& Proud Vol. 1
The Soul of the Black Panther Era
A really wonderful
compilation of some of the hardest, most pounding a righteous soul ever
recorded, geared to be a sort of unofficial soundtrack to the Black Panther
movement of the late 60s and early 70s! It's a proud mix of both longstanding
hard soul and funk favorites and more obscure cuts alike, including "The
Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott-Heron, "Heritage Of A Black
Man" by Sam Dees, "Panther" by the Last Poets, "Right On" by Sons Of Slum,
"Be Black" by Grady Tate, "You're The Man" by Marvin Gaye, "Ghetto Reality"
by James Brown, "Ghetto Child" by Curtis Mayfield, "Won't Bleed Me" by
Melvin Van Peebles, "Do You Remember Malcolm" by Miriam Makeeba" and lots
more. 19 cuts in all -- with a really nice booklet of photos, notes, an
essay, biographical details and more, complete in both English and German.
A really hard, really tight batch of great songs -- and a huge treat to
have rounded up on one set!
- it's fuckin' great!
(ARTHUR Magazine, New York)
soul was about more than just fast cars and flash jewellery. Here's a
sizzling blend of Black Panther politics and late-60s, early-70s genius
with a splash of reaggae and early rap too.
(Q Music Magazine, January 2003)
Es waren die Olympischen Sommerspiele in Mexiko City, 1968. Die afroamerikanischen
200 Meter-Läufer Tommie Smith, Sieger des Rennens, und John Carlos
(Bronze) reckten auf dem Siegerpodest je eine mit schwarzem Lederhandschuh
geschmückte Faust in die Luft. Smith die Rechte, als Symbol für
die Macht der Schwarzen; Carlos die Linke, als Zeichen für Einheit.
Die Öffentlichkeit war empört. Die Anhänger der Black Panther
Party For Self-Defence mussten wohl eher schmunzeln. Besagte Organisation
verstand sich als Partei der Schwarzen, mit dem Auftrag, gegen den Terror
der Polizei vorzugehen. Sie trat teilweise äußerst aggressiv
und gewaltbereit auf. Andererseits unterstützte sie im gleichen Maße
soziale Projekte. Gegründet 1966 von Bobby Seale und Huey Newton,
war sie Anfang der 70er auf Veranlassung von Edgar J. Hoover fast völlig
zerschlagen worden. Viele ihrer Anführer wurden entweder ermordet
oder eingesperrt. Die, die entkamen, ließen sich in Kuba nieder.
Der Traum der Black Panther lebte zumindest in der Musik weiter. Der Journalist
Jonathan Fischer, ein Experte auf dem Gebiet Afroamerikanische Kultur
und Politik, hat sich die Mühe gemacht, Songs zusammenzustellen,
die den Geist der Black Panther bis in die heutige Zeit hineintragen.
"Black & Proud Vol. 1 & 2" (Trikont/Indigo) trägt
den Untertitel "The Soul Of The Black Panther Era", liebäugelt
zudem mit Funk (S.O.U.L.) und Reggae (Earl Sixteen). Die meisten Stücke
- unter anderem die der Staple Singers, Gil Scott-Heron, Syl Johnson,
Curtis Mayfield und Marvin Gaye - stammen aus älteren Tagen. Aktueller
ist der Funk von Galactic ("There's Something Wrong With The Picture),
der HipHop-Song "Down To Now", eine Kollaboration der Last Poets
mit Chuck D (Public Enemy), sowie "Reluctant Warrior" von Assata
Shakur und Asian Dub Foundation. Hier trifft der Spoken Word-Beitrag der
Black Panther-Aktivistin auf den Drum'n'Bass-Mix von ADF.
Wer noch nicht zum Soul gefunden hat, aber großes Interesse hegt,
der sollte nicht auf lieblos zusammengestellte Sampler bauen. Viel lieber
sollte er diese beiden Alben erwerben, mit denen er zugleich umfangreiche
Hintergrundinformationen mitgeliefert bekommt.
(Saarbrücker Zeitung - KAI FLORIAN BECKER)
Als Jesse Jackson im August 1972 das Wattstax-Festival eröffnete,
rief er die Menge auf, sich stehend seinen Worten anzuschließen:
"I am black, beautiful and proud - I must be respected."
Es war die Kernforderung des schwarzen Amerika und die Botschaft hunderter
Soul-Lyrics. BLACK & PROUD dokumentiert diese, sich im HipHop fortsetzende
Tradition afroamerikanischer, politisch engagierter Popmusik über
einen Zeitraum von vier Jahrzehnten.
Herausgeber: Jonathan Fischer
Since the late 1950s the Afro-American struggle for civil rights, equality
and freedom had mainly followed the tactics of peaceful resistance. The
majority of black youth in the ghettos, however, was fed up with being
submissively peaceful. They felt frustrated by the governmentts stalling
tactics, by wide-spread poverty, de facto segregation and the realisation
that they would not be able to stop white police terror and racism if
they carried on demonstrating with bibles in their hands. 'Black Power'
became the new slogan and in 1966 the 'Black Panther Party' was born to
take on those issues in a more radical way.
