Rest in power Comrade Tongogara

Comrade Tongogara (born Danny Morrell), one of Britain’s staunchest and most outspoken supporters of Mao Zedong and friend of socialist China, passed away on May 11 2023. Born in Jamaica, he spent most of his adult life in north London, a life he devoted to the struggle for black liberation, socialism and communism, working tirelessly and supporting every progressive struggle. His belief in Mao’s concept and practice of the mass line made him many friends and comrades across a wide range of revolutionary and progressive organizations and campaigns, among different communities, and people from various walks of life. Alongside Marx, Lenin and Mao, he was equally inspired by the struggles of the Jamaican people, of the African liberation movements and of such African-American revolutionaries as George Jackson.

In 1970, he was a founding member of the Black Unity and Freedom Party (BUFP), whose newspaper was Black Voice. In a paper presented to the 15th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy (WAPE), hosted by Shanghai’s International Studies University in December 2021, the editors of this website cited the BUFP as one of the organizations that, “collectively constituted the mass proletarian base for China friendship and solidarity in Britain.” 

In his last years, Tongogara especially devoted his energies to the Free Mumia Campaign UK, which he launched at a meeting in Brixton, south London, in 2008. One of the most high-profile political prisoners in the United States, Mumia Abu-Jamal, a revolutionary journalist who first joined the Black Panther Party in 1968 at age 14, was originally sentenced to death on trumped up charges in 1982 and has been held in US prison hell holes ever since.

On being informed of Tongogara’s passing, FoSC co-editor Keith Bennett, who had been his friend and comrade since 1976, wrote in part:

“He was a staunch and constant supporter of Mao Zedong and his work embodied and bore testimony to Comrade Mao’s profound and powerful observation that the evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of black people and the trade in black people, and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the black people.

“Tongogara’s life and work helped bring that day closer. He will be remembered and honored.”

The below article was originally published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and was written by comrades in the Mumia UK Campaign.

`Brother Tongogara (born Danny Morrell) passed away peacefully in Barnet Hospital on Thursday 11 May 2023. Born in Jamaica in 1942 on 6 February (he was proud to share a birthday with Bob Marley), he lived in Tottenham, London, for most of his adult life. A long-time friend and supporter of many campaigns across London and internationally, Comrade Tongogara will be well known to many FRFI readers. He was an untiring campaigner, omnipresent at events such as Africa Liberation Day, May Day, taking political messages to Notting Hill Carnival, picketing the Home Office and outside the BBC for Irish prisoners. He supported the free Leonard Peltier campaign as well as regularly protesting outside the US embassy and the high court.

In 1970 he was a founding member of Black Unity and Freedom Party which later became the African People’s Liberation Organisation in 1998. In the 1990s he supported the work of the Colin Roach Centre in Hackney, campaigning against deaths in police custody and highlighting the racist violence of the state.  He also brought learning to the movement, organising lectures with Caribbean Labour Solidarity, and celebrating Claudia Jones with an annual event. Alongside political action he believed in political study and shared liberation literature, taking books by George Jackson, Karl Marx, Assata Shakur, Mao Tse-Tung and Mumia Abu-Jamal to events and street stalls.

In 2008 he convened a meeting in Brixton to launch the Free Mumia Campaign UK and became an untiring campaigner and spokesperson. He brought many people into the campaign when Mumia was still facing the death penalty and kept the campaign going until the present day. Along with others, Tongogara set the political tone of the campaign which has always been anti-imperialist and anti-racist.

Tongogara took the Free Mumia banner, often alone, far and wide, including outside banks, train stations and Lloyds building in the City of London, demanding the release of Mumia. He was a powerful speaker and a tireless engaging street activist who had the ability to connect people and bring new people into the movement. His kind and principled approach, together with his determination and courage has been an example for many others.

This is a glimpse into the life and legacy of comrade Tongogara. All who knew Brother T can remember with a combination of joy and gratitude what he brought and gave to the struggle for class and race liberation over exemplary decades. May he rest in power.

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