Production Team: X
Interview Date: November 4, 1988
Camera Rolls: 3065-3071
Sound Rolls: 331-333
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Bobby Seale, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 4, 1988, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
--problem was actually police brutality that had been sparking numerous riots in 1966, even prior to that in 1965, the Watts Riot had vicious acts of police brutality. Huey P. Newton and I were working with the North Oakland Neighborhood Service Center under the city government and Stokely Carmichael--
I'm sorry, stop.
Black Panther Party, 1966, when Huey and I founded that organization, that particular year numerous acts of police brutality had sparked a lot of spontaneous riots, something that Huey and I were against, these spontaneous riots. Even a year earlier, in 1965 in Watts you know 65 people were killed, 200 wounded, 5,000 arrested. And Huey and I began to try to figure out how could we organize 5,000 youthful Black folks into some kind of political-electoral power movement. Stokely Carmichael was on the scene with Black Power. We were questioning, Huey and I, about the need for a functional definition of power and we came up with this, "That power is the ability to define phenomenon then in turn make it act in a desired manner." Well the phenomenon of racism structured in the city council at that time, ah, Huey and I working with the North Oakland Neighborhood Service Center and the advisory board we got 5,000 signatures for them to go to the city council, to get the city council to try to set up a police review board to deal with complaints of police brutality. Well, the city council ignored us. So that phenomenon was that the city council was just a racist structure which could care less about the 48 percent Black and Chicano people who lived in the city of Oakland. So there we are trying to figure out what to do. We finally concluded through those months that we had to start a new organization. And we sit down and then began to write out this ten-point platform and program in the North Oakland Neighborhood Service Center in North Oakland, California, in the community where Huey and I lived. And we wrote out this program. We want power to determine our own destiny in our own Black community. Alluding to the needs, we organized political electoral power, full employment, decent housing, decent education to tell us about our true selves, not to have to fight in Vietnam, immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people was point number 7. The right to have juries of our peers in the courts, what have you. We summed it up. We wanted land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.**. And, ah, in the tail end we stuck in two famous paragraphs. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to separate themselves from the political bondage--that was the emphasis, the political bondage--which has connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature, nature's God entitled them. I mean this was the kind of summarization we gave to our meeting. And we summarized that Ten-Point Platform Program, flipped a coin to see who would be Chairman. I won Chairman and we created the Black Panther Party.
Okay, how did you come up with the symbol and the name Black Panther. How did you come up with the name Black Panther?
Actually we had written the Ten-Point Platform and Program of the organization but yet didn't have a name. A couple of days later, Huey Newton and I was trying to figure out why was that on a Lowndes County Freedom Organization, it was Lowndes County, Mississippi, a pamphlet that we had, why they had this charging Black panther as logo. And, Huey come up with some notion that if you drive a panther into a corner, if he can't go left and he can't go right, then he will tend to come out of that corner to wipe out or stop its aggressor. So, I said, "That's just like Black people. All the Civil Rights people are getting brutalized across this country for exercising the First Amendment of the Constitution which is the law of the land, they can't go left. Other people have tried to control the police with law books and tape recorders and have been brutalized. They can't go right. Even the young Whites who were protesting," I said, "Who was in support of the Black people, can't go left, can't go right. So we just like the Black panthers and in effect Huey P. Newton and I named the organization the Black Panther Party. But at first it was the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Later, we dropped the self defense aspect because we didn't want to be classified as a paramilitary organization.
There were other Black Panther Parties that sprung up around that time. What was your relationship to those other Black Panther Parties.
The only other group that sprung up about two or three weeks after we started was the Northern California Branch of the Black Panther Party over in San Francisco. Ah, I had worked with those partic--that particular group previously in the revolutionary, an organization called The Revolutionary Action Movement. I couldn't get along with them. I, I guess I had a view that they had a misunderstanding about what the Revolution was about, and, in effect, we did not, ah, we attempted to work together because they came to us. We were very prominent in the community there for about three months, patrolling police. The people really liked what we were doing and the Northern California operation came over and says, ah, We want you to help us escort Sister Betty Shabazz from the airport when she arrives for a rally that would be held in Hunters Point in one of the riot areas that people were trying to cool down and organize politically. So, we say, "Sure we'd love to work with you guys." But what in effect happened there is that, this group, we had, we said we had 20 guns and, ah, then they said they had 20. And we found they only had 5. So we supplied only 10 or 12 or something like that. And then we found out, after we done all this escorting and later had a Mexican type stand off with the police. While this other group, the Revolutionary Action Group of the Black Panther Party had split the scene. And we didn't know why. We found out later, their guns were unloaded. And we thought to ourselves that they were jeopardizing the whole situation by not letting us know that.
