Books by Huey P. Newton
War Against the Panthers /
Huey P. Newton Reader /
To Die for the People /
The Genius of Huey P. Newton
In Search of Common Ground /
Insights and Poems /
Essays from the Minister of Defense
* * * *
Movements, White Issues
Must Say No to Electoral Politics
the Need for a Black Independent Political Party
with Rodney, Miriam, Brisbane, Jeannette, Ben
A Post-Katrina Political Discussion
Brisbane: Is it possible that we
weren't able to sensitize them [our kids] to the plight of
others and instill in them a sense of responsibility for their
community members wherever they are? I took my kids to every
march, demonstration etc. while they were young and yet, one is
completely absent from even the discussion and the other seems
to feel that america is a better country than its actions reveal
it to be. And that is after we have exchanged info and articles
about Iraq, Africa, the Caribbean and now N O.
Miriam: Is it that people,
especially Black folk, are so body- and brain-weary or that they
think that the action/vote/demonstration of one person won't
make a difference? I noted that there were relatively few
Black participants in the anti-war march last Saturday, and we
don't seem to involve ourselves in movements to save the
environment or endangered species or in the plight of our
brothers and sisters in Darfur, Liberia, Haiti, or Rwanda.
Have we become so inured to pain and poverty or have we become
so caught up in our materialistic, dog-eat-dog society?
seems that only the warriors from the Movement--Acklyn with his
multiple knee surgeries, Damu with his six-months-to-live
cancer, and Floyd with his diabetes and do-or-die struggle at
Hopkins--are still in there struggling. Where are the
young people? My kids? K.'s kids? Maybe
they're just turned off by all the corruption and the charges
& indictments (DeLay, Frist, Rove, John Ford & 7 other
Black politicians here in Tennessee). This is an issue
that we need to address, in-house, as a community.
Rudy: Let me give this some thought.
The short answer is that anti-war and environmental movements are
basically white-led movements and there is a black distrust of
all movements, and especially white-led ones. I do not think
that the crushing of black male militancy in the 70s is of
no consequence. Nor the ascendancy of black female criticism
in the 80s and 90 of black male militancy was without some
impact. We too often underrate the influence that women have on
their men's behavior.
Yes we have indeed "become so
inured to pain and poverty" and indeed we have become
"caught up in our materialistic, dog-eat-dog society."
That indeed has been true among the lower-middle-class black
women who long for the upper classes. But the shock of the
aftermath of Katrina (the superdome, the convention center) may
have indeed been the cold shower necessary.
What happens at Farrakhan's MillionMore
March should be an interesting marker of black sentiment on a
number of issues. In any event, the problem is with the
inactivity of our youth. That resulted I believe from the
transmission only of attitudes toward sex and drugs, The
transmission of consciousness was left to commercial film and
PBS. Social consciousness cannot be sustained with such neglect.
Let me add one more matter. A friend of
mine at the Saturday march you attended said that most of
the Black Congressional Caucus were eating barbecue ribs, spicy,
during the anti-war rally, really only one was in
attendance. In that we have been locked into electoral politics
for the last two decades, our hopes have been misplaced. These
black elected officials are rogues. They are not about movement,
only in as much as it is politick in getting reelected.
The additional social control added within
the last two decades that one must vote for candidates
whether you want them or not has been poor politics. And
even worse with the argument that not voting is a waste and a
betrayal of those who struggled for the vote. Well, I think that
is so much hogwash. I will not vote in any election in which the
choices are scum, scummer, scummest. The best of all possible
worse candidates is not a choice at all, but rather conformity
and weakness in the face of such societal pressures.
What is needed first and foremost is a
political education that will move us away from these kinds of
societal controls, that is, if we want movement. We might begin
by withholding our votes except for third-party black
candidates. Some have posed a Belafonte-Glover ticket as a
possibility. I’ll vote for them. I respect them both. But I
would even here need some assurances that they will not sell out
to the Democratic Party as Jackson did. We must think in longer
than four-year-periods if we are to survive healthy as a people
Jeannette: Perhaps I am
an eternal optimist. I feel a faint glimmer of hope with
some of our young people.
