Bobby Seale – still alive

‘Still Alive’ is a fairly nascent series I have been doing for years.  Too often, we only stop to realize and appreciate amazing people after they died.  I have tried this here, here, and here.  Let’s not wait that long, shall we?

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That picture above isn’t Bobby, it is Huey.  He is important.  Huey and Bobby are the closest our culture has to Nelson Mandela.  We aren’t going to talk about Huey, though.  Huey really did the heavy lifting.  However, he is tough to lionize since we know he killed a lot of people… personally.  So if this is a story about of Bobby… why the picture of Huey?  Because it is a great fucking picture.

Bobby Seale is still alive.  You don’t know that name, but you need to.  Bobby is a founding member of the Black Pathers.  They were a militant black right’s group from San Francisco. ‘Isn’t that a black supremacy group?  Where they terrorists?  No, you racist.  They began as a free range legal activist group.  See, in the late 60s (like everywhere, and every time in America) black folk were getting pulled over and harassed.  For being black.  Huey would follow the cops around, and when they pulled someone over, Huey would get out, too.  When the cops began harassing or beating these black motorists… Huey stood there with a shotgun in one hand a law book in the other.

Let’s just for a minute and realize how great that image is.

He would shout to these motorists ‘you don’t have to answer that’. And stuff like that.  As word got around, their numbers grew.  Pretty much if you were a black person in San Francisco, you were a fan of the Panthers.  The work they did was human rights, very simply.  When there was no stop light in a dangerous traffic neighborhood, the Panthers engaged city council and asked for a stoplight.  They were, of course, ignored.  So, the Panthers took control of the intersection and have volunteers man it to make it a 4 way stop.

From my white, privileged, background… I see 2 main schools of thought in 60s black rights struggle.  the MLK non-violent ‘love your enemy, and forgive him’ tact… and the Malcolm X ‘by any means necessary’ fight back tact.  The Panthers were decidedly of the latter… and I agree.  They mindfully chose the name Black Panthers because ‘a panther will not attack unless it is cornered, and then it will viciously defend itself’.  How great is that?

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There are too many stories like that to tell.  I want you to know, most importantly, that these men (Bobby Seale, Huey Newton… and to a less degree Eldridge Cleaver) are heroes.  Yes, Nixon called them public enemy #1.  He also killed them all, and the ones he couldn’t kill he framed for jail.  Example – Geronimo Pratt.  He was convicted for murder, and spent 27 fucking years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  How do we know?  Well, the assholes who convicted him as eyewitnesses to the murder… turned out to be undercover cops.  Yeah, it took 27 years for that to come out and for him to be released.  Now do you get why black people are so angry?

There is SO much more I want to tell you, but there isn’t the time.  Plus, I am a privileged white guy… so I feel it isn’t even my business to tell their story.  I will, though, from the mountain tops.

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Here is some reading.  First off, Bobby is miraculously still alive.  There are 2 great books on the Panthers, written by the men themselves

Bobby Seale – Seize the Time

Eldridge Cleaver – Soul on Ice

What about Huey?  It is, really, his organization.  He also has a book.  Problem is, Huey isn’t half the writer that Bobby or Eldridge are.  In fact, their writing ability is inverse to their significance to the movement.  Eldgridge was a very gifted writer, which is how he became ‘minister of information’.  Bobby, lesser so.  As for Huey, he was more action than words.  Also, Huey is a lot more complex.  Huey was no angel.  Lets not dance around this, Huey killed people.  Probably a lot.  We’ll never know. Ever heard the term ‘power to the people’?  Even see the ‘black power’ fist?  The Panther’s invented that! ***

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See, we have this black lives matter movement.  That’s nice, and I agree.  However, it doesn’t seem organized or purposeful.  The gist is ‘hey cops, stop shooting black people!’.  Well, that is implied.  If it isn’t, then a catchy slogan isn’t going to keep you from shooting black people.  What the Panther’s did is the ORIGINAL ‘black lives matter’ movement.  They had a plan, and a communication strategy, and their plan didn’t depend on the white man helping them… or forgiving them.  The Panthers, wisely, realized that white society wasn’t going to do anything to help them.  So, they set out to help themselves.