Okay, um, let's go back to police control. What went through your mind? Were you afraid of any of them? Put yourself back in that time. You're out there patrolling a police arrest. Just, just describe the incident, and what, what were feeling as, as you go through that?
Well, you're dealing with patrolman, policeman, when we decided to that at first, at first, I mean. First we had to accept the fact that we may get killed or go to jail. Ah, but we were all so sensitive to the fact that peaceful demonstrators was being brutalized all across this country, that their rights were being violated. And when we decided to do that, you have to remember we were dealing with clear-cut, fine points of the law. And as long as the weapon was not concealed, so we felt secure there, than we weren't violating the law. We studied all the gun laws. We knew them very well. And when you walk up suddenly, you know, when we started patrolling the police, six or seven of us and I think we had one sister, she had a, she was packing a pistol, and I had a pistol, and Huey had a shotgun, and our uniforms, and we had a Ten-Point Platform and Program copies of that taped recorded, and law books, and I remember one of these first events when we got out of a car, we saw policemen, you know, making an arrest of some kind about 20 or 30 people in the community standing to the side watching and the Black folks, one of them says, "Hey, who are these people? Hey, man, these guys are--Hey man, I'm going to move out of here, these guys got guns." And stuff like that.**, and so Huey says, "No, brothers and sisters it's not necessary to leave. This is a new organization, the Black Panther Party, we here observe these police in the community, make sure there's not going to be any more police brutality." And little Bobby Hutton passed out some of the Ten-Point Platforms and Programs which all have applications to join, and, ah, it came down to some point where the policeman says, "What are you doing with those guns?" and Huey says, "Well we got them to defend ourselves and to observe you." And the police, "You have no right to observe me." And Huey with all this law study, because he was in night law school at the time, "Ah, California State Supreme Court ruling state--states that everyone has a right to observe a police officer carrying out his duty as long as they stand a reasonable distance away. And a reasonable distance was constituted in that particular California Supreme Court Ruling as 8 to 10 feet. I'm standing approximately 22 feet from you. I will observe you carrying out your duties whether you like it or not." And the Black community is saying, "Well go ahead on and tell it.".** Well, I mean what you're doing here is that you have a nervousness about it at first a bit but with the community's reaction, which is really what your objective is, it gives you a good feeling that you're right. The guns are loaded. They're not pointing at anyone because we also know California Penal Code, you can't even play around, play around and, ah, point a loaded weapon at anyone because it constitutes assault with a deadly weapon. So really I begin to feel secure with our posture, particularly with the people around, the Black community who stayed around to watch this and to see the police back down. And after we learn, after a few, couple of months, that these police are trying to figure out where they can catch us illegally. I mean we studied the law much more clearly to find out we was clearly right. Ultimately, they made a law against us, to stop us from carrying guns. That's how legal we were.
Okay, now the decision to go to Sacramento.
Well, we had only hit the press three or four times so far as the print media. And, ah, what we had heard is that the Police Department had went to our local congressman to get a bill written that was going to hit the newspaper. So Huey called me up and says, we have to go to Sacramento. It was conceived as a media event that the press is always at the California State Capital, so that we got up there and read a statement in opposition to what the California Legislature was doing with respect to us trying to exercise our rights to, you know, to deal with police brutality in our Black community. Then of course the press would carry, at least our side, would carry it and of course hopefully to give more people to join the Black Panther Party. But in effect, ah, well even when we arrived, this is what the real, we arrived there, all these Black men and women, 24 males and 6 females with guns and Ronald Reagan, then the Governor, was on the lawn with 200 and, future leaders of America, you know 12, and 13, and 14 year-old kids. And these kids are leaving his session on the lawn and coming to see us. And these young White kids thought we were a gun club.**. You know, "Hey, neat 30.06 you got there." Well, the media followed these kids because they were there. And asked, "Aren't you the Black Panthers." "Yes." And I began to read a statement and of course the press later let us inside and I was trying to get to the spectator section but we wound up on the floor of the California State Legislature while they dealing with the bill.
Wait a second, that's a rollout.
Um, the Black Panther Party, and me in particular, and the group that was with me, we were branded as hoodlums invading the capital. Ah, in fact, after I read the message once I wanted to go inside to the spectator section so when we got in the hall, just imagine, there's a hundred press people, cameras, still cameras, print media people backing up. And I'm saying, "Where's the spectator section." And the press says "This way, Bobby." In effect, they led me on the wrong floor and we wound up down on the floor. Some party members got ahead of me with shot guns, pistols, and wound up on the actual floor of the California State Legislature. And the press is not even supposed to go in there. And they followed them in, taking pictures of Panthers with guns on the floor. I had to get the party members out of there. I says, "Come on, we're in the wrong place," because I was really looking for the spectator section. So we come out. And not until we left the capitol, two blocks away when we stopped in a service station to get gas and what have you, did we all get busted. Because in effect what we did at the capital was not anything. Later we were charged with disturbing the peace of the assembly, which is a misdemeanor and I wound up in six months at jail for it.
