Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell is definitely a legend in the national prison system. His a revolutionary ties to the Black Panther Party bring his original 1965 rape charge (that caught him three years to life in prison) into question. Pinell, of Nicaraguan descent, was a student of Panthers’ field marshal, George Jackson. Pinell also played a role in the growth of Jackson and W.L. Nolen’s Black Guerilla Family (BGF), an organization formed to “organize Black prisoners against racist violence and prison conditions in the 60s and 70s.” The the BGF is classified as a criminal gang, members consider the organization more political in scope. In fact, on HugoPinell.com, it is reported that BGF members have been carrying out hunger strikes since 2011, so that their name gets taken off of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) gangs list. Pinell was instrumental in the drafting of the “Agreement to End Hostilities,” a call for violence to end among different groups of prisoners in the California penal system.
It was Pinell’s action in 1971 that scored him the infamy, though (the same year he reportedly killed a guard at Soledad). He was a member of the notorious San Quentin Six, the collective charged with causing an uprising in San Quentin State Prison and attempting to escape, leaving six White people (inmates and guards) dead. Jackson was killed as he palmed a .32 caliber pistol. The trial of Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Larry Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez was billed as “The Longest trial Ever,” by Time Magazine, lasting 16 months and costing over $2 million. Pinell was charged with slitting the throats of two guards, and went on to serve 45 years in solitary confinement, in various facilities. From the hole, Pinell still managed to work as an incarcerated activist. He had three decades of good behavior and no write-ups, according to attorney Keith Wattley. Recently, Pinell was released from segregation at Pelican Bay. He was transferred to Folsom State Prison where he was placed in general population, on a cell-block housing high-security inmates. On August 12th, at the age of 71, Pinell was stabbed to death on the Folsom yard. The killing sparked a 20-minute riot on the yard, involving 70 inmates. 29 inmates were injured, and out of that number 11 were taken to the hospital for care (5 admitted).
The LA Times implies that Pinell’s killers were frustrated BGF members, painting Pinell as a violent prisoner with many enemies who attacked him. As always, there are two sides to every coin. Wattley, along with Pinell’s family and friends, speculates that Pinell’s death was an assassination. Knowing his history as a revolutionary (and killer of two officers), it is believed that Pinell was a target of the CDCR. “The only mystery is, why after all these attacks and threats against him, they would send him out to be killed,” surmised Wattley.
Only time will tell what will come of Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell’s slaying. Check out some words from Pinell below:
It’s been a long journey, one that will last for a lifetime and, altho it’s been really hard and trying, I’ve kept growing and growing. No matter how hard the times and experiences, I always remember that it is 10 or 20 times harder for billions out there. Heck, it’s much harder for the poor, the workers and the average person (citizen or not) in this country. It doesn’t minimize my situation or make it easier for me, but it keeps me grounded to not be complaining, bothering, or burdening anyone for much of anything. Living within my self reliant principles and constantly building the New Man has allowed me to stay humble, considerate, and I’ve found a personal freedom which cannot be deterred or taken away. I hope you can understand me, but we can always keep conversating, exchanging and being good company, providing you want to stay around.
I know what you mean about what it would take for so many people to change for the purpose of building a great beautiful world, but we have to encourage people to do so. That, no matter what else they are doing, they must be working internally, growing and evolving. You know as well as I do that beautiful people will make the beautiful world society we all want to live in. It will take time, generations, but we have to be transforming from within ourselves or else these terrible imbalances will continue to prevail in which a few million have the most while billions suffer and die without a chance to live.
Of course, you might not be able to get others to really self change, but you can keep on growing, right along with me, and you can be creating your own personal freedom and peaceful place. Dying is too easy. We are all gonna die, sooner or later, one way or another, so it’s all about living and how well we live the living ways we’ve chosen, control and are accountable for.