The New Afrikan Peoples Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement salute the life of our brother and comrade Geronimo ji Jaga. The life of Geronimo, or “G” as he was affectionately known, represents a freedom fighter that sacrificed and loved Afrikan people and humanity.
Geronimo was given the name Elmer Gerard Pratt at birth on September 13, 1947, in Morgan City, Louisiana. He was born into a loving family that would nurture him and provide support throughout his life. He grew up in a community where he and other youth had to fight white supremacists from the “other side of the tracks.”
Geronimo said he was encouraged to go into the US military by his community Elders, who had roots in Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Deacons for Defense. His objective was to learn military skills to be utilized for the defense of our community and our people. “G” was a decorated soldier in the wrong army, earning two Bronze Stars, a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. He distinguished himself as a Sergeant and Ranger in the 82nd Airborne of the US Army.
His Elders would redeploy him, after returning from two Vietnam combat tours, to the greater Los Angeles area. There he would work with Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, the principal organizer of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Carter and Geronimo both became students at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). They participated in the Black student movement and the formation of the Black Studies department at UCLA. Geronimo rose to leadership of the Southern California Chapter and National BPP after Carter and John Huggins were murdered in a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) COINTELPRO inspired internecine conflict between the US Organization and Panthers on the UCLA campus, in September 1969. He quickly became a primary target to be eliminated by the FBI and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) due to his organizing ability, military skills, and the popularity of his comrades.
December 8, 1969, four days after Fred Hampton and Mark Clark was assassinated in a pre-dawn raid in Chicago, Illinois; the LAPD launched a military strike in South Central LA with Geronimo as its principal focus. This raid was the first time that the infamous Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit would be deployed in the United States. The LA Panthers, comprised mostly of teenagers and young adults, engaged in a four hour long gun battle, which can be attributed to the fortification, preparation and training provided by Geronimo.
Since so many Panthers were arrested and/or killed during 1969, Geronimo decided to concentrate on building the BPP’s capacity to defend itself around the US Empire. He also collaborated and served as a consultant to other defense formations nationally and internationally. He assisted in establishing the groundwork for what would later be known as the Black or Afro-American Liberation Army, the underground of the Black Liberation Movement.
Geronimo and other comrades were arrested in Dallas, Texas in December 1970. The impact of their ideological differences, coupled with the FBI’s “divide and conquer” tactics, resulted in the BPP Oakland- based national leadership expelling Geronimo. This was the precipitating event that led to the organizational split of the BPP in 1971.
Lacking support from his organization, Geronimo was convicted in and sentenced in September 1972 for the December 18, 1968 murder and robbery of Caroline Olsen in Santa Monica, California. Geronimo steadfastly maintained his innocence, stating he was over 400 miles away from Santa Monica in Oakland, California for a BBP Central Committee meeting at the home of David Hilliard. Also among those present at that meeting was Kathleen Cleaver. MS. Cleaver testified, along with many other alibi witnesses, at the trial of Geronimo.
Government agencies, primarily the FBI, had surveillance records of Geronimo at this time. These records would prove that G was in San Francisco Bay Area from December 13, 1968 to at least December 26, 1968.
The FBI, LAPD and LA County District of Attorney’s office conspired to convict Geronimo based on the false testimony of a Paid Confidential Informant – Julius Butler, infiltrating his legal defense team, and concealing/withholding crucial evidence that would later exonerate him.
During 1971, while Geronimo was in captivity, his first wife and comrade in the revolutionary nationalist underground, Sandra Pratt (aka Nsondi ji Jaga) was murdered while eight months pregnant and left in a ditch. Her murder was considered a political assassination.
Geronimo was held captive for twenty-seven years in the State of California Penal system for a murder he did not commit. His first seven years of his captivity were in solitary confinement in an attempt to stifle his ability to organize. Geronimo remained active in his legal defense, and managed to politicize and organize other prisoners while behind bars. He maintained that he was a “Prisoner of War” because he had been targeted for organizing and instructing New Afrikan people in self-defense.
Geronimo declared his citizenship of the New Afrikan nation while incarcerated. He strongly believed that our people would choose to vote to establish an independent New Afrikan Republic, if given the opportunity. He was a strong advocate of organizing a plebiscite – an election for us to determine our relationship with the US Empire.
He choose the last name “ji Jaga” while incarcerated. “ji Jaga” is Bantu for “of the Jaga people.” The Jaga or Imbangala people of West Central Afrika formed “kilombos” or warrior societies after being dispersed from a variety of Afrikan ethnics during the period of the MAAFA (or Great Disaster) and the height of the Middle Passage.
While in prison, Geronimo met and married Ashaki ji Jaga. Two children were born from this union, a daughter Shona and eldest son Hiroji Geronimo. They also shared a beautiful granddaughter, Ashaki.
In the late 1970s, the National Task Force for COINTELPRO Litigation and Research, under the leadership of Dr. Mutulu Shakur and Afeni Shakur developed the legal strategy that would ultimately lead to the vacating of the wrongful murder conviction of Geronimo. The National Task Force believed that by invoking the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI would be forced to release confidential surveillance documents that would corroborate Geronimo’s alibi, proving that he was actually in Oakland at the time of Olsen’s murder. The National Task Force obtained attorneys, specifically Stuart Hanlon, to assist with Geronimo’s case. The original murder trial attorney, Johnnie Cochran, rejoined the legal team following the notoriety he received in the acquittal of O.J. Simpson. The international and national support Geronimo’s case received was essential in exposing the conspiracy against him, the BPP, and the Black Liberation Movement.
Victoriously, Geronimo was eventually released in 1997. The United States government and the County of Los Angeles were forced to pay a $4.5 million settlement for the premeditated calculated conspiracy against him.
Both NAPO and MXGM were central organizers of the national and international campaign to win the release of our brother comrade. We also played a role in organizing mass support, providing emotional support for the family, and performing fundraisers for Geronimo’s freedom in the Los Angeles area and throughout California. NAPO and MXGM also provided the coordination of his national victory tour following his release.
Geronimo did not stop working for his people after he was freed. He continued to offer his good name for the cause of amnesty for our Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War. He worked and provided financial support to activities for the development of neighborhood youth in his hometown of Morgan City. “G” also committed himself to putting the ideology of Pan-Afrikanism into practice. He supported economic development and educational projects in Ghanaian and Tanzanian local villages.
Geronimo married Joju Cleaver after his release. Their union produced a son, Kayode. He later married Laila Minja in Tanzania and who gave birth to his youngest son, Tkumsah.
“G” described himself as a “country boy.” He loved nature – to hunt and fish. He considered himself at home whether in rural Louisiana or with Afrikan people in the plains of Tanzania. He was a spiritual person, who was inspired by his Ancestors and the concept of MAAT. He loved life, family, comrades and human beings in general. He was generous, passionate and a humorous brother who would roll up his sleeves and do the necessary work for the betterment of Afrikan people worldwide.
Geronimo made transition to the Ancestors on June 2, 2011. We are proud to call him our Brother Comrade. “G” was one of the most humble, straightforward and self-sacrificing servants of our people. He is a New Afrikan, Pan-Afrikan and international hero. His name will live on forever in the great pantheon of freedom fighters for our liberation and self-determination.