Okay, I'm trying to put the Panthers in some sort of line with other struggles for, for, for Black freedom. Where did this philosophy of the Panthers come from? How were you influenced by Malcolm X, we were talking about Martin, and Elijah Muhammad?
Huey and I had been involved for some time, off and on, studying Black history, what have you, what Malcolm had done, where Martin Luther King come from, I was highly influenced by Martin Luther King at first and then later Malcolm X. Largely the Black Panther Party come out of a lot of readings, Huey and I putting scrutiny to everything going on in the United States of America. Like we must have subscribed to 20 some odd different periodicals, offbeat periodicals like the Liberator, Freedom Ways, what have you, even some periodicals out of Africa. Well we had read and digested Frantz Fanon's _The Wretched of the Earth_. I mean we knew Lerone Bennett's _Before the Mayflower_. I knew about the 250 slave revolts that included Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey. I mean, I, Frederick Douglass, everything, the Nation of Islam, what had happened in the 1930's, what have you and so on. And there we were with all this knowledge about our history, our struggle against racism and when we started the Black Panther Party it was more or less based on where Malcolm was coming from, where our struggle was, an argument about the Civil Rights Movement not learning to own property, and then Stokely Carmichael in 1965, '66 talking about Black Power, and we thought we needed a functional definition of just the word "power" alone. And we felt that if we defined the phenomenon of a city government framework or institution of government as racist in terms of the institutional racism that we understood from studying that history then it's high time we made that institutionalized political function act in a desired manner. And how do we go about that. So, we had to organize political electoral power we thought, so. This is where we were coming from.
Did Malcolm ha--Malcolm X have a particular influence on the Panthers?
A particular influence in the sense that--
Now could you just rephrase the question? I'm sorry.
Malcolm X had a particular influence on the Panthers in the sense that earlier he had stated that the Civil Rights people down south who were exercising the First Amendment of the Constitution, that's what he alluded to, were going to be violated by racist and every Black man who has a shotgun in his home has a right to defend himself. Even the Deacons for Defense in this context had an influence there. Even as we read the history of Robert Williams also had an influence there. So, you see this has been rolling since '59 in terms of how we see the history, even with respect to the slavery votes historically. So it comes to a point that if the Civil Rights people, who were peacefully protesting, if their rights are going to violated, then we're going to have to move to a higher level and take the position that we have a right to defend ourselves based on the Constitution of the United States.
Now, the Marxist philos--philosophy, the Maoist influence, was it there from the beginning?
No. The Marxist-type philosophy had no real influence on us creating the Black Panther Party. It was later that we found a way to make money by selling _The Little Red Book, The Thoughts of Mao Tse-Tung_. We sold this book for three or four weeks before we even opened it up to read it because we would take it up to the White students at the University of California. We'd buy it for 20 cents and sell it for a buck. "Get your Red Book, the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, one dollar." I mean people hand over fist. So we'd run out, go pay our rent, box a few extra shotguns, pay our phone bills, go get more books, come back. We went to a big anti-war rally with 35 thousand people, sold two, three thousand books that day. We left our guns at home. All we wanted to do was sell books because we needed funds, financial support. And one day after all of this selling of this book, we sit down and start reading this book and at one point in there it says, "Do not steal, not even a needle in a piece of thread from the people." We thought that was great. We started reading all these points. And the we began to coo-- incorporate some of the aspects that Mao talked about in this Little Red Book. Later we picked up the four works of Mao Tse-Tung. We began to read that. And then we began to look at look at Marxist, Leninist material. But we never was what you call "doctrinaire socialist." In fact we didn't get along too well with many of the hardcore "doctrinaire-type socialists".
Were, were Black folks in the, in the community able to understand your Marxist perspective, the Maoist perspective that came into the party?
Yeah, but you see, what we did is we inculcated it in a way that we were saying it from the Black Panther Party point of view in analysis--
Could you say that again and say the Maoist perspective or whatever?
