In October 1970 Felix "Pete" O'Neal, Jr. - then head of the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party - was arrested on a charge of transporting a gun across state lines. He allegedly had carried a shotgun from Kansas City, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri.
Free while appealing his conviction and facing a four-year prison sentence, O'Neal fled to Africa - first to Algeria and, later, to Tanzania, where he still lives in exile with his wife, Charlotte O'Neal.
Former Kansas City Star columnist Steve Penn examines O'Neal's life and accomplishments in a discussion of his book Case for a Pardon: The Pete O'Neal Storyon Friday, August 23, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10thSt.
Penn will be introduced by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a cousin of O'Neal's.
O'Neal's four decades of exile have been eventful. In Tanzania he has been an activist, community elder, and founder of the Future Leaders Children's Home based in the town of Arusha.
O'Neal is the co-founder of the United African Alliance Community Center, which provides the community with free art, music, film, and educational opportunities. The UAACC also serves as a hostel for travelers and has been visited by several celebrities, American politicians, study abroad programs, students, documentary film makers, and artists.
Efforts have been underway for years to overturn O'Neal's conviction based on alleged improprieties by the prosecution that denied him a fair trial. Penn's book brings attention to a petition directed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama for a pardon for O'Neal.
Such a pardon would allow him to return to this country. Many members of O'Neal's family remain in Kansas City.
"I continue to be in a state of revolt against the inequities that exist in the United States of America," O'Neal has said. "And oddly enough, I feel that makes me an American patriot of the highest order."
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th and Baltimore. RSVP at kclibrary.org  or call 816.701.3407.