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Beaten not broken: The Life & Times of a former Black Panther

Other | Thursday 1st June 2017 | Patience

Born and raised in Baltimore in the 60's Conway is no stranger to the severe discrimination and prejudice many black people faced during that time.

Forced to deal with hostile working environments, and inspired by Malcolm X's autobiography, Conway joined the Baltimore Blank Panther Party in 1969. From there, Conway worked with other BPP members to tackle police brutality in Baltimore.

Our man Thomas Barlow was lucky enough to meet up with the man himself, "I was being kept waiting for a meeting that was being pushed back and pushed back - to keep me entertained I was introduced to Eddie." 

"Four hours flew by as we talked about the state of the world, strategies for change, building power, avoiding addiction and our respective families and backgrounds. Only as our time together was drawing to a close did we start talking about how Eddie ended up in prison in the first place."
 

A year after Conway joined the BPP, in 1970, two police officers were shot in West Baltimore by three men, and sadly one officer passed away. A couple of blocks away from the crime scene, Officer Nolan reported chasing after someone who eventually outran him.

Two days later Conway was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder, with no physical evidence against him other than Nolan's word, who claimed that he saw someone who looked like Conway running into an alley at night.  

Jack Johnson Jr. & James Powell, members of the Black Panther Party were also arrested several blocks from where the officers were shot, and later on, Johnson was promised immunity if he testified against Conway. Further incriminating him in the shooting.

The prosecution went on to gather more evidence against Conway by using the testimony of Charles Reynolds, Conway's cellmate. Reynolds claimed that he had heard Conway confessing to the crime, and after giving his testimony he was granted favourable recommendation to the 'Michigan Parole'.

Conway was sentenced to prison for 30 plus years and "some 21 Panthers, former members, and close community activists" were also arrested in that time period.

After spending 44 years in prison, on March the 4th 2014, Eddie was released!

New evidence came out which showed that his case was one of the many that were "invalid" due to "faulty jury instructions."  Even though his conviction still stands, Conway was given freedom under "arrangement with prosecutors."

Since leaving prison Conway went on to describe to Barlow what life is like for him now, "I've had my first drink in 27 years just this week. I didn't want to take sleeping pills and I keep waking up at 3.30 every morning."

"In prison, they come round every morning at around that time and they grab you and wake you up.  They do this across the whole prison and it takes about an hour, so you can't get back to sleep because of the rattling of the bars and the yelling. After 44 years I can't sleep a full night."

Like many unsung heroes before him, Conway now aims to give back to the community with charitable works such as educating young people and helping his community in any way he can.

However, Conway's story is far from finished. One of his goals is to climb Kilimanjaro and stay at the ex-Black Panther camp at the base of the mountain. If you want to support the man, and give him the chance to leave out his dream, drop a pound or more on his go fund me page! 

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