Last month, Sacramento Black Panther Party chapter founder Charles L. Brunson, known as Esutosin Omowale Osunkoya, died at age 76 of complications from COVID-19.
Brunson had entered UC Davis Medical Hospital with his wife Margo Rose-Brunson on April 1st, where both were diagnosed with the virus. Rose-Brunson recovered, and was released two days after her husband’s death on April 15th. Before his passing, she was able to visit his hospital room while wearing a hazmat suit to say goodbye.
“He smiled, he laughed,” commented his widow in an interview, referring to her husband as ‘an educator’. “Whatever the conversation would be, he could participate. He could tell you. He had a history.”
“Our beloved Comrade, Brother and Friend has lost his battle with the COVID-19 virus and joined the ancestors,” reads an image shared in tribute to Brunson on Twitter by Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale.
“He was an amazing, amazing person,” remarks former Black Panther and artist Atkinsanya Kambon. “I was proud to have known him.”
Kambon describes Brunson as an “amazing, heroic kind of guy” who was “pretty much responsible for how well-organized the Sacramento chapter of the Black Panther party was.”
“When I look at all the other chapters in the country, I think Sacramento had the baddest chapter,” he says. “There’s a famous picture of all these Panther women with the big ol’ afros and fists clenched in the air, with their mouths open, chanting – those are Sacramento Panthers. See, people don’t know that, they use that photograph in everything, but those are sisters from right here in Sacramento.”
“[Brunson] set an example so anybody could follow, Kambon emphasizes. “So there were guys out there with guns: he’d go out in-between the guns and open his hands up and break them up. I’ve seen it. They’d be shooting at each other and I’d be afraid – ‘hey, what if one of them shoots me?’ But he’d get out there and he’d put his hands up and he’d face full-frontal and try to get them to stop and say ‘calm down, calm down, brothers don’t fight brothers.’”
“He was the one who made me understand what it meant to serve the people, what it meant to put your life on the line for our people, you know, to be a servant of the people – that’s one of the things that I learned from him, and mostly I learned it by his example,” says Kambon.
“That’s one of the things that he taught me, is that practice is the criterion for the truth,” he adds. “You know a person by the things that they do, not the things that they say.”
Brunson is now buried at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, after a small funeral was reportedly held.