|Last week when I was driving and listening to KPFK (90.7 FM), I heard that Michael Zinzun passed away. I felt really
terrible because I haven't seen him for a couple of years and the last thing he said to me on the phone was visit by
the CAPA (Coalition Against Police Abuse / Community in Support of the Gang Truce) office. The radio announced
that they were planning a candle light vigil in Leimert Park. I got home and called his house to double check if this
was true. His wife told me that he passed away in his sleep on Sunday, July 9th.
I drove to Leimert Park on Crenshaw where there was a small crowd gathered supporting Michael Zinzun's family.
Michael’s kids and many elders were present. People were taking turns speaking. One lady, who appeared to be her
50's, held her fist up as she made a speech about Michael, encouraging us to continue his work. Another man, also
in his 50's, held a sign that featured Michaels picture with the words “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE” written on it.
Later on, Bloodhound arrived and I was really excited to see him as it's been years since we last met. We used to
hang out together, but eventually lost touch. One of the community organizers had a tear in her eye and told
Bloodhound and I that “the younger generation needs to keep the CAPA office going” and “to continue the work that
Michael was doing.” She looked at me saying, “…that goes for you too young man.” I didn't know what to say. That's
a big commitment and requires a lot of responsibility. I don't have that much training or experience as a good
I met Michael Zinzun a little over ten years ago. He invited me to the CAPA office, which is where we later held the
very first Solidarity festival. CAPA opened their office to us allowing our festival the space to offer workshops, open
discussions and live music. They even provided us with free veggie snacks, not to mention, the space was offered
for free. He shared with me the use of the CAPA office many times to organize meetings or just hang out. Michael
never asked for any money or donations.
At the CAPA office they regularly held meetings with families who have been victimized by police brutality and
terrorism. The office took action for them and was involved in winning numerous lawsuits against the LAPD (Los
Angeles Police Department). They helped struggling youth and gang members to get jobs screen-printing shirts in
the back dome room. They also led political education classes, computer training and much more. As an
experienced organizer, Michael would come out to speak at Punk benefit concerts that my friends and I organized.
Some people might remember him from the workshops he conducted during the early Solidarity Festivals that took
place at the old Koo’s Café location in Santa Ana or the Aus-Rotten and Anti-Product show during the Anti-
vivisection tour at the Aztlan Cultural Center in L.A. I went to his office many times to get advice on how to keep the
AGC (Alternative Gathering Collective) organized and strong.
We once had a meeting with him at Luna Sol Café (R.I.P.), which focused on Michaels organizing experiences
during the 60’s and 70’s. We wanted ideas on how to build and sustain a collective. He was a great teacher and he
was also my friend. In my free time I would visit him at the CAPA office and talk about anything. We could be funny or
serious and even explore personal relationship issues. I feel that, because of knowing Michael Zinzun, I met amazing
community organizers such as Bloodhound, Bilal Ali and Mabbie Settlage. These are people, who on numerous
occasions would come and speak or give workshops at the events that I would organize.
I don't remember everything that happened during that ten-year period of time, but what I'm trying to communicate
is that Michael worked with everyone, regardless of their racial, sexual, gender, spiritual or sub-cultural identity. He
worked with punk rockers, feminists, animal rights activists, anarchist, radical college students, youth, etc. This is the
side of Michael I got to see that others may not have known about.
One of the other memories I have of him that comes to mind was during the late 90's, when my old friend Justin
and I were arguing at his office. We were going to a rally in Watts that CAPA had organized and I thought it was a
bad idea to have an Anarchist Black Bloc in Watts. Justin disagreed, so we both asked for his opinion and he said
“BRING IT ON MAN!” When Michael would speak at punk shows it was like there was fire coming out of his mouth. He
was such a powerful speaker with a lot of anger and conviction in his voice and he was very confrontational and
loud. He would grab everyone’s attention. He was both book and street smart and well researched. Most of the time
he was talking about his own experiences.
On Saturday, July 15th, I attended Michael's funeral in Pasadena with members of COPWATCH Los Angeles. The
funeral was packed with elders. There was an open mic and, at times, the funeral reminded me of a rally. There
were all kinds of people present (Revolutionaries, Christians, Muslims, etc). People came from many different states
and countries (including Africa and Brazil). Some speakers had soft voices and talked about spirituality, some read
poems, some sang and some still had that angry, revolutionary voice for change. So many people said good things
about him and it seems as if they had lost someone important to humanity. Everyone had a different story to tell
about Michael. The common theme was that Michael loved working and fighting alongside oppressed peoples.