The, it wasn't a Maoist perspective that we had so much. We knew some of the principles that were applicable to our situation in the USA in terms of the organizing principles, what have you. Ah, we were more or less, uh, we believed in a sort of a coop--cooperative socialism and we didn't accept, per se, a sort of a state control command economy type concept. So the way we did it, we pulled from what we thought was valuable to us. And, yes, brothers and sisters began to accept that. I mean, you'd have to imagine a brother who has been taught how to read in the Black Panther party standing up and telling another brother on dope, "Brother, you're acting in an unprincipled manner." You know what I mean. "That practice is the criterion of the truth," and things like this here. So this is one of the things, to have grassroots brothers and sisters citing principle posture, taking a principle posture and trying to educate the community and kind of, in, in the attempt to help raise the conscience of the Black community.
Could you talk about community control and how that became a policy in programs that the Panther Party dictated with the police? Community control--
Well, community control was in a vague way from the n--initial point of, uh, that was all related to the function, the definition of power. But we initiated a program where we got some research teams out of the University of California and some other places, and put together a real referendum to the ballot for community control of police really to decentralize the police and have five commissioners duly elected by the people, a form of more participatory democracy here. And we finally did get it on the ballot in the city of Berkeley. It lost by one percentage point. But that was one aspect, along with selling the Black Panther party newspaper and dealing with a lot of other problems in the community, that was one of the key political electoral aspects in 1968 that we attempted to initiate.
When did the Panther party begin to start moving on a, on a national front, that's becoming, become a national organization effectively?
Effectively as a national organization, the Black Panther Party began to move, well, originally, you have to understand that when I did the, um, California, when I went to the California state capital, that caused us first to have international notoriety. But in terms of on an organizational level, the Black Panther Party really spread from, prior to the murder of Martin Lu--the assassination of Brother Martin Luther King. We only had about seven hundred members in six or seven chapters and branches, largely on the west coast. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King our organization grew from seven hundred to five thousand members plus. And with the assassination of Robert Kennedy later that year the young White radicals readily coalesced with us at our direction. They couldn't direct us. They coalesced with us. So it was whoever in the power structure who murdered Martin Luther King caused a lot of people who sided with Martin Luther King to say, "The heck with it. Let's join the Panthers." And they in effect tagged us as the vanguard of the revolution.
Okay, could you talk about the breakfast program in the development of the survival programs? How did they, how did they begin?
Young man standing out in front of the Black Panther Party office that sold papers at McClymonds High School, a Black school, say something about the fact that some teachers were trying to get free lunches for high school students. And I said, "Well, what about the little kids? They need to eat too!" So I initiated with the central committee that we wanted a free-breakfast-for-children program. Eldridge Cleaver called it a sissy program. I said, "Who's the greatest revolution in the-- revolutionary in the world to you, Eldridge Cleaver?" He says "Mao Tse-Tung." I said, "Well, you read the material. It says, 'Always serve the people.'" But mine and Huey's concept related to that was that the recipients of the program in effect become educated and understand that they have to organize an opposition to the racist power structure. But the breakfast program initiated in Reverend Neil's church in West Oakland, California. Spread it around this country to a point where we was feeding over two hu-- two-- a couple hundred thousand kids free breakfast. Later, Willie Brown and some other state legislators in California moved and got a bill through, even with the override of five million dollars for all the schools in the poor and working-class communities for free breakfast facilities.
And how did you see these programs? Did you see them as being an, an end in and of themselves or were they part of a revolutionary policy?
They were part of a revolutionary policy. Some people like to say they were reform programs. We says, "No. A reform program comes from a power structure who's oppressing you. This is the people's revolutionary program which educates the people that they have to be in opposition and oppose the power structure. That is the great revolutionary character of the program." The program to us makes a statement, even if the power structure incorporates it in its system makes a statement that we're saying from the community, "That's what you should have been doing in the first darn place." So that's our attitude. That was our attitude about that.
What was Huey Newton's particular gift? What, why, why did you work with him, I mean, what, what in, in, in forming the party? What was, what was Newton's particular gift?
And, and you should, should rephrase that question.
Huey, Huey's basic, uh, genius as we used to call it was his ability--
We just rolled out, I'm sorry.
Huey Newton's genius as we used to call it was his great ability, starting from a theoretical point of view, to show how we could move to heighten the contradiction as a means, one to educate the people to capture their imagination. I mean the very idea of patrolling the police was really grounded in a theory that Huey had that if the idiot Ku Klux Klans could stand on the Capitol steps and get publicity then we could do the same thing, only our publicity would be about trying to raise the conscious of Black people to understand that we have to take a posture against destruction of racism. So raising the contradiction to a high level was key to how Huey thought and understood and analyzed the situation.
Once again, you might explain what you mean by contradiction. That--once again, what was Huey Newton's particular gift?
