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Kuwasi Balagoon
"Kuwasi at 60. " by Kazembe Balagun
Article published on 14 February 2008

by r-c.
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On December 16, 2006 over 75 people gathered at LAVA in West Philadelphia. The crowd was a mix of Black liberation movement veterans (young and old), anarchist punks and white queer activists from ACT UP. They came together to pay homage to the late Kuwasi Balagoon, who would have turned 60 years old this year. Balagoon is not an immediately recognizable name in the pantheon of revolutionaries, yet he has developed into an underground hero 20 years after his death. This is due in large part to the maze of contradictions that constructed Balagoon’s life.

As a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, he was the quintessential outlaw, escaping prison twice and leading units in the expropriation of banks, including the infamous Nyack armored car heist in 1983 (an incident that served as a basis for the film Dead Presidents). Balagoon was also a humanist, who enjoyed painting, writing poetry and baking for his fellow inmates. However, it was Kuwasi’s identification as a queer anarchist that has sparked renewed interest in his life. “He was an anarchist in a black nationalist movement, he was queer in a straight dominated movement, he was a guerrilla fighter after it was “chic,” and he never backed down from his ideals, his beliefs, the struggle or him self. And he demanded to be seen not as a revolutionary icon, but as a person, beautiful and flawed,” said Walidah Imarisha, poet and one of the presenters at the Balagoon memorial.

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