Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sekou Odinga: My Letter to UC Irvine Chancellor et al

Gary Fouse

Image result for sekou odinga
Sekou Odinga

Reference is made to my postings on the February 10 speaking appearance of Sekou Odinga aka 
Nathaniel Burns at UC Irvine on February 10.

On February 19, I sent the below email to UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman, Vice Chancellor Thomas 
Parham, Dean of the School of Humanities Georges van den Abbeele, and Chair of the African-
American Studies Dept. Bridget Cooks.

Dear Chancellor Gillman et al, 
I am writing to express my dismay at the recent speaking appearance of Sekou 
Abdullah Odinga aka Nathaniel Burns at UCI on February 10, 2016, sponsored by 
the African American Studies Dept. and the School of Humanities. More than that, 
I am outraged at the false and misleading biographical description of Odinga 
that appeared on the School of Humanities website. 
Let me state at the outset that I am fully aware that Odinga has served his 
sentence and has the right to speak in public just as the African American 
Studies Dept. has the right to invite him as a speaker. Yet, as a retired law 
enforcement officer with nearly thirty years of experience (US Army Military 
Police, US Customs, and Drug Enforcement Administration) I wonder why this 
particular speaker was chosen. Had he come, expressed remorse at his past, and 
offered it as advice for young people not to make his mistakes, that would be 
one thing. While I was not present at this event, given his recent speeches 
since his release, which I have reviewed, I think it is safe to say he did not. 
Here is how the School of Humanities advertised Mr Odinga: 
"Sekou Abdullah Odinga grew up in Jamaica, Queens-New York in a family of nine. 
He is a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.  He was inspired by 
the revolutionary principles of Malcolm X when he joined the Organization of 
Afro-American Unity, followed later by the Black Panther Party and the Black 
Liberation Army. He is a Muslim, a citizen of the Republic of New Afrika and for 
thirty-three years was a U.S. held political prisoner of war. In 2009, Sekou 
reached his mandatory release date for his federal conviction in connection to 
the Liberation of Assata Shakur - living in exile in Cuba - and was "paroled" to 
the New York State prison system. After five years, he won a parole hearing and 
was released on parole on November 25th, 2014 from the New York State sentence." 
First of all, I don't know where the Republic of New Afrika is located, and 
secondly, Mr Odinga was not a US political prisoner of war. Thirdly, I find it 
curious that a prison break would be called a "liberation". At any rate, here 
are the facts of Mr Odinga's incarceration: 
First of all, I think the sponsors of this event have an obligation to fully 
present the background of the speaker. Again, I was not present, and perhaps, 
those who introduced Odinga to the audience did, in fact, describe his 
connections to the 1981 Brinks robbery that left  two police officers and a 
Brinks guard dead. 
Secondly, in reference to the above bio listed on the School of Humanities 
website, I would like to ask the following: 
Is it the position of the African Studies Dept. that Odinga was a US political 
prisoner of war? 
Is it the position of the School of Humanities that Odinga was a US political 
prisoner of war? 
Is it the position of UC Irvine that Odinga was a US political prisoner of war? 
Again, I am fully cognizant of the First Amendment, which I hold dear. However, 
I think universities, while allowing controversial figures to speak their views, 
need to consider whether they are knowingly or unknowingly putting their own 
imprimatur on those views. 
Thank you for your attention. 
Gary Fouse 
Adjunct teacher 
DEA retired 


I wanted to give the addressees ample time to respond to my (3) questions in the above email 
before posting this. As of today, I have received no response. If I do receive a response I will 
post it. In the absence of a response, I must assume that the answer to those three question is 

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