As the Black Panther Party celebrates its 50th anniversary throughout the United States, Bobby Seale recently stopped at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He mesmerized an enthusiastic audience with corrected untruths and future goals for the people.
The event was entitled “Black Power 50 Talks: Bobby Seale and Stephen Shames.” Shames began photographing the organization in 1967. He was a student at the University of California, Berkeley when he first met and photographed the Panther chairman at an anti–Vietnam War rally.
Seale became his mentor and Shames became the party’s photographer. He remained with Seale through his campaign for mayor of Oakland in 1973.
The conversation with documentary filmmaker Byron Hurt also included their joint book venture “Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers” (Abrams Books). It features memorable images accompanied by Seale’s in-depth commentary. “This book represents the truth and authenticity of the Panthers,” stated Seale.
Seale made it clear the Black Panther Party wasn’t based on Marxism or fascism. “If you read our Ten-Point Program, it is evident it is not about that,” he said. “That rumor started when Huey and I started selling the ‘Little Red Book, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.’ I told Huey we could sell them and make money for the Panthers. Man, it paid off. I paid 20 cents per copy and we sold them for $1 at rallies and our chapters. Laughing, he added, “We never read the book until months later.”
Seale began organizing the party in 1964 and says he quit his job with the city as an engineer after seeing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at a rally. “The BPP was never about violence,” stated Seale. “The guns were our defense against the police and their brutality. You had to be disciplined in my army. We knew all the gun laws and more, even the correct lawful response of police officers.”
He recited these city laws with the quickness of a riveting bullet penetrating the body of an unarmed Black man and the preciseness of a whip slashing the back of a female slave who refused her master.
“It was never about the guns,” Seale explained. “It was about political activism and our free community programs.”
Seal continued, “We can never change laws if we are not in power. We need majority representation in the seats of government. As we grew, I was looking to build a political electoral machine. Black Lives Matter and climate change organizations are our successors. Hopefully, they will stay involved politically on a consistent basis.”
Slavery, one of the most horrific crimes on the face of the Earth, is a crucial fabric of America. It is this contemplated abomination that has kept this country racially divided over
the past 400 years.
Last weekend the slavery empire built on terrorism and the torture of Black people, politics and economics traveled through time to sprout the heart-wrenching truth through the words of “The American Slave Coast: Live,”
at Manhattan’s Symphony Space.
The text came from Ned and Constance Sublette’s book, “The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry” (Lawrence Hill Books). The passages were read by the authors; by vocalist Lezlie Harrison; by musician, vocalist Nona Hendrix; by actor, writer Carl Hancock Rux; by actress Kandia Crazy Horse; and by filmmaker Jonathan Demme.
The music was composed by the saxophonist Donald Harrison and performed by his versatile quartet of guitarist/banjoist Detroit Brooks, pianist Zacci Curtis and drummer Darryl Staves.
After reading “The American Slave Coast,” Harrison was inspired to write a composition with an intriguing edge anchored in the blues, and at times his New Orleans roots leaped out.
For two hours the sold-out audience sat in scary silence as the music consoled them in the midst of being tortured by slavery’s agonizing truths.
Ned stated, “I knew from the beginning this project needed to be performable.”
“The American Slave Coast” is the 2016 winner of the American Book Awards.
Today, one political candidate is using race as a talking point. But ssshhh! He isn’t using that word. He prefers the phrase “let’s make America great again.” Some folks ask, “Why don’t Black people just get over it? After all, slave masters weren’t really that bad.”
Perhaps the slave masters they are referring to were former presidents Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson and James K. Polk. Regardless of their presidency, these men were white supremacists who profited from and promoted the selling of African-Americans from birth to adulthood.
“The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry” is one of the most concise, graphic, historically researched books ever written on the subject. This book should be required reading for Americans, particularly those running for any political office.
On Nov. 5, the hardest working man in jazz, Rome Neal, under his Banana Puddin’ Jazz banner, will present Jazzy Thespians Night, a tribute to the AUDELCO Awards and its president, Grace L. Jones.
Some of the many special guest thespians from Broadway to off-off Broadway will include Ty Stephens, Richard Cummings, Roz Davis, Anita Purcell and Keith Johnson performing at the Nuyorican Poets Café (236 E. Third St.). The set will be followed by a jazz jam and open mic. Of course Rome’s delicious banana puddin’ is complimentary. Admission is $15. For information, call 718-288-8048.
For his two-day engagement at the Blue Note jazz club, Roy Haynes retained his reputation of selling the place out with standing room only. At 92, he may have lost a little weight, but his spectacular “snap, crackle and pop” style of playing has not lost one crisp beat.
On opening night, the legendary drummers Tootie Heath and Louis Hayes and the bassist Paul West were present, along with the drummer Joe Saylor and bassist Russell Hall, young band members from the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” When Haynes stepped off the band stand, Heath said, “Roy, you the baddest drummer I know.”