That’s why I read this book (and all others). This particular one was written by Gloria Clark Jackson, the sister of Mark Clark. It’s a short book. Just over 100 pages. The focus is on a sister providing her version of who her brother was. This part of the book was essentially important to me because historically, Mark Clark is mentioned mostly as the person who was murdered by Chicago, Illinois, U.S., police along with Chairman Fred Hampton on December 4, 1969. Besides that, not much about Mark Clark is known and/or discussed. This book by his sister helps fill in much of the void. She clarifies that Clark was the Deputy Minister of Defense for the Peoria, Illinois, Black Panther Party branch. Most people outside of Illinois who have heard of Peoria most likely know the town due to it being the birthplace of comedian/actor Richard Pryor. As a result, it was refreshing to learn about Clark’s development in Peoria and his uncompromising commitment to become a part of the Black Panther Party’s militant advance towards challenging the injustices against African people.
Gloria Clark Jackson does a strong job illustrating the dedicated and commitment of Mark Clark, even admitting that he was the driving force towards encouraging her to join the Black Panther Party in Peoria which she did, and participate in its daily work to serve the African community. She also provides valuable insight into Mark Clark’s focus on supporting the work Hampton and others were carrying out in Chicago and how Clark spent much time in Chicago working closely with Hampton to ensure he had the dedicated people around him to support the enormous work Hampton was engaged in. According to Clark Jackson, during this time, Clark and Hampton developed a close comradery/friendship. And, from this relationship, Clark Jackson expresses how Clark saw the need to move to Chicago to serve as a close confidante to Hampton. Probably the strongest element of the book was Clark Jacksons recounting the atmosphere surrounding the Black Panther Party in 1969. The constant police repression which included two physical confrontations between the Panthers and police where death resulted. Clark Jackson conveys that her and Mark’s mother was extremely concerned about Clark planning to move to Chicago, and she begged Mark not to go. Ironically, it was the family that drove Clark to Chicago with his bags packed. Clark Jackson retells how when they dropped Clark off he told them that no matter what, he loved them before he walked off, never looking back. Unfortunately, this would be the last time the Clark family saw Mark alive.
The personal touch of Clark Jackson’s story was a welcome sight. Whether intentional or not, it reaffirmed the foundation of revolutionary work being rooted in love and a commitment to justice. Not anger and a thirst for retaliation as is often conveyed and incorrectly assumed about revolutionary organizers. That warm and positive manifestation of revolutionary work is one that needs to be reinforced in every narrative shared about revolutionary organizers. Since the book focused heavily on Clark Jackson’s recollection of her brother, and not the political program of the Black Panther Party, the only critique I have for the book is actually related to that reality. Many Black Panthers haven’t engaged in organizational radical politics since the 1970s. Although Clark Jackson doesn’t disclose her current engagement, based on her pronouncements about current conditions (being framed from the standard liberal bourgeoisie perspective of “our government” and police reform, etc.), its my bet the characterization of retiring from active radical struggle applies to her as well. As a result, although she makes a strong attempt to convey Mark Clark as a committed warrior for justice, the loss of her brother and the subsequent denial of justice afforded to her family, the Hampton family, and all families of our liberation fighters, there is still the understandable, yet unproductive, aura of regret apparent in the book in connection to Mark’s involvement in the Panther party. Of course, no person should be killed at 22, especially due to terrorist oppression from a backward state apparatus, but the inescapable reality is until we gain a consciousness and commitment to struggle against this empire, on a mass and consistently organized basis, we will continue to suffer losses on all levels. Any of our casualties from the Black Panther Party or any liberation movement should be seen as people who should be honored for doing so. Not lost lives who died unnecessarily. This isn’t to say that was the message in Clark Jackson’s book. It wasn’t. The point here is the capitalist system has perfected its propaganda through its instruments of indoctrination like “Veterans Day” and that worthless national anthem being played everywhere. As a result, the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops who have died in war fighting for this backward country – deaths that certainly could and should have been avoided – are instead generally thought of as honorable sacrifices to maintain freedom (a freedom that of course doesn’t exist). If the framers of imperialism who have no material basis to justify their terrorist violence worldwide, have the capacity to frame their efforts as honorable, certainly we should figure out how to do the same for our soldiers who, unlike U.S. troops, have justifiable reason to be honored and considered heroic.
As with any book, we encourage you to read “Mark Clark – Soul of a Panther” because political education is an absolute necessity at all times. Far too many people are utterly confused simply because their only exposure to any information about our struggles is being generated by the entities who profit from our oppression. Mark Clark is without question a brave solder who died defending the struggle he was committed to. He is a true veteran of our struggle for justice and human forward progress. He should be remembered that way by all of us.