By 1968 there were
about 5000 Black Pathers patrolling American cities. Not only did they
protect blacks against police violence, they also set up breakfast places
for school children in the ghettos and organised donations of food and
The white political
establishment was horrified and declared war on the 'the biggest threat
to the national security of America' (Edgar Hoover, chief of the FBI).
By the early 1970s the Black Panthers were almost defeated and most of
its leaders dead or in prison.
Poets, musicians and
pop stars such as Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, the Staple Singers,
Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye had strongly supported Afro-Americans
in their struggle and had given voice to 'Black Power'. Since the late
1960s the lyrics of numerous soul, funk, reggae and hiphop songs had been
inspired by the struggle of the Black Panthers.
INTERVIEW BLACK PANTHERS
(Bobby Seale, Jamal Joseph, Kathleen Cleaver)
In Cuba Nehanda Abiodun
and Assata Shakur told me about 80 former Black Panthers living in Cuba
today. Are you in touch with these exiled people...
Jamal Joseph: Actually
not, but I'm excited because I am going to Cuba in the end of June to
direct a documentary. And for me a trip to Cuba will also be very special
because my parents are Cuban. My mother died when I was young and my father
died a couple of years ago, but I have lots of relatives in Cuba. It'll
be my first time on the island. Because of my involvement with the panthers
and me being in prison for a long time and then being on parole for a
long time, I hadn't been able to travel, I hadn't a passport.
& Proud Vol. 2
The Soul of the Black Panther Era
But the connection
between the BPP and Cuba and Vietnam and China and North Korea and many
liberation movements throughout the world was, that we saw the struggle
for liberation as a global struggle and people were talking about the
same issues: These issues came down to human rights, anti war, anti racism,
economic empowerment, but usually we talked about class struggle. And
you really saw that the struggle didn't come down to black or white, or
red or brown but to the haves and the havenots. And so when you looked,
who your brother really was, who was suffering for a piece of bread or
a decent place to live or for decent housing and health care, you saw
that you might have more in common with a white family that maybe lived
a mile away than with a black family that was very very wealthy, just
using it as an analogy: Talking about a struggle that cuts across class
lines, then you discover that solidarity between the races not only is
possible but it must happen. And the solidarity with other liberation
struggles must happen because the human family wants a world that's peaceful,
that has unity and that has love.
Put some children from different races together, they could be black,
white, Asian, native American and the children will just play together
naturally. So the things that we learned that divide us, that make us
look at each other suspiciously and that make us think that we are different
are things that we learn when we grow older.
Bobby Seale: In the
early days we had party members that went to exile, I think especially
of Eldridge Cleaver who went to Cuba, before he went to Algiers. But we
hadn't have direct contact with those exiled in Cuba since the last ten
or fifteen years. We hadn't had the chance to get that contact.
But as Jamal said, we were internationalists, understanding that we were
fighting a class struggle, fighting for our constitutional democratic
I saw you in the film
talking about not wanting your private life being invaded by anything
Well I wasn't talking about my private life, I was talking about my private
house, everything else is invaded by politics.
Are you feeling harrassed
because you are a former Black Panther?
Bobby Seale: There
are certain times when I don't let reporters come to my house. Then there
are people that I get to know very well, with all the potential suspicions
lingering in my head: On the other side I got some reporters in the Philadelphia
aerea that can come to my house. With some of the top level reporters
I do barbecues or go to the theatre.
Most of the interviews I do in the Temple University of Philadelphia where
I worked for 12 years.
But other than that I had kids to raise, they are grown now, you gotta
have some degree of private life.
Every once in a while I get someone jumping at me in the audience of a
college lecture - I do 40 or 50 lectures in a year - who is trying to
harang me, so I stop this speaking engagement and say: Let's get it on,
you wanna take my microphone or what ...
Other than that I think the Cointelpro operation of the FBI they keep
pretty good tabs of me, I'm sure they do. They got people reporting to
them what I say, what I did. They are documenting this because I'm still
speaking this, I' m still standing on my principles of human liberation
Did you ever see your
Well I've seen all
of that stuff. That was done when we sued the city of New Haven when I
was tried, they trumped up charges against me there, I was in prison there
for more than 22 months, without bail. In effect what we found out, was
that the local police chief - he later was elected mayor - he wire chapped
everyone: he wire chapped our prison cells, he wire chapped our lawyers.
We sued a file against the city of New Haven and the local telephone company.
In that context I got all my files. Some of them are still hiding. You
know what the FBI does: They are trying to hide files in other departments
of the government. FBI files might be found in the agricultural department.
And if you get them of course they black out all the names...
I got ten or fifteen boxes of Cointelpro operation files
And they still go on collecting material. I made a speech in Syracuse
eight years ago stating in a question and answer period, that I still
believe in the right of self defense if any power structure moves try
to stop me from exercising of my basic constitutional democratic rights
in a violent threatening fashion. Yes I would use a gun to defend myself.
And so the newspaper printed that, distorted that and in effect when whe
got the files, it read: Bobby Seale continues the advocacy of guns...
But I found some very old stuff, even before the BPP started....
