X and 13 years old during the 1967 Newark riots. He recalls not initially understanding the cultural significance of Malcolm X's death he did, however, note the importance he held within his own life remembering how his brother owned a copy of Malcolm X's autobiography in which the cover said "former pimp, hustler, robber, who becomes leader of the Black Revolution" he remembers this demonstrating to him that people from a similar background as him were capable of greatness. He also recalled how the rebellion in his hometown and seeing black men and women in dominate and heroic roles helped crash "all the myths about us being "niggers", all that stuff". Both of these events took place near his home town of Plainfield, New Jersey and both events influenced his decision to join the Black Panther Party at 17, believing them to be "taking Malcolm X's teachings to another level".
Black Panthers, Black Liberation Army and Prison
In 1971, in the face of the Panther 21 trial which saw several of his peers possibly facing the death penalty, he joined the Black Liberation Army, a spin-off group from the Panthers that advocated and attempted an armed struggle against the United States government. In 1974 he was arrested and imprisoned for 11 years for taking part in a robbery designed to raise funds for the BLA and held as a political prisoner which he credits with helping him to learn about political movements, political economic theories, organizations, religion and guerrilla theories. He become an Anarchist in contrast to the Marxist-Leninism and Maoism explored by the Black Panther Party. When in prison he became distraught to hear of the state of the BLA, particularly its endorsement of drugs considering the intention of the BLA was to liberate black communities from the tyranny and influence of drugs at the time.
During his time in the black panthers, he noticed, despite the group's intention of gender equality, lots of sexism which he didn't fully realize until his stint in prison. He did, however, acknowledge that some women, despite feeling the effects of the sexism, still felt empowered via the black panther party:" you're not going to fuck with me, I'm not going to be your sexual object because I got a gun"
- "Ashanti Alston". The Jericho Movement. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
- Alston, Ashanti (March 23, 1983). "Childhood & The Psychological Dimension of Revolution". The Anarchist Library. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
- Darcy, Hilary (May 2010). "Be careful of your man-tones! Gender politics in revolutionary struggle: Ashanti Alston in interview with Hilary Darcy" (PDF). interfacejournal.net. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
- Alston, Ashanti (1985). "Refocusing on the PLAGUE within Political Relationships". The Anarchist Library. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
- Berger, Dan (2006). Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (1st ed.). Retrieved March 21, 2020.
- Berger, Dan (2014). The Struggle Within: Prisons, Political Prisoners, and Mass Movements in the United States. PM Press. pp. 11–. ISBN 978-1-60486-955-2.
- Scraton, Phil; McCulloch, Jude (2008). The Violence of Incarceration. Routledge. pp. 191–. ISBN 978-1-135-89434-4.