I want to celebrate Bobby for a few reasons.  He is still alive.  His story of the Chicago 8 is incredible and terrifying.  He didn’t kill as many people as Huey.  In fact, I don’t know that Bobby killed anyone.

ok, that is all for now.  This wasn’t meant to be even a tiny bit comprehensive.  It is meant for you to say ‘wow, what a story.  I can’t wait to learn more!’  There is a cool frontline documentary on them I just bought last week, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Ordering that it was reminded me to tell you this story.

Just today I heard an amazing story.  A young fella came to join the Panthers, and serve the righteous cause.  He expected to get a gun, but instead they only filled his arms with books.  The kid said “I came here to get armed, man!”  and they replied “and now you are.”.   Ok, I added the ‘man’ part to the anecdote, but it still beautifully speaks to greater good the Panthers were doing.

Power to the People.  ALL Power to the People!

  • I use the term ‘black’ instead of ‘American American’ simply because the latter takes WAY too long to type out. Plus, back then, they were referred to ‘colored’.
  • *** ed: no they didn’t.  That goes back to ancient Assyria, racist.  something interesting and true, though?  They came up with ‘pig’ as slang for police
  • Also ‘still alive’ is Kathleen Cleaver, and is a legal professor still teaching in Atlanta.  Perhaps initially, she came to fame for being ‘Mrs Eldridge Cleaver’.  Go ahead and say that to her now, cracker.  She is STILL telling the stories and fighting the fight.  God bless her!  All Power to the People!
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Black History – one for the ages… and the spacemen

If aliens arrived, and they asked you about black culture in the United States… and YOU are the only ambassador. Well… clearly not you.  But me. We can all agree this isn’t the best option, but it is what we have to deal with.  No pressure. Here is what I hand them:

 A book

soul on ice > Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge Cleaver as a leader in the black panther party. You need to learn about them, they were AMAZING. They were a ‘black power’ group, but did this by taking over their own neighborhoods. Food drives, shoe drives… etc. Wait, you say – didn’t they shoot white cops? Nope. Geronimo Pratt’s sentence was finally overturned and he was set free. Pratt was jailed in the early 70s for shooting cops. But, he didn’t. He was set up by the cops.  Turns out the witnesses were cops who were lying.  Pratt did almost 30 years for that bullshit.  Same with Hurricane Carter.  It’s no wonder why black people hate you. I hate me already!

So a brief primer on the Panthers, whom I love. It was started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. In this time, in Northern California… blacks were getting majorly hassled. This was happening everywhere, in here they took a stand. Huey Newton, the leader, knew law. He LOVED law. He would follow cops, and when would pull over and harass black folks, he would stand there and tell them their rights. “you don’t have to answer that”. Or “ask if you are being detailed, and do NOT allow them to search your person or vehicle. You have rights!”  Huey was known to carry a rifle in one hand, and a law book in the other.  Is there a better symbol of America than that?

 Yeah, he really did that. He ran around at night and advised his poor black community peers of their rights against the white racist cops. Well, the cops hated that, as you can imagine. Nixon made them public enemy number 1.
Eldridge became a leader in the group shortly after. According to Eldridge, he was very high up… possibly even #3 (behind Bobby and Huey). This book is Eldridge’s diary while he was in prison for something or other. Before you read it, know that Eldridge is a big fan of Eldridge. Did you read Clinton’s biography? It’s kinda like that. These guys LOVE themselves. Still, though, it is an AMAZING read and opened my eyes to black culture and contributions beyond what my middle class upbringing would provide.

 Bobby also wrote a book, called ‘Seize the Time’. Sadly, it isn’t as good. Know that Bobby was a MUCH bigger figure historically than Eldridge… but Eldridge is a hell of a writer. Eldridge even strikes me as a guy who probably refers to himself in the third person. Still worth it, though.