Huey Newton's basic genius, as we used to call it, was his ability to deal with the contradiction and raise the contradiction. In a sense, ah, I would say that Huey Newton's genius was a, just say it, like this is. Huey was able to take the Panther Party and take the very concept of civil disobedience and put it on the cutting edge. But at the same time holding a legal posture. In other words, he distinguished civil disobedience from criminality. The power structure would say, "You're all criminals." But we know that a civil disobedient stands out loud on the corner and states what he or she is opposed to, whereas the criminal is covert. So, Huey put it on the cutting edge without becoming criminal and put it on the cutting edge to make the issue sharp enough, to make even the White racists realize that they have to pay attention to what's going on here. That was Huey Newton's genius.
Okay, we're going to move ahead a little bit. The alliance of SNCC, the Student Non-violated, Non-violent Coordinating Committee, how did that come about? And you might talk a little bit about the drafting of Stokely, Stokely Carmichael, but how did that alliance come about?
Huey was arrested and charged with first degree murder in Oakland, California. We had scheduled a birthday rally for Huey, and Eldridge and I left, went to Washington, D.C. to visit Stokely to see would he come to the rally. He agreed to come to the rally. A week or so after that James Forman came out and started rapping with us in Los Angeles and later came up and explained to us that seemingly SNCC was getting ready to fall apart because of the White students who tended to dominate the decision making policy. And later after that, we heard that the United States government was getting ready to draft Stokely to go fight in Vietnam. Well, Eldridge and I put our heads together and we wrote up a draft notice for Stokely. I went to the front steps of the San Francisco Police Department, had a press conference and read the draft notice that Stokely Carmichael was hereby drafted into the Black Panther Party and will not fight in the racist imperialistic power structure's war in Vietnam. Stokely in effect accepted, ah, Rap Brown came to the Huey freedom birthday rally, James Forman and others, and we asked Rap Brown would he accept the draft also. So Rap Brown became the Minister of Justice, Huey, Stokely Carmichael became the Prime Minister and James Forman himself from SNCC became the Minister of Education.
Was there a history of, of relations between SNCC and the Panther Party?
No there was not a history of relations. I mean, whenever Stokely came to the San Francisco Bay Area in '65 and '66 before the party was started, Huey and I would always go to those rallies to hear him speak at the time. But in terms of having a direct hardcore relation or being a member of the orga--his orga--those organization, no we were not.
Did you think the alliance between SNCC and the Panthers would last?
Well, I don't know. It happened that it didn't last. I mean, ah, Stokely wound up in 1969 in Scandinavia, speaking around the world, representing the Party and representing the ge--the Black people's struggle in America in general. That's the way we told him to do it, free will. But while we had developed a lot of alliances, working coalitions, I'd say maybe, with the White left in America, Stokely began to criticize that. And we told him he was wrong, that no White people run our organization, that all those people in the working coalition functions and caters to some of the needs we need based on the fact that if they are truly against racism, "If we need this kind of support, this kind of support, give it to us. If you don't give us support, get out of our way." But, ah, that spurred a situation that when I got back in early 1969 that we quietly kick Stokely out of the Black Panther Party. And so he wasn't a member any more. We didn't want a whole lot of press, at that time about it, because it's enough having a bunch of racist media trying to destroy what you represent, you know, by saying, "They've split, they've split," that kind of stuff.
Now, but what was your hope when SNCC and the Panthers joined together? What was, what was the greatest hope?
Well, initially I guess what we really looked at was that we had a larger, well, first, here was two organizations that could somewhat merge its leadership, the notoriety of the spokesmen in, Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Huey was in jail, ah, as a political prisoner, what have you, and that it would spur a broader ability, you know, to organize that political Black community political electoral power unity and give this revolutionary character that the Black Panther Party needed.
Okay, at that time, it's, you know, backing off of SNCC for a second, did you believe that a revolution was starting? And what were the signs, if you did?
Oh yeah, it was there, the revolution was there. I mean, ah, when you start getting the shoot-outs and battles and 26 year-old Black Panther Party members are getting killed, particularly through the year 1969. Yes, ah, it was already going on before the Black Panther Party started. I mean, ah.
Okay, if you could just rephrase and make sure you say the revolu--"the Revolution", that you believe the Revolution was there, okay? Did you believe that, that the Revolution was, was starting, what were the signs?
Yes, the revolution was already going on. I mean the signs was, not only the spontaneous riots that had occurred through the latter part of the '60's but the Civil Rights Movement, the fact that the racist power structure all across this country was attacking peaceful demonstrators in now here we had moved, after several years, to a position of defending ourselves, ah, people like Malcolm X, who had preceded us. Now here we were attempting to implement some aspects of where he was coming from. Ah, it was a battle. It was a struggle. And I think we rooted ourselves in, in the sense that, we began to get millions of Black pe--folks to really look at where we were coming from in our stand against the power structure. Now, a lot of people call revolution, a confrontation. Really, what you and I meant by revolution was a need to revolve more political power and economic power back in the hands of the people. That's really what a revolution is.**. Those in the immediate confrontations evolved because the racist power structure did not want us to exercise our democratic human rights to organize our people in opposition to their structured racism.
