Tag Archives: Huey P. Newton

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

Available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and every location where great books are sold.

Eldridge Cleaver Discovers the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

From the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s inception, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale considered the African-American community to be the Panthers lone buffer against state repression. The confrontation in front of the Ramparts building reinforced that belief. Toward ensuring the Black community’s support, Panther leaders began dispensing information that delivered their perspective of American racial matters via their news periodical, The Black Panther. The Black Panther not only provided much-needed publicity but also paved the way for a significant membership increase. The newspaper was the brainchild of the newest Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver.

Eldridge Cleaver’s initial exposure to Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and the Black Panther Party came during preparation for the aforementioned Malcolm X Day Celebration. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale’s arrival at the “Black House” to receive their security assignment from the Malcolm X Day Celebration steering committee startled Eldridge Cleaver. Cleaver recalled, “I spun around in my seat and saw the most beautiful sight I had ever seen: four black men wearing black berets, powder blue shirts, black leather jackets, black trousers, shiny black shoes–and each with a gun!…Where was my mind at? Blown!” Cleaver, a communications master, eventually became the voice of Black Power. Not long after Cleaver became aware of its existence, he officially enlisted in the Black Panther Party and was appointed Minister of Information. Cleaver, a recent parolee from the California penal system after serving nine years for a rape conviction, was renowned throughout the Bay Area for his oratorical prowess and literary skill. Cleaver had much in common with other Panther leaders as many of them hailed from the Deep South; Cleaver’s roots lay in Arkansas.

Predictably, the Cleavers westward migration failed to solve their economic woes as they, like droves of other Black emigrants, landed in one of California’s housing projects. Considering his environs, it is not surprising that imprisonment was Cleaver’s inevitable destination. While incarcerated in Soledad, Cleaver honed the prodigious writing skills that facilitated his early release from prison. White Bay Area radicals became aware of his phenomenal literary skills via a series of essays that became the cult-classic best selling Soul on Ice. The aforementioned radicals diligently worked for his release and arranged employment at the leftist periodical Ramparts.

A disciple of Malcolm X, Cleaver was determined to bring Malcolm’s final secular vision, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, to fruition. Cleaver considered the uniting of African-American activists, artists, writers, and political theoreticians the initial step in accomplishing that goal. Such aspirations led Cleaver to create the “Black House” in San Francisco’s Fillmore district as a centralized location for the aforementioned individuals to assemble, strategize, and share information. The funds supporting this hub of African-American culture and politics were provided by Eldridge Cleaver’s white leftist benefactors. Newton and Seale thought that Cleaver’s most significant contributions would not be his phenomenal oratorical prowess or literary skill; rather his access to monies via speaking engagements and a network of wealthy white radicals. Indicative of such was Cleaver donating the residuals from Soul on Ice to the Panther Party. Cleaver immediately became the primary engine behind the Panthers most powerful communication tool and consistent fundraiser, The Black Panther.

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

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

A MESSAGE FOR THE PANTHERS: WHY J. EDGAR HOOVER CONSIDERED GRITS TO BE THE GREATEST THREAT TO THE NATION

On the surface, it appeared to be a humorous quip posited by Roger Guenveur Smith during his one-man stage performance The Huey P. Newton Story. The moment that I allude to is when the critically acclaimed actor channeled the spirit of Huey P. Newton and remarked that Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) Director J. Edgar Hoover charged that the most significant internal threat to the United States of America was Grits. Yes, you read that correctly. J. Edgar Hoover believed that the single-greatest threat to the internal security of the greatest military empire mankind has ever known was Grits!

Although it may shock many, the truth in this one-liner outweighs its comedic undertones. At worst, the statement conveys a dual truth: (a) Hoover feared the Panthers Free Breakfast for children program and (b) The F.B.I. Director was correct in his summation that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (B.P.P.) Free Breakfast for Children Program was the single-greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America.

If the droves of individuals who have laid claim to the B.P.P. revolutionary mantle understood such substantive matters they would abandon their reactionary activism and seek to understand why the F.B.I. Director took issue with the Free Breakfast & Lunch for Children Programs. Dare I say, that such a move would be the most significant move the black liberation movement has made in the past four decades.

Despite the voluminous criticism that Black Powerites hurl at the memory of J. Edgar Hoover, few can reasonably dispute his brilliance or the tenacious manner with which he executed his sworn duty to protect the United States of America. Were these new Panthers serious about the liberation of Black America they would have long-ago realized that it was the B.P.P. development of young black minds, not guns that raised the ire of Director Hoover and all those he represented. The alluded to attacks can be credited to the reality that the framework for the rise of any people is found in the development of a revolutionary ethos among both male and female children.

I routinely encounter self-proclaimed revolutionaries who fail to realize the revolutionary nature of the Free Breakfast Program. I have discovered that the most expeditious manner in which one can deal with such individuals is to remind them of Malcolm X’s assertion that “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children.”

It did not take the F.B.I. Director long to understand that the Panthers were using their Free Breakfast & Lunch for Children Programs to nourish the bodies of black children while simultaneously providing a relevant education designed to liberate their minds from the chains of white world supremacy.

Hoover understood that the Free Breakfast for Children Program was growing the next generation of Black Revolutionaries via lessons, songs, and chants that muted mind-numbing children rhymes such as Old McDonald had a Farm or The Itsy Bitsy Spider. When viewed from the correct perspective, it is clear that of all their community service projects, it was the Free Breakfast for Children Program that held the greatest potential to uplift Black America. Those involved in this community service project received so much pro-Black information that there was little room left for the standard school curriculum to enter. Make no mistake about it, it is the exposure to Panther ideology and lessons that produced Tupac Amaru Shakur.

In hindsight, there is little debate that of all the points on the Black Panther Party’s 10-Point Platform and Program current Panthers are fascinated with Point #7 — “We Want an Immediate End to Police Brutality and Murder of Black People.” There is little debate that Point #7 is crucial to the survival of black people in America. However, it does not outweigh Point #5 in regards to securing liberation for Black America.

Point #5

We Want Education For Our People That Exposes
The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society.
We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History
And Our Role In The Present-Day Society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

Were I permitted the opportunity, I would urge those leading these recent manifestations of the Black Panther Party to reconsider the fixation on the gun and turn their attention toward recreating both the Free Breakfast & Lunch Programs for Children as well as unearthing the curriculum that was poured into the minds of our children. Let us never forget that the minds of our children are by far our most valuable resources, especially when it comes to the liberation and salvation of the black nation.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017