Tag Archives: Huey P. Newton

How The Left Has Lost Its Way: Calling All Panthers, All Weathermen, All Progressives and All Leftists to the Front, Today’s Activists Desperately Need A Historical Lesson

Although I realize that this will sound peculiar, it nonetheless needs to be said. The relative non-response to the Republican Party’s “tax reform” efforts proves once again that significant sections of the Left, particularly within Black America, have abandoned, are afraid, or unaware of prominent class issues in this nation. I must say that their dereliction of duty by what can be termed a traditional Leftist coalition has occurred at a particularly inopportune moment.

There is little room to debate that the Left has allowed their traditional narrative regarding economic inequities to be hijacked by an illogical Republic Party argument that reminds one of late 19th Century populism. This strange narrative has caused many poor and working-class Americans to believe that the wealthy are interested in either economic equality or fiscal fairness. Oh, how I long for a return of the identity politic driven sixties radicalism, a period filled with diverse groups expressing a righteous indignation at economic disparities.

In many ways, it is shocking that monetary matters that have historically possessed the ability to mobilize poor and working-class American workers have been trumped in the new millennium by the haunting specter of Race. I must relate that it has been interesting to see the manner in which poor and working-class Americans have developed a belief in the false narrative that it is other poor and working-class people of differing races/ethnicities who sit at the core of their economic hardships.

One needs to look no further than the obvious racial animosity existing among Leftists at this present moment for verification of the previous assertions. In many ways, it is impossible to believe that today’s progressives are the grandchildren of sixties radicals who resisted the divisive nature of Race. Although issues of Race have always factored into the actions of American workers, however, it was relatively rare to witness the rise of political postures that amounted to poor and working-class whites adopting a political stance that amounts to their “cutting off their nose to spite their face.” There is really no other way of explaining Trump’s ability to capture huge swaths of white voters with hollow words filled with no real intention than to attribute it to a white populace whose economic problems have birthed a familiar weariness with matters of race and diversity.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that Trump’s ascension was bolstered by the intra-movement racial conflict that was occurring between black and white Leftists. Despite what black progressives would prefer to believe, the truth of the matter is that whites are not the only entity in this coalition that abandoned prior productive political positions such as inter-racial cooperation as a significant segment of Black America also retreated from traditional Leftist relationships in favor of a new political perspective that was best expressed in their opposition to whites, regardless of their political leanings/affiliation.

In place of the aforementioned stance of inter-racial cooperation has arisen a myopic and heavily flawed formula that advocates for Black America to turn inward and work toward the creation of a parallel society that could exist and operate without the of whites. Such a political development has rendered traditional black political positions of inter-racial cooperation and coalitions a political relic of yesteryear. Sadly, the mutually beneficial inter-racial alliances that groups such as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the Peace and Freedom Party forged during a highly volatile and racially charged sixties protest era in a concerted attempt to activate the slogan of “All Power to the People” has long ago been forgotten my a new generation of young black leaders whose only political priority never strays from an overemphasis on Race and racial matters.

Unfortunately for poor and working-class Americans, the alluded to spirit of inter-racial cooperation that has historically proven to be their most reliable weapon against a greedy and avaricious wealthy class has been replaced by a terse xenophobia that mandates that today’s Leftists view each other skeptically, if not with a venomous hostility. Consider for a moment that while Conservatives make significant in-roads to this nation’s coffers, many black activist groups have seen sophisticated political positions devolve into a singular focus of opposing “whitey” at every turn, regardless of the issue or situation. It is this pedestrian understanding of American political matters that have facilitated the disruption of inter-racial cooperation among Leftists that the Right gleefully exploits.

What an unfortunate moment this is to be on the Left, particularly when one realizes that the historical record indicates that the most assured path forward is the development of productive mutually beneficial alliances among a highly diverse population of progressives.

There is no clearer illustration of the present spirit of non-cooperation among black activists than a recent “New Black Panther Party” meeting I attended. One of the initial things I noticed as I entered was that there was not a single white present. Although the absence of white radicals is partially attributable to their shifting political priorities, I am certain that the main reason for their absence was the bitter hatred spewed by groups such as the New Black Panther Party. As expected, the tone and tenor of the speeches conveyed an unmistakable perspective that whites were neither welcome nor needed in Black America’s pursuit of racial equality. The historical record that contradicts such a position matters little to these types of revolutionaries.

