by Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D.

special to  Prof. Kim's News Notes


NOTE: In his new book, “We Want Freedom: A Life In The Black Panther Party” (South End Press), Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Pennsylvania Death Row inmate, remembers his Party days. In this excerpt of “We Want Freedom,” Abu-Jamal recalls his life as a founding member of the Party’s Philadelphia branch. 

In “We Want Freedom,” he shares his memories of the female members of the Party—independent, determined, dedicated Black women. Writes Abu-Jamal: “We knew from experience that they [Panther women] would be treated as viciously as we if they fell into the hands of the enemy, and we loved them all the more for their courage and their sacrifice. We knew, and could recite, the names of our sisters who were political prisoners of the pigs, and their names were like a mantra of resistance: Erika Huggins, Angela Davis, Afeni Shakur, and Joan Bird.”

This humorous, sexy recollection displays the level of independence of Panther women. – Todd Steven Burroughs


By Mumia Abu-Jamal

In the Black Panther Party, women chose their sexual partners as freely as the men, and many could and did say no.

Example: one night [in our “Panther Pad” in Oakland, Calif.], Shelia came into my room and asked, matter-of-factly, “Do you wanna do it?”

As I looked at this girl, her copper-colored Afro like a soft halo circling her pretty face, her eyes like green jade, standing in the doorway with panties on, I almost stuttered.

But deeper than my desire was a burning guilt, for earlier in the day, our Deputy Chief of Staff, June Hilliard, had dressed down a brother for going to a whorehouse:

“Mojo, don’t you know it’s a breach of security for you to relate to a woman outside the Party?”

“But June—I know, brother, but—but—”

“But, what, Mojo?”

“Won’t nobody give me none,” he admitted, shyly.



“You asked everybody.”

“Yup. Nobody.”

“Damn, Mojo. That’s f****d up, boy.”

“Sho’nuff is—but, what can I do?”

“Mojo—either work wit’ yo rap, or work with yo hand, bro’—What can I tell ya, man? But you just cain’t be relating to sistas in no who’house—that’s a security risk, brother.”

“Yes, sir, June. I hear you, man.”

Mojo gave an empty laugh and walked away, his head down in a wreath of sadness.

I thought of Mojo as Shelia stood there, inviting me to her garden of celestial delights, and I think a groan escaped from my lips.

“Well, do you want to relate to me?”

“Oh, I do—but, that thing with Mojo—”

“What about Mojo?”

“Well, the brother hadda go to a whorehouse, ‘cuz none of the sistas would relate to him—and that’s f****d up!”

“And that’s my problem?”

“Naw, but—”

“’But,’ s**t! Listen, you tryna tell me I gotta f**k Mojo before I give you some?”

“Naw, Shelia—I—uh—”

“Listen, nigga—This is my p***y! I give it, or don’t, when I want to, hear me?”

“I hear you, sista—”

“Now, tell me—Do you want this p***y, or not?”

I wanted it. I wanted it so bad I could taste it. But it would have tasted like a betrayal to my brother, Mojo. I was, first and foremost, a Black Panther. A true revolutionary would choose loyalty over desire.

“Not,” I dumbly answered.

“F**k you, then,” she raged, her green eyes shooting darts at the fool who would turn down her sublime offering. She made a neat pivot and turned and a luscious @@s undulated out of my room and into the darkness of history.

“I am a revolutionary!”

“I want for my brotha, what I want for myself.”

“I am a Black Panther!”

I repeated these mottos to myself, over and over.

Under the motto, almost in counterpoint, came another message:

“Mumia—You let that—get away? And you didn’t get none? Youza stoo-pid m********a, boy!”

I roll over on my side, the floor feeling firm and unforgiving through the thin, worn, sleeping bag, which does little to camouflage the California night’s cool, and soon plunge into slumber, dreaming about Shelia. 

Copyright © 2004 by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Excerpted from "We Want Freedom: A Life In The Black Panther Party," published by South End Press. Reprinted with permission from South End Press.

Table of Contents

Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D. ( is an independent researcher/writer based in Hyattsville, Md. He is a primary author of Civil Rights Chronicle (Legacy), a history of the Civil Rights Movement, and a contributor to Putting The Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching (Teaching For Change/Poverty & Race Research Action Council), a K-12 teaching guide of the Civil Rights Movement. He is writing a biography of Abu-Jamal.




photo of Mumia Abu Jamal

from Internationalist Group

photo of Steven Todd Burroughs

from Research Channel