Okay. Could you talk a little bit about your coalitions with the White radical organizations? When did that begin and what were some of those working coalitions?
One of the first working coalitions we had was with the anti-draft movement. They had, see, you have to understand something. Huey P. Newton and I was in and about, around these guys many times, way before the party started and sometimes after. Now, we sometime would be around University of California, we would arguing with them. "You don't know what police brutality is!" and I would make jokes, "You guys need a course, Police Brutality 101, before you understand what I mean." "What do you mean?" "You need to get brutalized by some police so you understand what's happening in the Black community." And I used to say, "Maybe you need a, an advanced course. Police Brutality 405," and once these guys got brutalized out there in front of the induction center in Oakland, California. I'll say, "Eh, interesting. Police Brutality l05. Fine."
I guess mainly because we saw a resource w--
Once again, if you could rephrase the question.
I guess we begin most of our coalitions with the young White radicals because of a resource but initially it was the young White radicals who sort of identified with Huey being in jail after the vicious police brutality upon the draft resistors. And that initiated the coalition. What, in effect happened though, was we, when they wanted the coalesce with us we demanded of them that they support us and that you don't run our organizations. And from there it became with the Peace and Freedom Party, who wanted to get on the ballot, we thought that was a nice thing to do and a third party factor, so we let them into the Black community to register in the Peace and Freedom Party. But a third of the people wound up registering the Black Panther Party anyway. Ah, that was, and as we looked at it and as we saw the anti-war protest and the young Whites who did really get out in the streets demonstrated against structured racism. We saw that as a resource in that, it, another aspect of our analysis was that we're talking about power to the people. We made a new analysis of what nationalism was about, Black nationalism. That, whatever Black unity we had, it was really a sort of a catalyst to help humanize the world and we were that catalyst here in Afro-America or Africa, that's what it was about. And that the world was composed of more than just Black folks, you know. So, the coalition aspect to us being what one defined as a minority United States of America, if the White community showed some split, then we should side with that aspect of the group that seemed to be or would act as friends to us.
The whole Black Panther Party contingent, we all arrived at the airport, Huey says, "Line everybody up." Some policemen in plain clothes come out, say "What are you doing with these guns?" Huey says, "That's irrelevant. It's none of your business." So more policemen come out. He says, "Where you going?" Huey says, "We're going to the airport." The policeman says, "You can't go in the airport lying there with guns like this." He says, "This place accommodates over 200 people. Any place that accommodates over 200 people, we can exercise our constitutional rights and guns are not illegal. Be quiet. Bobby let's go." I said, "All right, forward, hup." We started marching. We walked into the airport. Walked all the way to the gate. Waited for Sister Betty Shabazz. She got out, we surrounded her. We came out. Police are walking everywhere. People with their eyes all bugged out. "What are these guys doing with these guns?" We come out. We get into the car and we take off and we go to Ramparts magazine for Eldridge Cleaver to interview Betty Shabazz. The police came up, because there's two Panthers standing out in front of Ramparts. Several more police came up. Then some police came up and little Bobby Hutton was cussing this policeman out, telling him, "You ain't coming in here. You ain't got no warrant," because, for the brothers beginning to know a little law, etc., etc. And as we came out Sister Betty Shabazz said she did not want any cameras. And so when we came out, Huey came out. So Huey had a magazine and he put it up in front of this Channel 7 camera and the guy knocked it down. Huey put it back up. And then the guy hit Huey. And then Huey turned around and popped the cameraman. And then turned around and said "Police officer arrest this man, he assaulted me." Imagine Huey is telling the policeman to arrest this White reporter with the, et cetera, "He assaulted me." And the police come around and start grabbing their guns. Huey says, "Spread. Don't turn on your back on these back-shooting M.F.s." And the next thing you know we spread. I put my hand on my gun. The police says, "Don't put your hand there." I said, "Don't you put your hand on your gun." We spread it and we backed up, a real Mexican standoff. The other guys with the other group were gone with Sister Betty Shabazz. She'd been gone. And we got in our cars and we split and left. And then we found that the other guys, the five people didn't have their guns loaded.
Okay, once again, the symbol, the name Black Panther, how did that come about? And you can talk about Lowndes County, Alabama.
We were talking about, it's not Lowndes County, Alabama. I'm not saying that because it's not correct.