I intently listened as these neo-Panthers dressed in paramilitary gear ranted against all things white and supported all things black. I am convinced that in their rush to don paramilitary uniforms and posture with guns that they missed fundamental Panther historical lessons that made the Black Panther Party what it was. I am convinced that their lack of knowledge would sadden Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Elaine Brown, Kathleen Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver.

After exiting this meeting of the people, I could not shake a gnawing feeling that maybe every segment of the Left is woefully ignorant of the inter-racial coalition building that preceded them. Obviously, the alluded to historical illiteracy curtails contemporary strategies and strengthens their better-versed opponents.

I seriously doubt that this latest reiteration of the Black Panther Party is aware of the original Panthers working relationship with white radical groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society or the Weathermen for what Huey P. Newton considered mutually-beneficial reasons. Unfortunately, the alluded to ignorance regarding the utility of coalitions and alliances with like-minded groups fighting the same enemy compromises the achievement of reachable goals. One is ultimately left with an unfortunate query of are the various groups found on the Left even fighting for the same goals? It is sad that such a question has to be asked, and even more disappointing that I cannot offer a definitive answer to the most mundane of all queries.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Reclaiming a Fading Legacy: Why I Make My Students Read Assata aka Counterbalancing an Irrelevant American Educational System that has Failed Black People

During my initial lecture in my freshman survey course, a course that invariably includes upperclassmen who have avoided addressing mandatory history requirements, I purposely attempt to pique their interest in the subject matter as a preemptive strike against the malaise that the subject matter of history generates in their minds. If nothing else, this introductory moment allows me to gauge their understanding of African-American history.

When I address the volatile identity politic driven 1960s, my area of expertise I might add, I highlight several notable Black Powerites by asking those assembled in front of me if they know anything about Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson, Fred Hampton, or Carl Hampton? Puzzled and bewildered looks appear on the faces of my young charges. Without fail, it is not until I reference the name Assata Shakur that the hands of a few students who are eager to share that they know who this revolutionary sister is confidently raised. For most, this is their moment, the one opportunity to prove to me that they do know something about African-American history; unfortunately, it is a moment that will definitively prove how little they do know. Invariably, some non-descript student eagerly announces to their classmates that “Assata Shakur is Tupac Shakur’s momma.” I just shake my head and sigh as once again, my students have confused their Shakur’s. In one swoop, this particular student has erased the legacies of both Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, and Assata Shakur, our revolutionary sister who remains exiled in Cuba. Experience has taught me that this is a common misstep among my students.

The above mistake occurs so frequently that it has caused me to ponder the following question; what does it mean that the vast majority of my students do not know about Assata Shakur. What does this troubling historical illiteracy say about black educators, the American educational system, and the black community?

One does not need to be a pessimist to reach the conclusion that the fact that African-American children have no real understanding of Black History means that the American educational system has no utility to Black America. Dare I say that sizable portions of this antiquated and non-representative institution have no utility whatsoever when measured against a much-needed effort to liberate Black America socially, politically, culturally, and economically.

I fervently believe that the process of inquiry and intellectual curiosity are critical components of the development of self-identity, politicization, and the generation of priorities for Black America. Such conclusions force me to use Assata Shakur’s story, Assata, in my courses on a repeated basis as it is a succinct articulation of the cost African-American revolutionaries have paid for their commitment to liberate their people around the globe.

I am confident that you understand that as a black educator, I consistently wrestle with matters of education and the development of a relevant education on a consistent basis. I am not ashamed to share that the alluded to moments of reflection engender a slight depression. The alluded to depression is a direct extension of the realization that the irrelevant curriculum that teachers, regardless of race/ethnicity, are forced to teach has created bountiful crops of African-Americans who are not only guided by a pervasive ignorance regarding African-American history, but also are quick to attack anyone that raises issues such as Race, racial inequality, prejudice, discrimination, or racism. Their complicity with their own oppression has been manufactured in American school houses.

In the end, the question of who will teach our people about the heroic struggle persons of African descent have undergone around the globe remains. The only reasonable answer to this query is that enlightened African-Americans must recommit themselves to educating our people “by any means necessary.” In many ways, we have no other choice if we are to survive. Failure to take definitive action in this matter ensures that we will continue our tradition of being economically exploited, socially inappropriate, and politically inept; places that I hope you would agree we have occupied for far too long.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

How Cam Newton’s Black Power Salute Exposes How Little We Know About the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

One of the most unfortunate by-products of being an African-American Studies Professor is that it seemingly invites a vast array of individuals with varying levels of historical knowledge to discuss various Race matters with you. Far too often, I find myself at the center of what evolves into contentious debates that would not be an issue at all if my challengers had any understanding of African-American history. The most recent incident occurred in the wake of Cam Newton raising a “Black Power fist” that reminds one of the mid-sixties Black Power Era.

