Herman Ferguson, ¡Presente!

Herman Ferguson (right) protests for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom Harlem, N.Y., 2008.WW photo: Anne Pruden

Herman Ferguson (right) protests for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom Harlem, N.Y., 2008.
WW photo: Anne Pruden

His name was Herman Ferguson, and if you’re not dialed into the Black Nationalist Movement, the name may not ring a bell of recognition.

But to those aware of the Black Power Movement of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Herman Ferguson’s life, role and commitment ring like a bell in the night.

For Ferguson — often accompanied by his wife and comrade, Iyaluua Nehanda — joined Black groups that supported the fight for freedom. He joined several, but perhaps few had more historical significance than his joining of both the groups formed by Malcolm X after his painful break from the Nation of Islam: the Organization of African American Unity and the Muslim Mosque, Inc. He met Malcolm in the late 1950s, when he was still in the Nation, and became a staunch supporter thereafter.

In 1967, he and fellow members of the Jamaica Rifle and Pistol Club [in Queens, N.Y.], were arrested and charged with the planned assassination of two prominent Civil Rights leaders. After a conviction a year later, Ferguson fled the U.S., and he and his wife began a life in Guyana [three years later], working in the field of education.

They stayed there for 19 years and lived good lives. Ferguson could have retired with a government pension under his assumed name, “Paul Adams,” for he spent many years as an officer of the Guyana Defense Force.

But the call of home only got louder with time.

Ferguson said he missed his “family,” his “childhood friends” and “the Movement.”

His wife, Iyaluua, said, “I don’t think people really understand the nature of exile.” She explained, “Exile is death.”

So, Herman Ferguson and his wife returned to the U.S., where he knew a jail cell awaited him. But he did so, in part, because the weather had changed, in that the release of top-secret Cointelpro files revealed FBI skullduggery against Black and anti-war activists. Also, several prominent Black Panther figures [like the late Black Panther Party minister of information, Eldridge Cleaver] and the Weathermen [a white anti-imperialist group] had returned to the States.

He did three years, got out and hit the ground running, working on behalf of other imprisoned revolutionaries by organizing, speaking out and building support for such efforts. He and his wife gave deep and broad support to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, headquartered in New York.

For over 50 years he fought for the same ideas and principles that Malcolm supported: Black Nationalism, popular self-defense and Black s­elf-­determination.­

Now, after 93 years of life, Baba ­Herman Ferguson has returned to the ancestors. n