Too many of them may be spending time
reading mostly hip-hop fiction (instead of the literature we
read), however some young people seem to be "awakening."
For example, dozens of black students at Virginia Commonwealth
University (here in Richmond) recently held a protest against an
"insensitive" PETA exhibit.
There was local television coverage and a
story in Richmond Free Press. I believe there was also a story
(and photos) in the Richmond Times Dispatch. A photographer
from Richmond Free Press told me that the young black woman who
organized this protest (of at least 100 students) did so in one
Below is the article from Richmond Free
VCU STUDENTS HIT 'INSENSITIVE' PETA
by Joey Matthews
The photographs and illustrations
would be hard for even the most casual observer to
Above the exhibit heading titled, "Burned
Alive," there's an image of roosters burning in a
grisly fire, alongside a photograph of white men
standing behind the dead, burned body of charred black
Nearby, above the title,
Off," there's a photograph of a cow being auctioned
off for sale, side by side with an illustration of a
mother hugging her daughter as they are sold at a slave
Above the word, "Hanging," a
slaughtered animal is shown in a photograph hanging by
its feet, alongside a photograph of two dead
African-Americans hung by rope from trees, as a crowd of
white people gather to look at them.
These and other images were from a
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' outdoor
exhibition title "Animal Liberation" at
Virginia Commonwealth University this week. They
set off demonstrations from some African-American
students and others who saw it as an affront, people
drawing comparisons of animals suffering with blacks
being lynched and burned.
Dozens of students demonstrated
against and argued with PETA representatives over the
exhibition, located near the VCU library.
"Our students were very disturbed
by what they saw," said Dr. Christopher Brooks,
interim department chairman of the Department of
African-American Studies at VCU. "While several of
them were sympathetic with PETA's feelings toward animal
mistreatment, to juxtapose those images there with
African Americans was crossing the line.
"Because there's been a history
with continental Africans and African-American of
comparing them to animals, that display was incredibly
The pictures are part of a 28-campus
tour. A separate national campaign featuring the
same pictures has caused controversy in several cities,
with some critics calling it racist to compare slavery
with animal abuse.
PETA officials said their intent was
not to compare the two, but to illustrate the worldwide
mistreatment of animals.
A message on the PETA website says the
exhibit was inspired by the words of African-American
civil rights leader Dick Gregory, who they quote as
saying, "Animals and humans suffer and die
alike...the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the
same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and
brutal taking of life."
The exhibit is scheduled to conclude
on Friday, September 30.
I think Rudy is right. Things are heating
up. Katrina was a cold shower for some. The emotional impact of
those television images will linger with some and the only
"recovery" (from anger, grief and sadness) will be in
action. The fact that these college students moved to protest feels significant
to me (in light of the fact that black college students
seem to have been asleep for a while). I pray this is a small
sign of hope. Before I leave planet earth, I want/expect to see
a change for the better.
Rodney: This is a rather quick
response from me as well, but...While I am in agreement with
what you say, as a member of the generation in question, I
think I might have a unique perspective on the matter. I too was
at the 9/24 anti-war rally, and the lack of black Americans
present was minimal, despite the fact that one of the principle
organizers of the rally is named Act Now to Stop War and End
On the issue of black distrust of white-led
movements: In reading Tim Wise's "White Like Me" he
himself notes the difficulty he faced in maintaining a
interracial movement on the Tulane University campus when he was
involved in the Anti-Apartheid movement. While his group
was initially split almost evenly among blacks and whites, white
students began to ascend into leadership roles disregarding the
black membership, and the group moved away from the blacks'
concerns, and soon enough, the group was all white.
