Each One, Teach One: A Tribute to Michael Zinzun

A series of eulogies from the funeral of Michael Zinzun — the prominent Civil Rights activist — examine his life and impact on the world. This is done in the context of the Black Panther Party, as the Party's manifesto is read out, each of the ten demands paralleling some part of Zinzun's life or personal creed. The stories are truly amazing, and to position them within such a context is chillingly adept.

00:00Copy video clip URL The film opens with a title card; “EACH ONE TEACH ONE: The Legacy of Michael Zinzun,” it reads.

00:15Copy video clip URL At Zinzun’s memorial service, a man stands at the pulpit and asks: “Who was Michael Zinzun?” Michael Torrance’s speech is shown, in which he says that Zinzun was “bigger than a body” — that he was “an idea come to life.” Torrance noted how Zinzun walked hit walk too. A couple more men speak on Zinzun’s life, noting how he’d been a role model when it came to community activism.

00:50Copy video clip URL A woman speaks about how gentle Zinzun was, and his love for nature.

01:05Copy video clip URL The tape cuts to Michael Zinzun, who introduces himself as a community activist with a commitment to social change for “all people.” He then explains that he believes that the U.S. should distribute its wealth across the world because America has “exploited” the rest of the world in order to attain such luxury as it has today.

01:30Copy video clip URL In some older footage, a poster for the Black Panther Party is shown, while a voiceover proclaims a desire for Freedom.

01:45Copy video clip URL Brad Carson, a Los Angeles probation officer speaks haltingly with emotion on how Zinzun helped him to find jobs and create change in the criminal justice system — change which included a $45 million lawsuit on behalf of at-risk youth.

03:15Copy video clip URL In the same voiceover as before, the need for full employment is declared. “We believe that the federal government is responsible for giving every man and woman employment or a guaranteed income,” the narrator says. The narrator goes further, proposing that if capitalist America cannot meet these demands, then “means of production be placed in the community,” so that they may be organized to employ all people.

0:45Copy video clip URL Isaac Richard begins speaking and gives an anecdote about how Zinzun fought to turn the ‘fake money’ change that was formerly given for to those who used food stamps into real change — quarters and dimes and such.

04:08Copy video clip URL The narrator returns, proclaiming the debt which is owed to Black people: 40 acres and two mules. He says that they will accept that restitution in modern-day equivalent currency. He then uses the actions of Nazi Germany as evidence, noting that they paid reparations after killing six million Jews, while Americans have killed 50 million Black people. He calls the demand a “modest” one.

05:00Copy video clip URL Zinzun, driving a car, says that he’s sitting in the midst of “millions of dollars made off this community,” and bemoans the current way it’s treated: as a dumping ground or a stepping stone.

05:18Copy video clip URL Margaret Prescod reads a passage, holding back tears, which explores the impact Zinzun had on his community. Her speaking is followed by a woman noting the fierceness of his advocacy, who tells of how Zinzun lost an eye to a police beating — and yet did not give up the fight against that very evil.

05:55Copy video clip URL A man speaks about the first time that people ever protested at the Parker Center, noting that Zinzun was in their midst.

06:20Copy video clip URL Zinzun tells an anecdote from Compton where two Samoan men were shot over 19 times in their backs, as well as one in West Covina where a Black man was shot 28 times in his sleep by a SWAT team. He explains how outrageous it is that, in light of these happenings, there has been no effort to hold anybody responsible. Furthermore, he says, it is outrageous for the people who rise up against that sort of injustice to be vilified.

06:50Copy video clip URL The narrator returns and begins enumerating another demand, this time for proper housing. He advocates cooperatives as a solution that would allow the government to achieve this goal.

07:10Copy video clip URL A man speaks in an excerpt from Message to the Grassroots and explores a program in which over 10,000 houses were sprayed for roaches. He uses that example to advocate for all communities to be able to ask for and get that sort of help

07:30Copy video clip URL Isaac Richard speaks on Zinzun’s intellectual tendencies, saying that he was a “Marxist Leninist dialectical materialist.” Zinzun is then shown on tape introducing his library, saying that he thinks it’s vital for a community — the Black community — to have access to their history. Richard goes on to tell of how impactful Zinzun was to his education.

08:35Copy video clip URL Paul Scott speaks at the pulpit, telling of how Zinzun worked hard to keep him out of trouble. He explains that he was illiterate, but that Zinzun would use history to help make this point.

09:00Copy video clip URL The narrator returns with a demand for proper education, which “exposes the true nature of this decadent American society.” The narrator emphasizes the importance of “knowledge fo self,” and learning true history.

09:30Copy video clip URL Twilight Bey speaks, noting the greater calling which everybody has. He talks about Zinzun’s emphasis on truth, and how speaking that truth should have precedence over other more material pursuits. Bey explores Zinzun’s emphasis on the dialectic and thanks Zinzun for opening his eyes to the world outside of America. He says he has traveled “to carry on the message and power of [Zinzun’s] message.”

10:35Copy video clip URL Margaret Prescod returns and speaks about the global nature of Zinzun’s work. Her comment is followed by Pierre Labossiere, who notes that the funeral here in America was accompanied by a march in Port-au-Prince, in Haiti. He says that the organizers of the march know Zinzun well, especially as he and they were united in the fight to return President Aristide to the island.