Okay, let's stop.
The Lowndes County Freedom Organiz--
Okay, how did you come up with the name Black Panther for the Black Panther Party?
Huey P. Newton and I had received a pamphlet from the Lowndes County Freedom Organization from down south. And they had a logo of a picture of a charging Black panther. I asked Huey, "Why would they have a charging Black panther?" Later he came up with the point that if you push a panther into a corner, if he can't go left and he can't go right, he will tend to come out of that corner to wipe out its aggressor, whoever had pushed it into the corner. And the analogy was that's where Black people been pushed. Peaceful demonstrators exercised the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States and then Bull Connor and racists brutalizing them: they couldn't go left, couldn't go right. With the petition we had for community police review boards. They ignored that, the city government. So in effect Huey and I decided to name the Black Panther Party, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. We later dropped the Defense because we didn't want to be tagged as a paramilitary organization.
Okay, I'm going to go into some Fred Hampton questions now. What, what are your personal recollections, what personal recollections do you have of Fred Hampton as a party leader?
My own personal recollections of Fred Hampton as a party leader was the time when I went to Chicago to see first hand what brother Fred Hampton and, and, and Bobby Rush and organized. It blew my mind. Fred Hampton's charismatic ability to teach and rap to young brothers and sisters, have a thousand young brothers and sisters in the church all saying, "Power to the people. Power to the people. Power to the people." And to even would find out that Fred Hampton had previously been in the NAACP and here was, you know, had all these breakfast programs, health clinics rolling and everything and to speak. And I remember later telling party members that "If anything ever happened to me," because I know sooner or later these racists are going to want to kill me, "that since Fred Hampton is be Deputy Chairman under me, with the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, he will become the Chairman of our national organization. Please make sure you always consider him." And I was telling members of the central committee that. And Fred Hampton was just one of those young brothers who could articulate, bring home, capture the feeling of young people and break it down. He could break, I, I was good at breaking all this theory down so the average person would understand it, but Fred Hampton, he was twice as good as I was.
What support was Hampton, Bobby Rush, and the Chicago Panther Party to you, to, to, in, in organizing on your behalf during your trial in Chicago?
The Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party, Illinois State Chapter of the Black Panther Party, is, well, automatically, I mean, you know. Let's back up, cut.
That was, ah, Bobby Rush, ah, Fred Hampton, ah, the Illinois State Chapter of the Black Panther Party, it was automatic, you know, that you organize. I'm the Chairman of the National Organization of the Black Panther Party. There were numerous rallies that Fred Hampton and Bobby Rush put together. I mean right outside the courtroom, you know, Free Bobby, etc.
Could you just refer to your trial? Okay once again.
How did Fred Hampton, Bobby Rush, and the Illinois State Chapter organize on your behalf during your trial in Chicago.
Ah, that was automatic, ah, that, ah, that the Illinois State Chapter of the Black Panther Party would organize. They automatically organized rallies what have you, et cetera, in relation to that particular trial. The Chicago Eight Conspiracy Trial. The one in which I was chained, shackled and gagged. I mean they had numerous rallies right outside the court room, marches, what have you, et cetera, to bring attention of course to the fact that I was being railroaded in Judge Julius Hoffman's courtroom.
The police and the FBI raided the Chicago Panther headquarters several times in 1969 and at one point they, like, broke in and knocked it down. Could you just tell that story about the time they tore the place apart and what you advised them to do and what the community did in, in response to what happened afterward.
In 1969 practically every branch and chapter of the Black Panther Party throughout the United States was attacked not less than once and as much as five times particularly in Chicago. Ah, there was, wait a minute, I'm goofing up here.
The Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party was attacked several times. And one particular time I remember they raided the Black Panther Party office and they had a short shoot out. And of course we had a rule that we would take an arrest. But somehow or another, you know, it was another incident, so they took the arrest. But what the police did is they went in like Eliot Ness with sledgehammers. I mean, our press, all of our IBM typewriters that had been donated by the White radicals, our newspapers, I mean our mimeograph papers by the caseload and then set the whole building on fire. This is what the FBI and the Chicago Police did. Now, the idea on the part of the police was to psyche the community out. They called me up the next day, I says, "Is the office open?" "Well, no the police boarded the place up." I say, "Open it back up. You got the lease to the place." "What?" I says, "Open it up. Take all that boarding down. Paint that place." And the Black Panther Party members started working for a couple of days. The next thing you know the community started bringing wood, paint, and everything, and opened that Black Panther Party office right back up. And of course, this is an attempt to terrorize us out of existence. At the same time if they, if we would close down, it would leave the Black community saying, "Well, they stopped them.".**
How, how were your suspicions and, and fears of the FBI and other federal and local police forces changing in those years, in '68 and '69? How were you becoming more aware and were suspicious of them?