I was involved in getting a delegation from
my school to go to the rally, and I was the only black student
to actually have gone with the delegation. I had corresponded
with the Black Student Union leadership, and they declined to
get involved with getting word out to their membership, or being
involved at all. I expected this of course. The BSU's main
concern is getting black students aware of internship
opportunities and scholarships, indeed noble causes, but not
mutually exclusive of activism and political involvement. Too
often we don't connect racism with economic exploitation, or
The inactivity of my peers is very
frustrating, but let me provide some reasons, as I see it, as to
why this is. Yes, social consciousness certainly isn't being
transmitted from the parents, or for that matter, any other
outlet; thankfully I had the parents and grandfather that I
have. In any case, it seems the generational gap is too great. I
recall speaking with an older gentleman, a community leader, who
spoke of his own community's apathy to anything, but their own
struggles. And this can be expected.
However, this gentleman went on to condemn
my generation, without thinking of extending his hand to us,
providing us with some mentorship perhaps. I spoke of another
gentleman as well whose ideology was similar. There is a
disconnect, no dialogue between the youngsters and our
"elders." This leaves us susceptible to other
messages, particularly "dog eat dog" and materialism.
Education too is at fault. Take the
Baltimore City Public Schools as an example, of which I am a
graduate. 73% of the student are receiving free or reduced
lunch, that’s poverty, and not once were names such as Du Bois
uttered, and Baldwin maybe once, with other black leaders
getting their token treatment.
One doesn't learn of the achievements of
younger leaders such as Fred Hampton. My generation is expected
to take it upon ourselves for this sort of self-education, and
this isn't an excuse, but things aren't up in our face as they
were in the past...its so much more subtle with said education,
and one must commit themselves to discovering these
Black elected officials are also to blame;
but so is our reliance on them. I remember Aaron Macgruder
talking about the fact he isn't a political leader, so we
needn't look towards him for leadership. Why should we look to
our officials either, who have continued to fail us? We are far
entrenched into electoral politics, without the political
awareness or activism to back it up.
Because of our system of plurality and the
Electoral College, the black vote gets lost in the sea of the
white masses anyway. We should keep in mind that 70% of ppl of
color opposed Bush, but because Kerry could only get 43% of the
white vote, he lost. Not that Kerry was worth our collective
vote, but...and the fact that the CBC stepped up for him after
the 2000 debacle in which no Senator would step up for the CBC
is a disgrace in and of itself.
As well, we might note that the overall
involvement of the youth, be they black or white, has declined.
This was a topic of discussion amongst several whites at the
rally, who noted that when they protested 'Nam, the average
person was a college or high student; but that day, it was
merely middle-aged whites. This younger generation is merely a
reflection of the previous generation, and the present times.
Miriam: How wonderful, Rudy, to have Rodney
enter into the discussion about why more young people do not
actively participate in social movements! It is so
refreshing to have the opinions of a young, articulate, thinking
person who is an activist. He indicates that one of the
primary causes is the age and ideological divide between his
generation and ours. Those of us who are/were parents and
teachers have had a unique opportunity to communicate our
history, struggles, and culture to young people. . . . K.
Brisbane, an attorney and life-long activist, who laments the
fact that her own children, whom she involved in the Movement,
now have little interest in social/racial issues.
Another friend, a college professor and
parent, suggests that maybe we parents have been too protective
of our children because they are not as active in the struggle
as we were. I have had the same experience. I took
my children to marches and demonstrations; at ages 4 and
6, they were maced as we left a Civil Rights rally; I sent
my babies away when someone shot through our house; our
children were aware of my husband, a civil rights attorney, and
my involvement in the movement; they had to stay with
their grandparents when I was jailed. Now, they are
involved in community work, but not to the extent that their
parents were. So, what's the problem?
I believe that desegregation has had a
devastating effect on consciousness-raising and community
development. As a result, most White and some Black
teachers/professors are not concerned about the political
awareness of our youth. Secondly, and I think that this is
crucial, the societal emphasis on materialism and the
accumulation of wealth has created a generation of young people
who are more concerned about their own advancement and not about
the advancement of all of us. Rodney mentions that
students in the BSU are more concerned about scholarships and
job opportunities. I must point out, though, that the
Howard BSU sent a 10-member delegation to the Katrina protest
given at Lafayette Park by Black Voices for Peace, and that
demonstration was hastily put together at the last minute.
