On February 25, several hundred people in Baltimore gathered to celebrate the life of Marshall “Eddie” Conway, who died February 13 at age 76. Collective shouts of “All power to the people!” punctuated the event many times. It was a celebration not only of Eddie Conway, but of people’s struggles against racism and capitalism.
Conway spent 44 years in prison on a false charge of murdering a Baltimore cop in 1970 while he was a member of the Black Panther Party. As they had done across the United States, local police and federal agents had infiltrated the Panthers in Baltimore to undermine their political activity and try to destroy the Party. In 2014, an appeals court ruled that the judge in Conway’s case had given the jury improper instructions. Conway then returned to the Baltimore community.
Conway had dropped out of school in the 10th grade. While in prison, he earned three college degrees. He studied the writings of Malcolm X. He also organized with other prisoners in various ways, including a prisoner labor union, a mentoring program, and a library. In an interview following his release from prison, Conway said:
The whole time I have been incarcerated I have always been trying to continue to do the positive work that I joined the Black Panther Party to do. And that was to feed children, to help educate people, to help organize the community, to help build a better community…
As this quote shows, he was humble and knew that it would not be him alone, but him working and fighting alongside others, that would change things. After his release from prison, Conway continued to organize, supporting a number of community initiatives and mentoring young people. At the celebration of his life, one participant who knew him well said that Conway taught him that “hope is not a feeling, it’s a practice.” Another said that she remembered him as a revolutionary socialist. Others said in various ways that he had loved people, hated racism and capitalism, and was a fighter all his life. There was a strong feeling in the room that he would continue to inspire them and others as the struggle continues.