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Remembering Michael ZinZun

by ...... Thursday, Jul. 20, 2006 at 7:40 PM

Remembering Michael Zinzun

Last week when I was driving and listening to KPFK (90.7 FM), I heard that Michael Zinzun passed away. I felt really

terrible because I haven't seen him for a couple of years and the last thing he said to me on the phone was visit by

the CAPA (Coalition Against Police Abuse / Community in Support of the Gang Truce) office. The radio announced

that they were planning a candle light vigil in Leimert Park. I got home and called his house to double check if this

was true. His wife told me that he passed away in his sleep on Sunday, July 9th.

I drove to Leimert Park on Crenshaw where there was a small crowd gathered supporting Michael Zinzun's family.

Michael’s kids and many elders were present. People were taking turns speaking. One lady, who appeared to be her

50's, held her fist up as she made a speech about Michael, encouraging us to continue his work. Another man, also

in his 50's, held a sign that featured Michaels picture with the words “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE” written on it.

Later on, Bloodhound arrived and I was really excited to see him as it's been years since we last met. We used to

hang out together, but eventually lost touch. One of the community organizers had a tear in her eye and told

Bloodhound and I that “the younger generation needs to keep the CAPA office going” and “to continue the work that

Michael was doing.” She looked at me saying, “…that goes for you too young man.” I didn't know what to say. That's

a big commitment and requires a lot of responsibility. I don't have that much training or experience as a good

community organizer.

I met Michael Zinzun a little over ten years ago. He invited me to the CAPA office, which is where we later held the

very first Solidarity festival. CAPA opened their office to us allowing our festival the space to offer workshops, open

discussions and live music. They even provided us with free veggie snacks, not to mention, the space was offered

for free. He shared with me the use of the CAPA office many times to organize meetings or just hang out. Michael

never asked for any money or donations.

At the CAPA office they regularly held meetings with families who have been victimized by police brutality and

terrorism. The office took action for them and was involved in winning numerous lawsuits against the LAPD (Los

Angeles Police Department). They helped struggling youth and gang members to get jobs screen-printing shirts in

the back dome room. They also led political education classes, computer training and much more. As an

experienced organizer, Michael would come out to speak at Punk benefit concerts that my friends and I organized.

Some people might remember him from the workshops he conducted during the early Solidarity Festivals that took

place at the old Koo’s Café location in Santa Ana or the Aus-Rotten and Anti-Product show during the Anti-

vivisection tour at the Aztlan Cultural Center in L.A. I went to his office many times to get advice on how to keep the

AGC (Alternative Gathering Collective) organized and strong.

We once had a meeting with him at Luna Sol Café (R.I.P.), which focused on Michaels organizing experiences

during the 60’s and 70’s. We wanted ideas on how to build and sustain a collective. He was a great teacher and he

was also my friend. In my free time I would visit him at the CAPA office and talk about anything. We could be funny or

serious and even explore personal relationship issues. I feel that, because of knowing Michael Zinzun, I met amazing

community organizers such as Bloodhound, Bilal Ali and Mabbie Settlage. These are people, who on numerous

occasions would come and speak or give workshops at the events that I would organize.

I don't remember everything that happened during that ten-year period of time, but what I'm trying to

communicate is that Michael worked with everyone, regardless of their racial, sexual, gender, spiritual or sub-cultural

identity. He worked with punk rockers, feminists, animal rights activists, anarchist, radical college students, youth,

etc. This is the side of Michael I got to see that others may not have known about.

One of the other memories I have of him that comes to mind was during the late 90's, when my old friend Justin

and I were arguing at his office. We were going to a rally in Watts that CAPA had organized and I thought it was a

bad idea to have an Anarchist Black Bloc in Watts. Justin disagreed, so we both asked for his opinion and he said

“BRING IT ON MAN!” When Michael would speak at punk shows it was like there was fire coming out of his mouth. He

was such a powerful speaker with a lot of anger and conviction in his voice and he was very confrontational and

loud. He would grab everyone’s attention. He was both book and street smart and well researched. Most of the time

he was talking about his own experiences.

On Saturday, July 15th, I attended Michael's funeral in Pasadena with members of COPWATCH Los Angeles.

The funeral was packed with elders. There was an open mic and, at times, the funeral reminded me of a rally. There

were all kinds of people present (Revolutionaries, Christians, Muslims, etc). People came from many different states

and countries (including Africa and Brazil). Some speakers had soft voices and talked about spirituality, some read

poems, some sang and some still had that angry, revolutionary voice for change. So many people said good things

about him and it seems as if they had lost someone important to humanity. Everyone had a different story to tell

about Michael. The common theme was that Michael loved working and fighting alongside oppressed peoples.

When one of the Panthers read the ten-point program, an old Panther next to me had his eyes closed and was

mouthing the words. He still memorized it after all these years. Near the end of this segment of the funeral, one of

the Panthers on the mic asked for all Panthers to stand up and the crowd applauded. They were in their 50's,

clothed in suits and ties. Everyone raised a clenched fist in the air and shouted “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!”

These were original Black Panther Party members from the late 60's and early 70's.

Later on I went outside and talked to some of the original Panthers from Los Angeles who, many years back, had

been in a shoot out with the S.W.A.T. team and LAPD at their headquarters. They are still as militant as they were in

their youth and are organizing in their communities to achieve social change and revolution. They never stopped,

even as they got older.

Later on I introduced Cop Watch folks to CAPA Office members to network and work with each other. The only

thing is that so much unfinished paper work was left behind, but Michael's vision will go on and people will continue

where he left off, working towards a new world, free of oppression and exploitation.

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