Let me mention one other thing, Rudy, since
you mentioned Acklyn, because I think that this is a model that
some of us might want to emulate. About three times a year
, he calls together a group of young adults, 18 to 30 years old,
along with a few cultural icons, as well as Blacks from Africa
and the Islands, for a discussion of issues at his home, where
he cooks food for them. That kind of dynamic mentoring was
apparent at his home recently, when he organized an event to
promote the work of two young artists, and, in the process,
showcased as well the work of children, teenagers, and young
adults. Maybe that's something concrete that each of us
could do in our community--bring together people across
generations, classes, conditions, to discuss some of these
Rudy: Miriam, maybe the reason we do
not have political movement participation is that we are too
busy with our body parts. Doing, saying whatever. We have just
now from a noted writer a consideration of his penis. Isn't this
the kind of thing the cave canem people do? It might give us
good poetry. Can we only think one thought at a time? My
God, have we not had enough of this literature?
Miriam: Rudy, I support much of what
you say. Yes, we are suspicious of White-led movements,
but we have to move beyond that because those issues--waste
dumps, abortion rights, oil pipe lines, etc.—affect our
community adversely. The recent issue of Crisis, which, by
the way, is a very substantial publication, unlike Ebony, Jet,
Essence and their ilk, reported that a majority of the Black
community is extremely conservative on social issues such as
abortion rights, Gay rights, sex education in the schools,
etc.—and of course we know why—the ultra-conservative Black
I had some problems with the Million Man
March because I believe that we have to deal with issues as a
whole community, men and women together. Plus, I had some
problems with the Messenger, Farrakhan, whom I do not trust.
I probably will not participate in the MMM this month because I
do not like the messenger, Rev. Wilson, the exec. dir., who said
in a recent sermon that the number of Lesbians is increasing
because Black women make more money than men; he also made several
other stupid remarks along those lines. I don't think that
the materialism is based on gender; I believe that Blacks
period (men and women) are caught up in the money/power/status
I agree with you that we have a sorry bunch
of politicians in the Congress; they do not represent our
interests but their own. Nevertheless, I think that we
still have to vote and, so far, I haven't missed a single
election since I turned 21, and I took my kids to the polls even
as babies. Now, one of those babies is teaching civics
& government, and raising the consciousness of her students.
That's what it's going to take: education of the
electorate. I didn't realize until I was campaigning
for my son, who's a Memphis city judge, that so many Black men
can't vote because they've served time.
That is so unfair! They're citizens
and have done the time, so they deserve to have their voices
heard. There are just so many issues to deal with;
we can't just sit around and think "Well, that's a White
issue" or "Whites are leading the movement, so I'll
sit my little behind down." Whites want to ghettoize
anyway; they want us to deal with so-called "Black
issues" like affirmative action, welfare rights, and free
lunch programs, so we don't mess around with "White
issues." It's no accident that Martin was killed soon
after he protested the Viet Nam War. He was messing around
with one of their issues. We better get involved in the
anti-war movement, because it's our people—Blacks, Latinos,
Natives—who are dying and getting maimed all out of proportion
to our numbers. Black people in this country have always
been used as cannon fodder.
Rudy: I really do not care for
polls. They are exceedingly misleading. I do not care for the
NAACP or Crisis. I would not ban them, or dissuade anyone who
has an interest. I would state however that I do not expect the
NAACP and Crisis will have anymore impact on resolving the
problems of poverty among a quarter to a third of the black
population than the NOI and The Final Call. Actually, I would
rate The Final Call higher than the Crisis in its breadth and
depth of coverage.
For my taste, both organizations (NAACP and
NOI) are too ideologically bound. And the NAACP is too caught up
in corporatism for my comfort. Their corporate model is that
which abuses us. Their hands are bound by corporate money. They
themselves are not free so how can they free anybody else.
I did not go to the Million Man March. I
probably will not go to MillionMore, either. I encourage those
who like that kind of thing to go. It will indeed be a
significant event. Farrakhan is one of the most enthralling
American orators. For me he trumps anyone associated with the
NAACP, on a personal or public basis. But I am not sure whether
that says very much. Religious dogma, I'm afraid, whether
Christianity or Islam, will not provide the necessary political
education for black liberation. At present both are tied to
government policies and programs that will not meet the needs of our
poor nor those in other countries.