You were in prison
for 22 months in New Haven?
Well I won the case
in New Haven indirectly. They wouldn't give me bail, but I was never convicted.
We know you won, if you hadn't won, you would have been executed on the
Bobby Seale: If I
hadn't won, I would have been executed on the electric chair
I got only 10 000 dollar refunds for the suit of the city of New Haven
for the wire tap.
But what really upsets me: Fred Hamptons and Mark Clarks family received
a million dollars, but many other black people that have been screwed,
trumped over and several of them murdered have not been compensated at
all for a lot of things that the US government has done. We had 28 BPP
members that had been killed by the december of 1969. And a lot of the
compensation is not happening.
We still have political prisoners, I can list 8 or 9 political prisoners
in the US that are former BPP members, that are in prison to this day.
Jamal Joseph, while
working with your students in a theatre company are you reminded every
day , that you are a Black Panther?
Jamal Joseph: I still
live in Harlem where I grew up and where I was a Panther. in the film
I was volunteering with an organization called city kids. Four years ago
we founded a similar program in Harlem called Impact. We have a hundred
kids working on creative arts and leadership training. So the kids are
kind of youth activists that seize the creative arts as a way to change
their world in a positive way. So it's a grassroots organisation, we teach
them communication skills and conflict resolutions and grassroots organizing
and the go out and they fill out some community functions and do some
community grassroots organizing. This is volunteer work I do every saturday
and some days a week. In fact we fund the work ourselves. The money that
I make from screen plays and from film, a good portion of that goes to
run this program. That gives us the independence to really have the kind
of curriculum and activities that we want to have with the young people.
I teach at Columbia University and I also write screen plays and produce
and sometimes direct.
I'm reminded that I'm a Panther everytime I look into the community and
I see police brutality, everytime I see the face of a young person who
is lost or who is angry or who is in trouble, or every time I see a senior
citizen who is sick and who is not getting proper medication or someone
who is not eating well or is living in bad housings. And unfortunately
that is every day.
When you see cops occupying your community like an occupying army you
are reminded that you are a panther and that the work continues.
It's easier now to function, because the further you get away from a particual
place in history, the more romantic it becomes to people. So when you
meet people they are kind of very excited, that you were a young Panther
leader and that you were part of a celebrated case like the New York panther
21 and you know there is almost a bit of a feeling of celebrity to it.
You meet a lot of people, that were Panthers, that you just don't remember
Kids will come up to you and tell you: You know my uncle was a Panther,
he was in the Harlem branch, or: my father says he was in the Panthers.
And I don't say anything, because I think if the kid is excited, and the
person feels that the Panthers were good enough or worthy enough to claim
their membership, this is a good thing in terms of the consciousness and
how we remember.
But immediatley after, if you look at the ten year period after the demise
of the BPP, talking about the 70s: People were afraid to be around you,
people were afraid to give you a job, people were afraid to associate
with you, people were afraid to tell that they had been there...
I know Panthers now who are proud and come to our reunions that were kind
of afraid: You'd go by and say: Comrade so and so, right on, sister love,
brother love and they'd be like shhhhhh... my boss is around the corner.
Be quiet, the people in my building don't know.
Now they are yelling across the street: Power to the people.
But back in the 70s many of us or at least our memories and associations
were partially driven underground. Remember we weren't an underground
organisation. We were an above ground organisation organising people in
a very active way. And that was a very painful period, it was hard to
reconcile with your life, if you looked back how hard we had worked, how
little sleep we got - it was a seven days a week, 18 to 20 hours a day
commitment that we made for five, six, seven years of our life, that we
all made to this movement.
And in the period immediately after to see everything decimated, to see
people dead, to see the offices where you had been destroyed, a barber
shop or grocery store had been done there and people didn't remember.
That was a very painful thing.
So in a way the new interest in the BPP is gratifying. Personally you
feel a little validated about the choices, that you made. More importantly
you don't have to feel, that those sacrifices were in vain.
For the people who are not fortunate enough to be here: You have to now
feel that they lived for something and died for something. And for those
who are in prison: We have to keep on struggling, because they are making
a very noble sacrifice.
You should feel like
popstars with all these cards and posters showing your faces...
No,no, we are not feeling like popstars
Bobby Seale: These pictures remind us to the days, when we were police
targets, targets of the FBI
In the BPP I had a rule that I wrote at the beginning of the party: No
one could have marihuana or weed in their posession while doing political
Inadvertently partymembers themselves created a codework, wanting to hide
the fact that they were smoking some marihuana at the side. So the codework
became all across the country as the party grew, if you were getting ready
to travel: By the way is brother Roogie coming with you? Well no, brother
Roogie won't be with us. Or in another case: Yeah brother Roogie is coming
with us, he is down with us. Now imagine this: Our phones are wire tapped.
Every conversation that goes to any Panther Party office or any known
BPP members house or appartment is wire tapped.
It was not until my trial in New Haven, Connecticut, in the summary by
our lawyer, that he reveals to the jury in his closing arguments about
how, by this very sealing of the FBI documents and the viciousness of
the DA working with the FBI trying to kill and destroy the BPP...
then in the New York arrest of the Panther 21 there was also a warrant
put out for brother Roogie.