When one of the Panthers read the ten-point program, an old Panther next to me had his eyes closed and was
mouthing the words. He still memorized it after all these years. Near the end of this segment of the funeral, one of
the Panthers on the mic asked for all Panthers to stand up and the crowd applauded. They were in their 50's,
clothed in suits and ties. Everyone raised a clenched fist in the air and shouted “ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!”
These were original Black Panther Party members from the late 60's and early 70's.
Later on I went outside and talked to some of the original Panthers from Los Angeles who, many years back, had
been in a shoot out with the S.W.A.T. team and LAPD at their headquarters. They are still as militant as they were in
their youth and are organizing in their communities to achieve social change and revolution. They never stopped,
even as they got older.
Later on I introduced Cop Watch folks to CAPA Office members to network and work with each other. The only
thing is that so much unfinished paper work was left behind, but Michael's vision will go on and people will continue
where he left off, working towards a new world, free of oppression and exploitation.
- Jang Lee 7/15/ 2006 :(
|Bilal Ali giving a tour at the CAPA office. I filmed this in the late 90's.
|This is written by a CAPA member:
Michael Zinzun, a community organizer, is a former member of the Black Panther Party
for Self-Defense, a founding member of the National Black United Front, co-founder of
the Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA), and a founding member of the organization-
Community in Support of the Gang Truce- that achieved a truce between the Crips and
the Bloods in Watts. He also a founding member of the Police Watch and has
supported the organization as a board member, a community advisor and friend.
Michael is the father of six children and husband of Florence Zinzun a former member
of the Black Panther party. He is the son of an Apache father and an Africans-American
mother. He graduated from Blair High School in Pasadena and still resides there.
Michael is the moving force behind CAPA. Under Michael's direction and guidance,
CAPA has accumulated massive documentation concerning officer's involved shootings
and other police related issues. Among many other projects, the organization provides
counseling and support for victims of police crime. CAPA's offices are at 2824 South
Western Avenue in Los Angles where the doors although screened with steel meshing,
are always open to the community.
CAPA was the leading plaintiff in a lawsuit which exposed the unlawful police spying
against the law abiding community organizations and which culminated in the
disbanding of the infamous spy unit of the Los Angeles Police Department-the Public
Disorder and Intelligence Division. (That unit has been resurrected as the LAPD's Anti-
Terrorist Division), because of the lawsuit, the City was also required pay substantial
damages to the victims of the spying.
Michael has led several voter initiatives to establish a civilian review board to require
the LAPD to replace what has been historically an ineffective review process under the
auspices of the Los Angeles Police Commission. In 1992, he appeared before the
Christopher Commission and attempted to persuade the Chairman to include in its
plans for reforming the LAPD, the commission rejected his recommendation to include a
civilian review board.
Michael has also been the host and producer of the cable TV show" Message to the
Grassroots" which began airing in 1988 and has produced over 45 videos, including
"The L.A. Uprising, Police Abuse, The Life and Times of Paul Robeson, Crisis of
Cocaine. Michael has donated his own resources and time to inform and mobilize the
Michael has spoken in many cities across the United States and Europe, South America
and Africa on the issues of racism, police abuse, and the need to link local, national,
and international struggles against all forms of economic and social oppression.
Michael’s efforts against police misconduct have been selfless and courageous, as a
result of his protests, he has been arrested more than a dozen times and has suffered
server physical the loss of sight in one eye when he objected to the beating of a
homeless man by two Pasadena police officers who then turned on him.
When Michael ran for a seat as a council member in Pasadena, statements from the
LAPD officials libeled him. He then sued to redress the conspiracy to obstruct his right
to engage in the electoral process. He won a judgment from a jury for $3.8 million,
which the trial judge took away. Michael also has worked on many other programs to
help and serve the community of Southern Calif.
By the Staff of CAPA
*Note: Michael has implemented the Free Pest control program in LA as well as
Pasadena and have worked in over 3,000 homes to help kill pest that carry disease
and germs, his program is now being adopted as a pilot program by the Center for
Disease Control in Atlanta. Michael has a collection of videos about the historical
struggle for liberation in Southern California.
|Main Stream news on Michael Zinzun:
Channel 2 and KCAL 9 news: Click here
News video on Michael Zinzun: Click here
Los Angeles Times: Click here
Pasadena Weekly: Click here
|Michael Zinzun and I at the CAPA office in late 90's