But let me return to an assessment of the
character of black people with respect to certain political
issues. With respect to sexuality (whatever the issue), black
people are no more conservative than they have ever been. I
suspect, however, they are much more liberal, at least
privately, in matters of sexuality. The kinds of things said and
done today openly related to sexuality would have made the
most tolerant of my childhood blush if not retch. Polls are for
politicians. They serve no useful purpose for black liberation.
We need another kind of analysis that serves the people.
The primary issues that most blacks
face are economic. They can't get sufficient resources to either
get into the middle-classes or remain in the middle-class. The social
and cultural issues are secondary and often tertiary, if not
totally off the charts, altogether. I do not think that is
accidental. That is the nature of oppression. It keeps you tied
to the necessities—food, clothing, shelter. If there are too
many issues for you, who have relative leisure, what you think
life is for those who are pressed on all sides for basic
necessities for themselves and their families.
So the emphases of the poor and the middle
classes diverge. The middle-classes have been none too ready to
deal with issues of poverty. War, the environment, animal
rights, partial birth abortion, gay rights, and such, that's
their thing. That's rather safe the way it is handled. King was
not killed because he came out against the Vietnam War. He was
killed because he was about to challenge the economic structure
of the country.
That is what the Poor People's March
was all about. And that is what Memphis was all about. So
they shot him down. And his weak-kneed lieutenants
knew that, and if they didn't run, they kneeled and became
agents of the very same corporations and corporate mentality
that creates poverty, that King was gearing up his forces to
confront. All these wise guys wanted was their cut, their
opportunity to get personally ahead. The Vietnam War was only
significant in the negative economic role it played.
Welfare rights, I have not heard that term
used since the 70s. That social movement has been more or less
been abandoned by the middle classes with its pubic
disparagement of the poor. And Clinton and the Democratic Party
drove the final nails into its coffin.
The middle classes should remember, they
provided some leadership in the civil rights movement, but not
all, and they provided some support, but not all. It was the
poor and the leaders of the poor who won the battles. When that
struggle was won, those middle classes abandoned the people.
That is my interpretation of Tom Dent's Southern Journey.
So, yes, we do need to cut down on the
issues. We should do it not because they are "white
issues," not because they are "white" but because
one cannot do everything at once. If whites are willing to place
the problems of poverty (criminalizing) first and foremost they
can enlist the bodies and the sentiments of the poor. From the
last two decades, we know that the middle-classes can win
nothing other than that which serves their own class when there
is no active engagement of the poor. Their emphases on
affirmative action were a betrayal of the most pressing issues
of the poor.
In short, black liberation cannot be
achieved without an activation of the poor.
The emphasis on "electoral
politics" is part of this same betrayal. I am a registered
Republican with Democratic Party sympathies. But I will not vote
for either, because neither has a program to deal with the
problems of the poor. For me, the emphasis on "electoral
politics" has been an additional social control placed on
the poor that keeps them impoverished, oppressed. We must begin
to think outside of that sweat box, that soul breaker. I am
definitely against that "electoral politics" that
bandies race as a means to get blacks elected as officials of
If we want Black Liberation, there must be
political education and political organization apart from the
Democrats and Republicans. If we vote in these elections much
more thought must go into them, from an independent perspective.
Our loyalty must be first and foremost to what is in best for
the interest of the least of us.
Statewide and national elections serve no
useful purpose for the black poor. Nor are delegates and
senators to state legislatures of much use, especially when one
is voting on the basis of color. However, I do support the
building of a national black political party, which would invite
the black middle classes to participate. That won’t be an easy
task because the black middle-class loves the Democratic Party,
though it has not served them well in the last 70 years.
For our survival and prosperity we must
think beyond the two and four year elections. All our energies
should be placed into the building of a national independent
black party that deals first and foremost with the problems of
the poor, which includes the aged and the handicap. We need a
long-term strategy, a political education that’s geared to
bring about our total liberation from the ravages of corporate
capitalism and their political agents. Nothing else will
satisfy. Nothing else will accomplish our liberation.