The alluded to individual was exhilarated by Newton’s gesture; however, that euphoria dissipated when Newton later expounded on why he made the polarizing gesture. According to Newton,

The message is unity for me, black, white, different minorities around America. That’s my message. I want everybody to come together. We get nowhere separated. People feeling oppressed and people that are rich looking down on other people, you don’t get nowhere with that. We all are created equal. We need to find some kind of way to come together to make the situation better. Because where we’re going now, it’s not healthy at all.

It would not be an overstatement to state that the so-called “conscious” brother mentioned above was disgusted with what he considered Newton’s failure to stand firm for the Race. The referenced disgust was verbalized via derogatory name-calling.

As I expected, this “conscious” brother turned his attention toward me. Let me first say that I routinely avoid such engagements as those seeking my perspective have already made their minds up regarding the incident. I have found that the most unproductive discussions that I have had regarding racial matters involved individuals seeking to claim the vacated mantle of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Trust me when I say that the vast majority of people who aspire to replicate legendary Black Power Era figures of yesteryear — Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, and Fred Hampton — know little about the ideological underpinnings that supported their revolutionary platforms. Instead of studying the revolutionary polemics of such individuals that highlight the impact that Capitalism has had on race, class, and gender within Black America, they rely on a menagerie of innuendo, rumor, and Youtube videos that produce little more than sophomoric “hate whitey” phrase-mongering.

It is this understanding that the individual that was seeking to engage me regarding Cam Newton’s “Black Power fist” gesture knew little about Panther ideology that led me to avoid what was destined to be a significant debate regarding the matter. Prior discussions had already taught me that such individuals have no comprehension that the Black Panther Party was able to be pro-black without being anti-white, particularly when it came to poor and working-class whites who were being exploited by Capitalism.

If those seeking to claim the Vanguard position of the African-American Freedom Struggle and walk in the steps of the Huey P. Newton led Black Panther Party had a real understanding of Panther ideology, they would have embraced Cam Newton’s insinuation that this nation needs a “rainbow coalition” of activists to address persisting socioeconomic equalities throughout the entire nation and recognized that at that very moment Newton was channeling the spirit of Fred Hampton. It was the Chairman of the Chicago branch of the Black Panther Party that initially used the phraseology of a “rainbow coalition” well before Jesse Jackson stole the term. If they cared to study, aspiring Panthers would understand that Hampton’s call for “Black Power for black people, White Power for white people, Brown Power for brown people, Red Power for red people, and Yellow Power for yellow people” was not a betrayal of the Race, rather a clear sign of political sophistication that eludes contemporary black leaders and theoreticians.

A figure such as Cam Newton should be applauded for his statement as it signals an uncanny understanding that it is Capitalism that we must fight against, not white people in general. It is the study of relevant materials that is most sorely needed in today’s black freedom movement and not a fixation on iconic images such as Panthers carrying guns and Angela Davis’ Afro. Until this latest generation of black freedom fighters realize that it is Capitalism, not White America that is the true enemy of our people, we will continue being busy and achieving very little as we continue our grandest tradition of failing to understand that it is the destruction of exploitive Capitalism that is the actual goal and not the overthrow of the prevailing racial order so that Black America could have her vengeance in oppressing those that have exploited her for so very long.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

HARSH FACTS ABOUT THE FBI’S COUNTER INTELLIGENCE PROGRAM OPERATIONS AGAINST THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY

While public disclosure of the FBI’s nefarious activities eventually led to the COINTELPRO closure, by then its goals had been accomplished. Elaine Brown succinctly sums up the feelings of those victimized by the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program when she declared: “These motherfuckers intended to kill every one of us.”  There is no doubt that the Black Panther Party was the target of vociferous local, state, and national level attacks, between 1968 and 1969, the Panthers suffered 739 arrests and paid over 4.89 million in bail fees.  Another Panther Party member reflects, “Even though we knew that we had COINTELPRO to deal with on one hand and the police on the other. We had spies sitting all around us and working with us in some cases.”

