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You’ve got to be a little crazy if you want to be free

November 13, 2010

About a year a half ago six graduate students sat in cafe and talked about the need to form a workshop and space to think about ethnicity and race across disciplinary boundaries. Today, the workshop’s third semester,we had the former Black Panther Ashanti Alston deliver a key note. Students sat in between chairs, on the radiator, stood along the three walls, and listened from the hallway. Alston spoke about his time in the Black Panthers, the evolution of his political and intellectual thought in prison, visit to Chiapas, and his vision for a better tomorrow. While it is difficult and problematic to summarize, his main point was: “You’ve got to be a little crazy if you want to be free.” He insisted that to achieve freedom we need to think and act outside of the legal, social, and political paradgyms (Why respect a legal system that places black people behind bars). 

I left pensive. Hoping to enjoy my Friday night, but knowing that books were waiting. My compromise for staying in was to read about Slavery in New Spain in the 16th Century. In turns out that the Spanish Conquest-disease and war-left the colonies with a small indigenous population and thus without labor. They imported slaves, ni modo k se poncan a trabajar…These African Slaves weren’t down with being abused, overworked, or enslaved. They escaped and fled to the mountains and other abounded areas of Mexico where they formed secluded and autonomous communities. Yanga, a leader of one of these communities, has been quoted as saying that they escaped the “cruelty and treachery of the Spaniards who without any right, had become owners of their freedom.” (Colin Palmer, 129). Because these communities raided spanish property and freed other slaves, the Spaniards waged war. These fools, however, were unable to conquer the now freed, but recently enslaved Africans. They settled for giving their community autonomy…..A little crazy, a little daring, but ultimately free….A good Friday night….

[For more on Ashanti Alston see: ]

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2010 6:00 am

    “Perhaps the most radical attack on slavery during the period was one which came from a prison cell in Mexico City in 1655. It was written by Don Guillén de Lampart…..using the sheets in his prison cell for paper”

  2. November 13, 2010 6:02 am

    He said: “Tell me, my faithful Americans….why do you buy and sell men like beasts? Why do you enslave those who confess the name of Christ? Why do you buy Ethiopians agaist the law of God, while you do not wish to be bought by them?”

  3. nick permalink
    November 13, 2010 8:40 pm

    this might be a little off topic, politically anyway, but i just watched breakfast at tiffany’s again. i think thats the main point of the movie. you have to be a little crazy to be free. the crazy is both a liability and a an asset.
    “you have to be a little crazy to be free”. i should get that tattooed on my butt.

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