Michael “Cetewayo” Tabor was born in Harlem in 1946. Like many young men of his time and place, Michael developed an affection for heroin. A dope addict before the tender age of twenty, Tabor discovered the Black Panthers and turned away from a life of drug use and abuse. At the time of his wrongful arrest, Tabor had risen to Captain in the New York branch of the Panthers. Tabor and 21 others—soon to be known as the “Panther 21”—were arrested and charged with conspiracy to kill several police officers and bomb several government buildings, including four police stations and the Bronx Botanical Gardens.
In a courtroom circus that included a District Attorney reading from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and a screening of The Battle of Algiers, eight months came and went. At the end of the longest and most expensive trial in New York State history to date, the jury foreman spoke the words “not guilty” 156 times. Those that stayed, were acquitted. Tabor and his comrade Richard Moore had already fled to Algeria during the trial to join Eldridge Cleaver. In 1972, Tabor moved to Zambia with his wife where he spent the rest of his life as a radio host and writer on politics and culture. Through his dying days in 2010, Tabor refused to again set foot on United States soil.
Before Tabor fled, however, he published a pamphlet entitled: “Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide.” The scathing, often prophetic critique of rising drug use in urban ghettos is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the complicated relationship between nonwhite urbanites, drugs, and policing. In sum, Tabor likens the heroin problem to other examples of the black community’s political oppression. To fight this reality, Tabor called for community development, self-determination, and self-help. Most importantly, Tabor demanded local control over policing. With respect to local control, Tabor lamented a sad reality: “It is a tragedy that in New York the greatest gains made in the realm of Black community control have been made by Black racketeers, numbers-game bankers and dope dealers, by the Black illegal capitalists.”