FBI Director Hoover and his underling’s fanatical dedication to the Law ironically led to their routinely breaking these very Laws. FBI informant D’Arthard Perry, also known as Othello, later confessed that on several occasions he witnessed agents placing “…illegal weapons and various items of contraband into household[s] and offices belonging to the Black Panther Party.”  Even the US Senate was forced to conclude that “although the claimed purpose of the Bureaus COINTELPRO tactics was to prevent violence, some of the FBI’s tactics against the BPP were clearly intended to foster violence, and many others could reasonably have been expected to cause violence.”  Despite an FBI agents claims that “[o]ur basic policy was to divide and conquer…I can guarantee that nobody was saying, ‘Let’s get these guys killing each other,’” the evidence and recollections of COINTELPRO victims contradict such disclaimers.

Jane Adams, Deputy Associate Director of the FBI’s Intelligence Division, reported to a Senate Subcommittee,

None of our programs contemplated violence, and the instructions prohibit it, and the record of turndowns of recommended actions in some instances specifically say that we do not approve this action because if we take it, [it] could result in harm to the individuals.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the facts contradict Adams’ recollections. A subsequent Senate Committee Report took both Adams and the FBI to task for their nefarious activities in relating the following.

Because of the milieu of violence in which members of the Panthers often moved we have been unable to establish a direct link between any of the FBI’s specific efforts to promote violence and particular acts of violence that occurred. We have been able to prove beyond doubt, however, that high officials of the FBI desired to promote violent confrontations between BPP members and members of other groups, and that those officials’ condoned tactics calculated to achieve that end.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

Book excerpt from Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

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Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?

Why the Panther Uniform and Panther Patrols Were So Important

While developing plans for a revolutionary organization, Newton considered every detail, including the uniform his cadre would wear. The Panther leader desired for the group’s image to serve as a “plus factor” that distinguished them from an ordinary street gang. According to historian Ula Taylor, Huey P. Newton “didn’t want people to see the Panthers as thuggish, gun-toting brothers without an organized agenda. He came up with the idea that all Panthers should wear neat, polished uniform–black slacks, ironed powder-blue shirts, black tie or turtleneck, black leather sports jacket.”   Seale explains the Panther uniforms importance below.

That uniform represented a heck of a lot more to the community than just a uniform. It represented organization. The racist power structure recognized us as being organized and they hated it. But the Black community, even the elderly mother would say “Lord, them young men show is sharp. Them young men and young women sure are sharp and clean and organized.” This is one thing Black people needed. It’s a safety valve for developed consciousness. To the brother on the block, the lumpen, “Man, them dudes show is sharp. Baby, I show wish I had me some knows and some pimp socks like that,” you know what I mean? But at the same time, it gave us a chance to talk with people about the ten-point platform and program really what we were about.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, their attempt to differentiate themselves from street gangs and hoodlums failed to increase their membership numbers significantly. Nonetheless, the moment that Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and Lil’ Bobby Hutton emerged from their vehicle, they caused a significant buzz throughout the Bay Area.

According to Elaine Brown, fear was the greatest obstacle the African-American community faced on its path to liberation.

The first question for black people is to get past fear, to see past the monolith to the man. That’s why we started using the word ”pig,” a detestable image that takes away the image of omnipotence. A pig, whether running loose in the ghetto with a gun or sitting on Wall Street or in the White House, is a man who can bleed like a man and fall like a man.

Panther leaders hoped to wield the Panther Patrols as an Excalibur that slew Bay Area African-Americans perception of law enforcement officers’ omnipotence.

Newton realized that theory alone was incapable of trumping African-Americans fear of Bay Area officers. Ironically, fear prevented local Blacks from moving toward liberation. Newton speculated that only public confrontations held the potential to remove the veneer of omnipotence that simultaneously cloaked officers and convinced Black urbanites that joining the Panther Party was suicidal.

Huey P. Newton recalls the Panther Patrols initial purpose below.

Out on patrol, we stopped whenever we saw the police questioning a brother or a sister. We would walk over with our weapons and observe them from a safe distance so that the police could not say we were interfering with the performance of their duty. We would ask the community members if they were being abused. Most of the time, when a policeman saw us coming, he slipped his book back into his pocket, got into his car, and left in a hurry. The citizens who had been stopped were as amazed as the police at our sudden appearance.

I always carried law books in my car. Sometimes, when a policeman was harassing a citizen, I would stand off a little and read the relevant portions of the penal code in a loud voice to all within hearing distance. In doing this, we were helping to educate those who gathered to observe these incidents. If the policeman arrested the citizen and took him to the station, we would follow and immediately post bail. Many citizens came right out of jail and into the Party, and the statistics of murder and brutality by policemen in our communities fell sharply. 

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

Excerpt from Creating Revolution as they Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

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