11:40Copy video clip URL An interview with Ossie Davis and Michael Zinzun is shown, and Davis speaks about how Malcolm X and gone to Africa in an attempt to unite Africans living in the African continent and African-Americans living here in the U.S. so that the two groups might apply pressure via the U.N. upon U.S. policy. Davis explores what may have been if that dream had become true, saying that President Aristide would have been swiftly restored.

12:30Copy video clip URL The video cuts back to Prescod, who unfurls a Haitian flag from the pulpit. She says that it represents the first African republic.

12:35Copy video clip URL The narrator returns and makes his sixth demand: all Black men be exempt from military service, as they are being forced to fight for a country led by a “white, racist government.”

13:05Copy video clip URL In a CNN broadcast from a Pasadena town hall meeting, a man lays into the “jingoistic” rhetoric of many Congressional leaders and President Bush’s lack of justification for war. His comments are followed by some from Don Wheeldon, who says that Blacks have always been over-represented in America’s wars — and underrepresented in the policy that shapes those wars.

13:45Copy video clip URL Bobbie Hodges speaks at the same event, saying that the reason Black men join the military at such a high rate is that the only other options available to them are either illegal or deadly. Anne McDermott, the CNN journalist, then says that there will soon be a vote amongst the assembled peoples on whether to support a war in the Mideast. She predicts a “resounding no” from this particular community.

14:20Copy video clip URL Zinzun returns, saying that what he sees is a riot — an uprising — against injustice as the camera shows the destruction of buildings around him.

14:40Copy video clip URL The narrator returns with demand number seven, which is that police brutality finds an immediate end. He advocates Black self-defense groups which can defend against these sorts of attacks and goes further in saying that all Black people should arm themselves for self-defense.

15:10Copy video clip URL Zinzun returns again, saying that a community-controlled police force is a must. The narrator returns quickly, saying that all Black men held in prisons and jails should be released immediately due to the unfair nature of their trials — his eight demand.

15:35Copy video clip URL Paul Scott explains that he was sentenced to life in 1980, and remembered how Zinzun taught him that he was able to handle whatever life threw at him. He says that he used that sentiment as motivation for learning to read and write.

16:00Copy video clip URL The narrator returns with number nine: that all Black people be tried by a jury of their peers — a jury selected from their Black community. He reads an excerpt from the 14th Amendment as justification. Scott then returns, speaking from the pulpit, saying that he watched as his own son was born in the days he was beginning his sentence. That same son, he said, would join him in prison some 19 years later, and he says that it was in those moments that he was reminded of how Zinzun emphasized the importance of being a good example within your community. He says that he took that and, for four years, was the best father he could be to his son.

17:55Copy video clip URL Isaac Richard says that he met Zinzun during the fight for school integration in the 1970s. He tells of how he fought against the segregation of Pasadena schools in the 1970s.

18:30Copy video clip URL Another man speaks from the pulpit, saying that Zinzun was an exceptional representative of the people. He is followed by Zinzun explaining the changes going on in Namibia, and how those have impacted the people of that nation.

19:40Copy video clip URL A man speaks on how Zinzun helped him through a time of burnout after he fell out of touch with the goals of the Black Panther party and the broader Civil Rights movement. He is followed by a man who proclaims just how exceptional Zinzun was. “This was a time to absorb,” he says, saying he did just that many times.

21:25Copy video clip URL A new man begins speaking from the pulpit, saying it is now “up to us to carry on this man’s legacy,” and gives the example how he saw figures of Black history displayed in Zinzun’s home and was amazed at how knowledgeable he was.

22:00Copy video clip URL The Black Panther narrator returns, with his tenth demand. In it, he lists off “land, bread, housing, clothing, justice, and peace” — as well as a U.N.-supervised referendum, in which only Black people can participate, to determine the “national destiny” of such people. The narrator then goes to quote the Declaration of Independence, using its words to contextualize the demands he has made. As he continues to read, the film shows scenes from Black Panther rallies and assemblies.

23:45Copy video clip URL Zinzun returns, saying that he is not a gangster. Instead, he posits, the gangsters are the ones in power who are seeking to build more prisons and sell more drugs to Black people. The video then cuts back to Isaac Richard who speaks about Zinzu’s ability “to use symbols to make a statement.” Richard gives the examples of his hair and the way he acted as perhaps making more of an impact than his actual words — and that being just what Michael wanted.

24:30Copy video clip URL João H. Costa Vargas speaks from the pulpit, saying that Michael was a man all about revolution. He notes that Michael’s view on revolution is that it is permanent and that it is global; he gives the example of the Zinzun center in Brazil that battled against police brutality. He notes that the center was also about “capacitating” the next generation of Black people so that they might put an end to the years of Black genocide. “It was above all about love,” Vargas says, about the ultimate goal of Zinzu. He likens Zinzu’s sense of love to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”

26:15Copy video clip URL Zinzu shows an incredible piece of woodwork to the camera, which is an entire chain made from a single block of wood. He says that the piece represents life, happiness, and struggle. He notes how they are all interconnected — inseparable.

26:45Copy video clip URL A title slide plays, listing Michael Zinzun’s name, and the years of his life: February 14, 1949, to July 9, 2006. The credits and acknowledgments then roll. The film fades to black on the words “forward ever, backward never.”

27:10Copy video clip URL Tape ends.


1 Comment

  1. Tom Weinberg says:

    so powerful resonant and important

    compulsory viewing for any of us who think somebody else will take care of it.
    scary how little has changed

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