We were such public enemy targets, that soon the FBI assumed, that he
was a specialized underground BPP member. So when we see these pictures
we remember a lot of stories how we were really public enemies.
Jamal Joseph: Huey
and Bobby, Eldridge and Kathleen understood the power of public propaganda,
which is now called marketing, very soon. In terms of counterculture art,
just in terms of that imagery, we kind of did for the young people what
hip hop does with its imagery today in terms of posters then, in terms
of artwork then (artists like....), that wound up in peoples dormitories,
that were plastered all over various billboards, slogans that were working
their way into every day language: If you are talking about cooptation,
you know that your stuff is really coopted when Richard Nixon says: Right
(Gelächter) as he did years later. But these things were created
by the BPP that worked its way in the everyday language and attitude of
people on the street.
I wrote an HBO about a guy called Willie Turner who spent 15 years on
death row and who was executed - and I interviewed his lawyer who was
a 50 year old white conservative big time corporate lawyer who had never
taken a criminal case before, but who had just fallen in love with this
one guy, whom he worked his case pro bono.
So I asked him about the state of virginia, the people who tried to execute
his client and he said: You know, they are pigs!
And that really blew my mind. Something that started on the streets of
Oakland to identify a police, so we wouldn't be afraid of them, came to
be used by this conservative, white big time corporate lawyer - Language
is an important thing: For black people even our slang about ourselves
reflected our inferiority complex or what we call the colonisation process.
The colonial mentality is that you are subject to the will of the mother
country, and you should be grateful that the mother country is feeding
you and clothing you and showing you, how to be civilized. We should be
grateful for the crumbs off the table. We identified white america as
the mother country and the black communities as the colony - so right
away you begin to see a political relationship between where you live.
But even how we talked about ourselves: The police would come in our community
and we would call them "the man". Our house was the "crib",
calling each other babies. Everything was subservient, growing up with
the "Negroes ain't shit" mentality and even the dozens we would
insult with each other: "Your mama's so black she could go to night
school and marked absent... your daddy's so black he could go in the coal
mine and leave a black streak. This was the dozens.
What the black power movement began to do and what the BPP took to a more
political level was to say: Black is beautiful. Our nappy head is beautiful,
our being black is beautiful. I remember one guy in the BPP he wrote a
poem: I got up from my black bed with my black sheets, walked to the mirror
looked at my black skin, got my black afro picked and put on my black
black panther uniform, put my black gun in my black holster and stepped
out to do my work for the black revolution, opened the door: Damnit, white
But using terms to describe ourselves like brother love, sister love or
comrade and talking about the enemies, greedy avaricious businessmen and
pigs, was empowering for people to think about themselves in a positive
and a revolutionary way.
So we had that with the language and with posters and with songs. We had
songs that we sang in the process, we had a group called The Lumpen doing
R'nB songs. And we had poetry done.
And we had a saying with the Panthers that the only culture we had was
a revolutionary culture.
So that the posters are here again excites us in a sense, that when the
word is going out and people can connect these images to the meaning and
connect that meaning to a movement then that's a good thing.
When you were posing
for this poster with a pumpgun...
It wasn't a poster. Let me explain. The ... and tax squad had come to
our home at two o' clock in the morning and kicked the door in our apartment.
Six of them rushed in, searching for guns. Next morning there was a rallye
at Huey Newtons preliminary hearing and they wanted to arrest Eldridge
Cleaver, because they knew he would speak there. But whoever told them,
that there were guns in the apartment gave them a wrong information. They
couldn't find the guns and they left. Other panthers had their doors kicked
in in midnight raids.
After Eldridge was in a shootout and freed on bail. As an ex-convict he
was not allowed to have weapons. But I was living in the house, too, and
I said, wait a minute: We are the panthers, they are chasing us, am I
not allowed to have a weapon just because Eldridge is an ex-convict? So
I went and bought a big shot-gun, and a 3.57 Magnum. And instead of making
it a secret we called two reporters from underground papers telling them
: We want you to put a story in the papers that I have a gun in my house.
So we took a picture of my holding a gun in front of my house and it would
run with the stories in the paper. that was to send a message to the police:
Here you see, I have a gun.
It happened to be a very good picture. I was also a candidate for the
state assembly and I used that photograph for campaigning. But it wasn't
to make a poster. It was to say that I have a gun and I will use that
gun if you come to kick down my door.
Later on, people that
was not subjected to this, they identified with these people, who are
brave, or people that they admire. So they take the picture and make many
many copies and put that up in their dormitories to support this. But
I was not there to make a poster, I was there to make sure, I didn't get
shot. This was about political reality.
Even when we made a poster with Huey later, that was done to protect him
by this kind of publicity.
We were using art in a political way. It later became something else.
We did not think in terms of pop culture. Pop culture began to think about
My picture with the pumpgun with taken in 1968. And if you go around the
newspapers of that period you won't find the word pop culture.
We didn't want to create pop culture, we wanted to make revolution.
That was the difference...