Jeannette: Rudy, I hope you will
indulge my questions. I found a copy of the book at the Union
Theological Seminary (Presbyterian School of Christian
On page 4, Newton writes "The common attitude has been long
been: What's the use...Believing this, many Blacks have been
driven to a DEATH OF THE SPIRIT RATHER THAN OF THE FLESH,
lapsing into lives of quiet desperation."
Question: If the death is of the spirit (rather than
flesh), should not revolution be aimed at resurrection of the
spirit? I would think that this in the long run would be much
(I remember sitting on a park bench in D.C. in the early 70's and
thinking that the next revolution would be of the spirit. )
When I was in graduate social work school, there was no proper
place for discussion of "spirit." Now,
"spirituality" (like poems on child molestation) is
in, even in social work classrooms.
I see "Spirituality" practitioners everywhere (some
making $150 an hour, because, as my girlfriend's late mother
used to say, some folks just need to have a good 30-minute cry.) For
the most part, these practitioners are white, as are their
Where is the spiritual revolution among our people?
I don't know too many black folks that don't believe in spirit
(s) or Holy Spirit. I certainly don't see Holy Spirit
in the churches I've known in the last few years. All
that singing and shouting (as in the new movie, Gospel) doesn't
seem to me to have anything to do with Spirit.
I am a very slow reader, so I may have questions for a while.
Also, I'm curious as to whether you've read Howard Thurman.
Rudy: I think that Huey may have a number of things in
mind. 1) the high suicide rate 2) the lethargy of the oppressed.
Today, he might also include the addiction to/with sex
and drugs, but also the acquisitive spirit that undermines
thrift and long-range planning for our families. All of these
trump freedom and the spirit of freedom.
Our problems are political and economic
rather than religious, which is suggested by the term
"resurrection." Rather than "resurrection" I
prefer "liberation" which has both religious,
political, and economic connotations, as in "liberation
We shall always have mountebanks,
scoundrels, and demagogues. But they are not our immediate
problem. First, we need to think what it means to be liberated.
Ben: It seems that the poor period
need a champion, not only black poor? And a third party of the
poor would be much more effective than a Black party per se.
Rudy: Ben, please, don't be afraid
of blackness. It's not a mad dog that's gonna bite you in the
ass. Black is here only a name. It is not exclusive. It should
be a practical party that guards against the least of these --
these are the Black Poor, because probably more than any other
group, they face genocide in America. So it must be a party that
guards first and foremost in the interest of these.
The white poor must be able to appreciate
this notion, or it will come to nothing. Maybe a few will, it's
free association. But as a class historically the white
poor have reverted to the worst tactic of capital, namely,
race baiting. That is, power and money find them as a class
easy to buy off. You know they say, we been sticking it to niggers for
200 years why should it now change. It ain't all that bad.
Of course, it would be a wonderful
initiative if a party was organized for the white poor, a
historical class in America. That's unlikely. We cannot even do
that for the white working middle-class. They have been
voting against their interests for fifty years to spite niggas.
No, I'd like to begin out more sure-footed.
Keep in mind, we have examples to guide us in this judgment and
decision. Their are numerous black institutions that whites as a
class are reluctant to be participants. They have cultural and
social critiques that I perfectly understand. So I choose not to
operate from the stance you suggest.
It's like being in a race and only you have
a weight on your shoulders. I suppose you just have to trust me
on the race thing here. If you can't trust me it doesn't matter
whether you in the party or not. If you don't probably not.
Miriam: Rudy, I'm afraid in this case
I agree with Ben. MLK led a Poor People's Campaign that
was open to all. There're more Whites than Blacks in
poverty, and Latinos are right behind. We need to unite
across racial lines.
I have no objection to uniting across all lines. I'm afraid you
posted 4 October 2005
* * * *
A Huey P. Newton Story 2001 /
What We Want, What We Believe The Black Panther Party Library
The Spook Who Sat By the Door /
Passin' It On; The Black Panthers' Search for Justice
* * *
19 March 2012