Side note – Bobby is still alive (unlike Huey and Eldridge). With the passing of Nelson Mandela… Bobby Seale might be the greatest living black activist… or a very close tie to Harry Belafonte.

 A movie

It is a real and genuine tragedy there is no good Black Panther movie. Man, would that make an amazing film. It has everything. I imagine young blacks know about MLK, and perhaps a bit about Malcom X (another amazing memoir, and also a bit of a hagiography)… but I bet few know about the story of the Black Panthers. Or worse, possibly the perception that the white power structure put out – that they were thugs and gangs and anti white and cop shooters. Listen, here is the thing… just because they are pro-black… it does not mean (to me anyway) they are anti white.  Speaking of movies and Malcolm X, I very much enjoyed the Denzel movie.  I think he did a terrific job.

 Sorry, I got diverted. I think Spike Lee’s movie ‘Do the Right Thing’. It’s a great story. Kinda funny, my only memory of the cast is Danny Aiello (the one white guy). I don’t much care for Spike, though. I think he is totally racist.  However, he is honest and upfront about his opinions.  Here is when I turned on him… or when he turned on us.  He was being interviewed for something, by someone, about making a shit ton of money on something or other and the reporter asked how he would spend the windfall.  Spike got all butt-hurt and demanded “would you ask a white man that?”.   Yeah.  Yeah we would.  It was an interview… about all the money you made… where we ask you questions… about the money you made.  No hidden agenda here, man.

Can I add one more thing?  It sure wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry movie.  Those movies are so stereotypie that my stereotypographometer®  just exploded.  Maybe if the aliens asked ‘how about a movie about what black people think white people think about black people’.

 An album

 Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland.   This album is an insano masterpiece of songwriting and engineering. This is the last record from Jimi (in his life he only did 3). There isn’t much pop on here. No ‘Foxy Lady’, or ‘Purple Haze’. No sir. This fucker goes deep. To listen to the album optimally, I would recommend really good headphones, an ocean, and a shit ton of LSD. Not sure that is what you should do, but it worked for me. What was it Hunter said “I never advocated drugs, violence, alcohol, or insanity… but they always worked for me”.  Here is my favorite song of all.

oh, there is also this one.  Like this one a lot.  Side note, this album has Jimi’s highest charting hit… and it was a cover.

A poem

 You expect me to give you some Maya Angelou. I wish I could. I am sure it’s great. I never read any. From afar, it looked boring and preachy. I am not proud of that, just being honest.   Let’s go deeper, crackers. I am a lit guy, and I had a great lit teacher who turned me on to WEB DuBois. Dig this gem, from around 1900

My country tis of thee,
Late land of slavery,
         Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s pride   
Slept where my mother died,   
From every mountain side
         Let freedom ring!

My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
         Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,   
My heart with purpose thrills,   
         To rise above.

Let laments swell the breeze   
And wring from all the trees
          Sweet freedom’s song.   
Let laggard tongues awake,   
Let all who hear partake,   
Let Southern silence quake,
         The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to thee   
Author of Liberty,
         To thee we sing
Soon may our land be bright,   
With Freedom’s happy light   
Protect us by Thy might,
         Great God our King.

a tv show

 In Living Color, the Wayans family.  So funny, and so aggressive and silly at the same time… about race issues.  That show was brilliant.  That show did what I think Tyler Perry is trying to do but can’t… let black people celebrate their differences and laugh about cultural variances.  This can be done playfully bouncing off stereotypes… without beating them to death.  I have never seen on of the 13 ‘Madea’ movies… but I will bet my life there is a scene in every one where she is sweating in a pentecostal church with a fan saying things like ‘oh lawdy lawdy lawdy’.  I bet she threatens to ‘whoop a lot of ass’.    Perry, you are to blacks what Adam Sandler is to whites.  Don’t over think that, it just wanted to see what it looked like in print.

                               power to the people.  All power to the people.  – Huey Newton