Nowadays the political content has been deleted and has been replaced
by something that is commercially viable and non politically threatening.
Do you feel that it's
a sell out when HipHoppers and other popstars use the emblems of the BPP
as a cool kind of fashion?
Sellout is the wrong word. But you have a depolitisation. You have a whole
generation that has had nearly no education on politics and no conception
of how teenagers or young adults could believe in something so powerfully,
that they would sacrifice their lives for. They don't understand that.
And they don't understand the political conflict that we faced in a world
that was racially polarized and where the american government was fighting
a war in Vietnam.... the larger culture does not want them to understand
that world. So if they take this little pieces, it's out of context.
It's like what we saw yesterday: People walking around with this little
pieces of the Berlin wall and they want to sell it to you. But what's
the meaning of this piece of the wall?
Jamal Joseph: If somebody
who is a rapper is wearing a BPP button or a Free Mumia button, then we
know there is something about that image that attracted them. And it is
better to see them with that button on in a video then to see them with
a gold chain and a gun.
And when we get a chance to meet that person, they will have questions,
about what the movement was really about, or we can challenge them, what
they are doing with their music and for their community.
There are a lot of conscious rappers who are using their music as a platform
to talk about social issues and to talk about revolutionary issues. I
am talking about bands like Dead Prez, Common, Mos Def...
For example Dead Prez they are part of a collective and once a week they
have political education classes. They study the autobiography of Malcolm
X for example and talk about what they can do..
The Black August movement is connected with the Malcolm X grassroots movement,
working consistently about community issues and political prisoners.
In New York and all across the country there are now a lot of these poetry
cafes and bookstores, where people are meeting and doing hiphop and poetry
The Nu Yorican Poets cafe used to be the only place to go to experience
that kind of culture. Now in Harlem I could name five different places
where you can go to hear poetry and people doing political hiphop. All
of this is encouraging. So what you get in the music videos and what the
record label is pushing along are kids, who are driving big cars and who
are blingblingin' and women who are being objectified. But what I see
in the hiphop scene, is a lot of young brothers and sisters sporting afrocentric
looks and listening to underground hiphop that is very politicized, and
talking about what they can do in the community.
One of the wonderful thing about my work with youth: I'm getting a steady
dose of inspiration because I see the activism and the politics that is
out there among young people, it's not getting the coverage, there's nothing
about it for Time magazine, or the record labels to push it, because it
is not making sales, but it is out there, it is alive and it's growing.
Bobby Seale: My son
Malik Nkrumah Seale, now 34 years of age, is basically a profound rap
artist, we found out. He is producing his first own album. I was out just
two months ago in California where he lives. He said: come on dad, you
gotta come to the studio with me. And I went down to the studio and he
had one rap song titled "Seize..." after my book "Seize
the time". And he puts me in front of the microphone: All you have
to do is, dad, say it like you said it on the streets back in the old
days: We want peace and houses and shelter for our people!
And he's splicing this in between his rap renditions. This is gonna be
tough, my son said.
Afterwards I started reading all of his lyrics: And I found out it was
some profound and progressive stuff. It blew my mind. I didn't know he
had this artistic ability. so I started pouring in money in his artistic
studio time. (Gelächter)
If you had your children
getting the same ideas that you had 30 years ago, acting in a very radical
way, going underground, would you kind of support them or would you say:
We made a mistake don't do it again?
Bobby Seale: I was
interviewed with my daughter, my son, and my other son Romain, when he
was two years into medical school. And the press asked my children: What
did they think about all the exploits that their parents did in their
days in the BPP. And my son said: Mom and dad never talked or emphasized
so much, what you may call exploits or battles as much as they talked
about ideas and concepts, what human liberation is about. And he is right.
I always told my children, that you have a basic human right and that
is a constitutional right under the law, to create a program in the community
and raise concepts to people, to criticize government police departments
and any kind of institutions that practises racism or extreme exploitations.
You have that right. And if somebody wants to take it away from you by
threatening your life with guns, you have a right to defend yourself.
Because what you are defending is that constutional democratic right.
So they understand that. And they would make their own decisions, if it
happens. And I hope it will not. Idon't want to have my kids shot or murdered.
We didn't try to be martyrs in the 60s. Nothing like that. We were dedicated
to human liberation.
My son is doing his two years residency as a doctor. All through the process
this kid wanted to be a doctor, since he was 5 years of age. By applying
to medical school he wrote that his interest is, to involve himself in
world health care advocacy. And he asked him: Why did you write about
advocacy? Why did you use that term? Damn' dad, he said, you and mama
were two of the biggest advocates in the world. I didn't tell him to do
so, he found out for himself.
He joined the nation of Islam when he was in undergraduate school, and
he got tired of them. You left the Nation of Islam I asked him? Yeah,
he said, I outgrew them. I was messing around with alcohol and drugs and
that's the real reason I joined. I didn't tell him, you can't join the
Nation of Islam...
Definitely good education is about, whether or not your ideas, notions,
your beliefs even your new realizations as much as possible they respond
correctly to reality.
