Jalil Muntaqim has spent forty one of his sixty years locked behind bars, paying a heavy price for his participation in the Black Liberation Movement, a struggle he has never abandoned, even behind bars.
A Youth of Concious
Jalil, born on October 18, 1951, in Oakland, California, grew up in a family environment imbued with an awareness of the political battles of the day, of the history of Black people in amerika and the struggle for freedom that has been waged on this continent for centuries. As he has explained,
My mother taught us [my sister and I] that we are African. She made that a very important lesson for us; she said, “You are African, don’t let anybody call you anything other than that.” … In our house we used to have pictures of H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X – so these individuals, these were our icons in the household …
In the 1960s Jalil attended high school in San Jose, California, where he earned a scholarship to an advanced high school math and science program. He also received a summer scholarship for a San Jose State College math and engineering course. Jalil participated in NAACP youth organizing during the civil rights movement. In high school, he became a leading member of the Black Student Union, often touring in “speak-outs” with the BSU Chairman of San Jose State and City College.
As he has stated in the documentary Jalil Muntaqim: A Voice for Liberation:
The assassination of Martin Luther King, that’s one thing that impacted me. The other thing that really impacted me was the 1968 Olympics when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in protest – that was significant. John Carlos used to be one of my math tutors, so the culture, the African culture and the politics and the time, the struggle that was going on, the civil rights movement that was going on at that time, being a part of that and being impressed by that – and then, on the other hand seeing the Black Panther Party taking this other stroke after the death of Martin Luther King – after his assassination I began to realize that maybe this non-violent protest thing in not going to be all that there’s going to be in order to make real changes in this country.
The Dark Day
Two months shy of his 20th birthday, Jalil was captured along with Albert “Nuh” Washington in a midnight shoot-out with San Francisco police. When Jalil was arrested, he was a high school graduate and employed as a social worker.