Black Panther Party [BPP], from its very beginning in the struggle
against racial and economic oppression, believed in the “basic
principle not only of physics but also of political science.”
BPP may now be physically gone, but it is by no means forgotten;
for its legacy lives on to this day even as the struggle for economic
and social justice continues unabated.
be sure, there would have been no viable Black Panther Party without
the leadership, brilliance, and tenacity of the women who were
an integral part of the Black Panther Party. Immediately the names
of Assata Shakur, Tarika Lewis, Afeni Shakur, and Ericka Huggins,
to name but a very few, come readily to mind. These “sister”
/ women Black Panthers were, in their own extraordinarily important
ways, the backbone and female political giants of the
Black Panther Party. If indeed any one Black Panther
Party sister embodied the genius, strength, leadership, tenaciousness,
and revolutionary beauty of the women of the Black Panther Party
collectively, she must assuredly be Kathleen Cleaver.
Black Panther Party was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale
in October of 1966, in Oakland, California. Thus, the month of October
is Black Panther Party History Month, but I reiterate
that without the invaluable rank and file, and national leadership
of women, there would have been no viable Black Panther
Cleaver was not only the revolutionary balance to her then spouse,
the dynamic, fiery, and prolific Black Panther Party Minister
of Information Eldridge Cleaver, she was also in fact the
visual revolutionary inspiration and actuator for and to
the entire Black Panther Party - women and men alike.
Kathleen, as a member of the national governing body of the Black
Panther Party known as the Central Committee, and as Communications
Secretary of the Black Panther Party nationally, provided on a
national level what rank and file women Black Panther Party
[BPP] members in chapters across the nation were doing
on a regular and daily basis - ; she provided the implacable vision,
and simultaneously a glimpse, of what the egalitarian unity
and political struggle by Black women and men together might
actually bring about and be.
it was the “brothers” who may initially have brought together
some pieces to form the Black Panther Party [BPP], it was beyond
all question, the BPP “sisters” who honed, refined,
and actually made those pieces coherently work together.
this the 21st century, it has been correctly written that Kathleen
Cleaver is “a major voice in the Black Liberation movements of
the 1960s and 70s, [and] continues [presently] to speak
out against racism, sexism, and economic inequality.” However,
perhaps just as importantly, Kathleen Cleaver has always possessed
and still possesses today that critically crucial and delicate
balance of knowing when to immediately cut to the political
chase, and likewise when to bide her time, and with stunning and
straight-forward intellectual alacrity proceed to educate,
expose, and if necessary, intelligently obliterate any who dare
challenge the legitimacy of the struggle in which she and
her former comrades in the Black Panther Party gave [and many
continue to give] so very much mentally, emotionally, and physically.
This is the essence of Kathleen Cleaver: audacity, intellect,
integrity, and no nonsense. This also continues to be the essence
of the legacy of the Black Panther Party as a whole.
Ten-Point Program of the Black Panther Party succinctly
and clearly laid out the objectives and beliefs of the Party.
Moreover, despite the ultimate physical decimation of the
Black Panther Party by the end of the 20th century, the BPP Ten-Point
Program remains as one of the best examples ever of a precise
and forthright political platform that persons can easily understand
and relate to right up to the present.
addition to the Ten-Point Program, free breakfast, free
medical, free busing, free ambulance, free shoes, and free school
programs were but a few of the programs instituted by the
Black Panther Party in service to Black communities throughout
the United States. The activism of the Black Panther Party translated
into tangibly serving the people “body and soul.”
it should come as no surprise that Kathleen Cleaver is today
an author, a law professor, and a resolute political activist.
Among other books to which Kathleen Cleaver has made major contributions;
she has co-edited the book titled, Liberation,
Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers
and Their Legacy. It needs to be read by any and all serious
students of the Black Panther Party and/or of people’s political
struggle in general.
the genius of sister Kathleen Cleaver, as well as of other
former Black Panther Party members including (Black Panther Party
Legacy & Alumni curator and historian) Billy X Jennings, exiled
sister Assata Shakur, Elbert “Big Man” Howard, artist extraordinaire
Emory Douglas, and teacher / educator Ericka Huggins is with us
still. Moreover, the determination and vision of
former long time political prisoners Robert Hillary King (aka
Robert King Wilkerson) and Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt are also with
revolutionary spirit of the many martyrs of the Black Panther
Party, including Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, John Huggins, Fred
Hampton, Mark Clark, Bobby Hutton, Welton Armstead and so very
many other women and men of the BPP continues to live on.
The Black Panther Party’s casualties of
the vicious U.S. federal, state and local war
against it, including (but not limited to) Huey P. Newton
and Eldridge Cleaver, are reminders of the enormous emotional
and psychological price and carnage that have been, and continue
to be, put upon any who dare stand up against the avaricious and
vampiric oppressors of humankind; and should be understood in
this context. The physical, emotional, amoral viciousness and
fall out of the war against the Black Panther Party can, to
some extent, be summarized in the despicable and illegal / unconstitutional
U.S. Government program (known as COINTELPRO) to “frame, discredit,
disrupt, imprison and murder” BPP activists. Real change
is never brought about without severe and
real human prices to be paid. There is simply no
such thing as a genuine painless revolution.
Cleaver has also been, and remains, active in legally supporting
many political prisoners from the Black Panther Party, many of
whom remain imprisoned today, after decades
of wrongful incarceration. She has not forgotten the lessons of
exile which she herself personally experienced. She has not
forgotten the struggle.
is a relatively recent television program on the Black Panther
Party, which includes sister Kathleen Cleaver and others. It is
extremely informative, expertly done, and well worth watching.
The name of the program is: Lords of the Revolution: The Black
Panthers. It was televised nationally by the VH1 channel and
is only approximately one hour in length and will hold your attention
to its conclusion.
sister Kathleen and other former BPP members made crystal clear,
each in their own fashion, on the above mentioned VH1 television
program; over forty years ago the Black Panther Party understood
that the only way to bring about real systemic “change”
was through and by the people - we ourselves.
Kathleen Cleaver so completely encapsulated this when she so poignantly
summarized the program, Lords of the Revolution: The Black
Panthers, by simply stating, “Wish we could have done better.
We should have been smarter. We should have been stronger. We
should have been more organized. We were up against a very,
very powerful opposition. We didn’t know how powerful
our government was. We were ready to change our world. We still
want to change our world.” Indeed.
Thank you sister Kathleen. Thank you so very, very
Power To The People.
sisters and brothers! Onward!
Editorial Board Member, Larry Pinkney, is a veteran of the
Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic
of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American
to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights
case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights. In connection
with his political organizing activities in opposition to voter
suppression, etc., Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally
televised PBS NewsHour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.
For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and
Thinker, by William Mandel
[Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here
to read excerpts from the book). Click here
to contact Mr. Pinkney.