Jamal Joseph: Joyce
and I have tried to talk to our kids a lot about human rights and giving
service especially, serving the people. that was the foundation of what
the BPP was about.
The basis, what we did was serving the people. The primary idea about
being a panther was loving the people...
(spricht über den Panther film von Mario von Peebles)
That is something that is missing from most of the Panther films: If there
was one thing that we were taught about, neary brainwashed in the BPP
- and forget about the ten principles for a moment : We were taught to
have an undying love for the people. And if you have that, that's a strong
motivation. this can make you get up at four, five o'clock in the morning
when it is freezing to go crosstown to feed some kids, that are not your
kids. that's what makes you stay up late at night, standing at certain
bus stops or subway stations in your community, to escort working people
and elderly people to their house, that are not your grand parents or
And that makes you riding in your car, even when you are not on duty as
a Panther, and you see some cop having some black man or woman stand up
against the wall, that makes you go into the middle of that situation
and make sure that brother or sister is alright and challenge that cop
and get in front of that cops gun and risk your life for someone whose
name you even don't know, but you love them because you understood, that
this is your brother or your sister and that translates to a greater love
We tried to pass that on to our kids. They kind of discovered their panther
legacy on their own. Because if you come to my home you won't find any
Panther posters or slogans kind of hanging over their bed.
The kids would find out themselves: My wife discovered a book, titled
"black history made easy" that children between the age of 8
and 15 can read. And my son reads that book, comes to the film festival,
that Kathleen and I staged, got excited about the story and then ran into
my living room at 10 o'clock and shouted : Daddy here's your name!
You're in the book! I hadn't read the book. I just said, that's cool Jay.
So they have that excitement on your own. And whatever course their lives
will take: I will be happy if their heart is connected to humanity. If
they decide to take a more radical path, I will try to give all the advice
that I can, I will be very concerned, because I know what this government
will do to people who are frontline revolutionaries, but whatever path
they take in life, I will be happy if in some way they will give service
Kathleen, as a law
professor do you have discussions in your seminaries concerning your experiences
as a Black Panther?
I'll give you an example. One of the students complaints in the law school
goes: The only professor that ever talks about justice is professor Cleaver.
The law is very technical and they are trained to understand techniques
and categories and reasoning, ways to win cases. But the fundamental issues
is pretty much left out. What I discovered, is that the teaching of law
the way it is expected to be taught actually doesn't interest me in the
least. What I teach is what interests me: I teach a course called "the
law of slavery and anti-slavery" and it shows how the law was used
to support the institutions of slavery and also the opposition to slavery
and how that was balanced off. I was always interested in black history.
And you can be sure that not too many law schools care about black history.
The larger society is less concerned with basic human justice then during
the 60s where you had civil rights protests... Right now there is a lot
of interest in getting rid of the death penalty, in dealing with police
brutality.People are moreand more possessed with wealth and money, partially
because many people mistakingliy think that racial segregation and racial
exclusion - that's all done with, we can actually go and make money. The
teenagers and young adults,see that's not at all true.
Bobby Seale: It's
not so much about the money, it's about where your heart, mind and soul
is. What you are attached to. If you can get your energy towards evolving
some new economic practice, that makes human sense, whether you have a
big, nice laid out house sitting on some acres of land - I am not concerned
about whether you make ten million dollars a year. I am concerned where
your heart, mind and soul is located. What do you wanna do that is positive
Some of my old orthodox socialist friends say: Bobby you are nothing but
a capitalist. I say, money is a medium of exchange for services and goods
but when the system is structured, that 3 percent of the US population
are controlling 90 percent of the wealth and concentrate all political
power. This is what the struggle is about: How you begin to increase an
economic practice that allows for a greater amount of human survival.
So you can keep your house. I want to design houses, I am an architect.
I love to design houses, I never loved blowing up buildings. The question
is: For what purpose. I am not so worried about a rap star earning a million.
I am worried about: Can you attach yourself to making a new economic practice
that makes sense?
People want to know why I wrote a cookbook: We had a meeting of former
Panthers in the 80s trying to raise money for a youth jobs development
program. So I wrote a barbecue cookbook to raise money, because we couldn't
raise money in the old ways.
I was very astonished
when I read a quotation from Mumia Abu-Jamal recently. After all the government
had done to him he was speaking of his love for America...
Jamal Joseph: Going
back to the idea of loving America: If we talk about the idea of loving
jazz music or R'nB or hiphop or loving the Apollo theatre, or loving barbecueing
or hanging out in Rockcreek in Washington D.C., well this is all a part
I remember things, that I thought I was supposed to hate, the Panthers
made me love and appreciate:
The first time I walked in a panther office I thought they would give
me a gun - they gave me books. I was like shit: I cut school to come here
Are you telling me, if I want to be a panther, I have to read some books?
You know, but I took the books home and I started to read and I realized
how well-read panthers were. I started to lovebooks. The panthers made
me to love something, that the teachers couldn't make: They made me to
Well two months after I had been in the BPP they told us to report to
the office with our uniforms really clean one sunday morning. I had my
uniform really shining, as they told me: And then we go to Abessynian
Baptist Church. I say: Are we going to church on a sunday morning? I thought
with the panthers I wouldnt have to go to sunday school. They say oh yes,
we have to go there, because we are starting to forming alliances with
the churches for thecommunity programs. And I remember the pastor welcoming
us and I thought, wait a minute, I am beingconnected to the things, that
I thoughtweren't cool to be connected with. That was what the BPP did:
We go to church not because of the church, but because to make all things
relevant to serve to the people. So in that sense, we loved our people
and we loved that institutions that we knew as the black American experience.
We didn't think about destroying things so much, like we were Mad Max
and everything had to be levelled first to build something new: We were
dreaming about the White House being painted red,black and green and Aretha
Franklin and George Clinton were to do the new national anthem.
That's what we were trying to do of the New American Revolution, and loving
Did you ever consider
going in exile in times of extreme repression by Cointelpro?
What means considering: I did it, my husband did it. The whole international
branch of the BPP did it. And some are still there.
But what made you
come back to America?
I was not in exile because of any charges: I was with my husband because
I wanted our family to be together. He was very tired of living in Africa
and Europe and after Richard Nixon was no longer the president, the political
situation was somewhat different and he thought he could get a fair trial,
he would turn himself in. But there are still a lot a people in exile,
living in Tanzania, Sambia, Cuba, France. And none of them will come back
unless there will be some kind of amnesty. The legal system is not allowing
them to return without being imprisoned and in Assatas case its a life
How did you manage
to stand the pressures, knowing what Cointelpro was able to do to you?
The knowledge of Cointelpro came to us only after its results. Being in
Algeria having a small child I was reading what was happening in the US:
Raid and bombs in New York, and bombs in detroit and a shootout in New
Orleans and murder in Chicago. So everytime we read about the Panthers
it was warfare. So I felt quite protected in Algeria. Not that I wanted
to live there, I just wanted to live. You don't feel it's a kind of choice
if your choice is death or imprisonment.
You were kind of aware
that you were risking your life working for the BPP?
This was clear. If you don't wanna put your life on the line, you shouldn't
join. But we come from a very long long struggle. We have ancestors who
fought to eliminate slavery, we had grandparents who fought to put an
end to very vicious forms of racist violence and then we had parents who
fought segregation. So when we joined the movement, it was not like it
was the beginning of a movement, it's like a continuation. We come from
a culture that is conditioned to understand that we have to struggle and
what the price of struggle is. And people are very clear: You don't have
to join the movement. But if you put your life on the line for the movement
you know what price that is.
Those people who were joining the BPP were admired by other people who
were not willing to pay that price and in some cases they were feared:
Are you crazy?
Jamal Joseph: We were
also taught - and this wasn't suicidal or having a death wish - what the
price was. We come from a people who know about sacrifice from the days
of slavery: Pass the baby to this couple, so it can grow up free or in
a better condition. Or everyone scraping their pennies together so that
this kid will be the first that has a chance to go to college. So in that
sense of struggling we had a context for. And after joining the Panthers
we knew every day you woke up could be a day, that you got killed, or
you got arrested.
But the goal of the BPP was not to recruit more panthers, it was not to
make every black man, woman or child into a panther. We were taught, that
we were a vanguard organisation to teach our people the possibilities
of struggle and how to struggle. And that eventually would raise the peoples
consciousness and an army and a party would form in the community. That's
what the sacrifice was. We didn't talk about a panther flag on the white
house. We talked about teaching the people how to struggle.
How did you handle
Bobby Seale: We had
that history right in our face of all the struggles that had going down
for our people to get rid of all sorts of overt and covert institutionalized
racism going on. We learned all about this in our youthful days
I mean I was already an engineer working upon the Gemini missile program
in the army, I was a design major and I knew nothing about my African
American history. In spring semester 1962 some group across the street
was calling itself the Afro American association. Are you guys communists
- I never heard something like that? was my first question.
And so I happened to meet a friend over there who asked me: Who are the
Sioux? And I knew that was a French name given to the people who called
themselves Lakota. So Bobby, he continued, all we say, we are not Negroes,
we are not coloured, we are not jigaboos, naming every derogatory term
you could connect, but we are African Americans or Afro Americans or black
Americans and we should be proud to be black Americans. I was really brainwashed:
I got As in mathematics, I got As in any kind of architecture design,
but I knew nothing about my African American peoples history of struggle.
I knew about my Martin Luther King and I knew about my father having to
protect us during some riots in 1928. But suddenly this kicks me to go
read a book. And it kicked back into:
I grew up with Jim Crow. I remember when I had to sit in the back of the
theatre down in Texas...
A lot of youth in America today don't know Jim Crow like we know it.
This stuff feeds to you and suddenly it doesn't take much reading and
digesting 10 or 12 books in two weeks and I'm on the street corner, I'm
captured, swept into and I became a part of it. Forget it, I quit my engineering
job after two years, I went into the community to make some changes.
Jamal Joseph: I joined
the panthers when I was 15 years old. Well I had guns put to my head,
I've had guns in my face, I've had bullets throughpassing my hat, I've
been beaten and tortured by the police, on one occasion Dhoruba another
member of the New York 21 and I were arrested and beaten for four hours
nonstop, beaten beyond recognition. I spent a total of nine and a half
years in prison, I've been to the toughest and most dangerous prisons
in the country and I did a lot of this before I was 18 years old. Three
different times in my life I've been on trial for my life, I've already
stood before a judge who wanted to give me a life sentence when I was
16. And with the Panther 21 I was accused of conspiracy to commit murder,
conspiracy to commit arsony, attempted robbery, attempted murder and illegal
possession of dangerous weapons, criminal mischief. And we were facing
354 years, that's what we were calling a reincarnation sentence, that's
when you die and you're reborn as a baby they stick you back in the cell.
I would get butterflies, and a lot of times I would think what it would
feel like having a bullet entering your body, or how it would feel like
if this beating was going on for another five minutes, or what it would
feel like if they would give you that sentence and they actually give
you life or double-life. But there was never fear. And there are two reasons
for that. One is that I was around so many brave brothers and sisters
that was just brave and unafraid. And they taught me, never to have fear.
One morning Afeni Shakur - we were both on bail in the Panther 21 case
- and we had been serving breakfast to 50 children in the Panther breakfast
program and we were just cleaning up the kitchen, and about 20 cops come
down and about three cops are just in plain clothes, and I had a sense
that they had come in to kill us. And I said, oh shit, here it is.
And a cop came and said: What is this? And Afeni said: Who are you? Are
you a policeofficer? I don't talk to police officers. He said, well I'm
just trying to ask you. She said: did you hear what I said. I don't talk
to police officers, it's none of your business what we are doing. She
turned away and looked at me: Jamal don't talk to them. And we turned
our backs and started cleaning.
A lot about how to treat women and how to be a man I learned from women
in the organisation. How can you be afraid in a moment like that, when
you have a women like that guiding you. Even when I was alone in a hole,
even when I was beaten my consciousness was directed to my other brothers
and sisters in the BPP, I knew I was a panther. And I had nothing to fear.
Because I knew that the BPP would live on and the struggle would live
on, no matter what happened to me in that moment.... That's how you learn
to handle fear when your spirit is connected to something greater than
You always look very
solemn on the press pictures taken of Black Panthers. I never saw a Black
Panther laughing in public....
Even when I was on
trial in the Panther 21 case, we sang a lot, we laughed a lot, we would
all be in the ball pen having a lot of good times. One time a young guard
was asking me: Jamal you always have a lot of laugh, if I was in your
position I would be shitting my pants. I said: you know what: Don't get
in this position then. (Gelächter)
There is something I read about a woman who had survived concentration
camps in Germany, what she said was so striking: I have never in my life
laughed as hard and laughed as long as when we were in the camp. So it's
that persecution, and that pressure. And that threat, that you would be
killed. You are freed from the possibility to feel sorry for yourself.
And with your comrades and your friends you laugh just as hard as you
That's true: Have you ever laughed harder than when you were in prison?
Bobby Seale: Yes I
was a standup comedian way back before the party started and I could break
out after very good serious sessions and starting doin some satyrical
rendition on "how the revolution's gonna come and we will take over".
Various imitations of various speakers, even integrating John Waynes stupid
walk (springt auf, schreitet breitbeinig und mit tödlichem Gesichtsausdruck
durch das Zimmer). And party members would be cracking up...
I created names for specific guards in the great Chicago conspiracy process...
I played games with them. Well I've been chained in the cell, I've been
beaten in the balls, I'm choked almost into unconsciousness, but it's
Jamal Joseph: And
you can change the consciousness in a fight when you are laughing at your
opponent. Muhammad Ali did this really good. Red Foxx once told Malcolm
X : That's a good speech but you have to build in a few more jokes. If
you told a joke just before you would make an important point, people
would laugh and then get quiet and expecting the next thing coming...
He was a master in it, and Bobby, Kathleen and Eldridge were masters in
it and we learned it listening to them... We did in the local chapters.
And then when you take someone who is supposed to be so fearsome and the
cops do roll up at your home and you say: You come here like oinking early
in the morning, smelling like pig shit what the fuck you want? That's
a great weapon of demoralizing them.
In the Panther 21
case ... we were yelling at the state attorney all the time (What you
gonna do judge, take away my drivers licence?) And he walked out and everybody
was laughing even in the court halls.
So our struggle was very alive,
Bobby Seale: ...in
courtroom: Anyway you are still a fascist, a racist and a bighead.
Mr. Seale if you continue this contemptuous behaviour... will you put
me in prison?
When we were in court we had a lot of fun. Because people supported us.
Some of the panthers, who were not arrested, brought a birthday cake in,
my birthday was during the trial, the judge came in, arrested the cake...
Another time someone dumped a pound of Marihuana on the defendants desk,
you should have seen how everybody jumped to the desk...
Another day they came in dressed in robes like the judge. So the judge
comes in shouting: Huuh, I will have no mocking of the court in here...
So they had to remove the robes but underneath they wore police uniforms...
I loved that shit. There's a power behind all of this, that doesn't put
you in a state of depression.