Actually through the year of '69 we had big purge in the Black Panther Party because we had grown by early '69 to 7-8,000 Black Panth--Black people in the Black Panther Party. And we had too many provocateur agents, you know, too many incidents and things where things were happening, you know, like a 42 dollar service station robbery in the Black Panther Party newspaper truck with bold Black one foot letters that says The Black Panther Black Community News Service, for 42 bucks and I'm bringing in 25,000 dollars a year to the Black Panther Party, every penny going into the treasurer of the Black Panther Party. "What do we need with 42 bucks?" you see. So this is a lot of provocateur agent activity that was going on, that, in effect, was an attempt on the part of the FBI to make us look bad in the eyes of, not only the public, but the Black community in particular. So we were very leery, and we began to kick people out. Even if people fool around and wouldn't pass some leaflets out. Kick them out. We got too many people in the organization, we didn't know what was happening, because sometimes we would have some people passing out leaflets and then you find a stack of them in a trash can somewhere. You know that kind of stuff. And who was in this area, so kick that person out of the party. Get rid of them. We were too big. In fact I think we reduced, by the end of that year, we reduced our membership by 50 percent.
Were you more suspicious of the police as well? I mean--
We were infiltrate, we were infiltrated by the FBI, police, provocateur agents. I mean it's documented fact through COINTELPRO's, operations, through our Freedom of Information Acts, fact, I mean, they're showing I mean that the FBI set up for the, the National Guard Armory in Chicago to be ripped off and then blamed on us. I mean, it was all set up using provocateur agents by the FBI to do that. You know, I mean, ah, John Huggins and, ah, Al Prentice, Bunchie Carter, had been shot, killed and murdered in UCLA and nowadays, we find and trace all this information back to provocateur agent activity orchestrated by what? The FBI.
Okay, d--d--describe how you learned about Fred Ha--that Fred Hampton had been, had been murdered and your, your personal reaction.
I had been brought back to, ah, Oakland, San Francisco, I mean, I had been brought back from Chicago, I had been brought back from the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, back to Oakland to wait, ah, extradition, and, ah, was in jail December the 4th. And I picked up the newspaper that morning. I could get--
Ah, I was sitting in San Francisco County jail that morning and read the newspaper that Fred Hampton and Mark Clark had been killed and murdered that morning. Over the next few days I found out a few more facts of the situation. And to hear and understand that state's attorney Hanrahan with a special foli--police group, had entered the house at 5 a.m. in the morning and shot the place up. And to underhear[SIC] that, um, the bedroom, the wall this way to the bedroom and the wall this way to the bedroom had hundreds of rounds shot in at bed level. I mean, and then hear that Fred Hampton had been shot in the head. It, uh, and Mark Clark of course killed on the entry at 5 a.m. in the morning to me was, it was a culminating point, you know. Um. I had worried about too many of us getting killed earlier, but it was a culminating point. The only real relief that came out of that was a couple months later when Roy Wilkins of the NAACP created a commission to investigate the FBI's concerted attempt to smash the Black Panther Party which really is a pivot point and which caused a decline in attacks upon Black people, Blacks, u--upon Black Panther Party members' offices and homes.
Okay, just going back a little bit. At one point Fred Hampton had, had rejected the Weather Underground. What was, what was the talk in, in, in, inside the Central Committee of the Panther Party when he made that decision?
It wasn't Fred Hampton who rejected the Weather Underground. It was me. I gave Fred Hampton direct orders not to participate with the Weather Underground. Eldridge Cleaver wanted him to participate. Eldridge Cleaver was trying to run the Black Panther Party from Algiers. I said, "Don't participate in it because all you're doing is setting yourself up." I says. "The Black Panther." I says, "The young Whites, I'm not opposed to their activity but do not bring Black people out of the Black communities to run with the White, young, un--underground in the White communities. It don't work, brother. All they're going to do is corner you and they're going to kill the Blacks before they kill the Whites." I gave him direct orders not to participate in opposition to Eldridge Cleaver attempting to give Fred Hampton direct orders to participate. And Fred Hampton followed my directives.
We're going to the Gary Convention now. You made a point in your speech at the Gary Convention, you're saying, "I won't call my brothers pigs, not in Gary, Indiana." What are, what are your most vivid recollections of going to a major, national Black political convention in a city with a Black mayor and with a Black, Black chief of police.
Well, I thought that was positive to the extent that previously to that, the Afro-American Policeman's League in Chi--of the Chicago Police Department basically supported us. Most people don't know that there were quite a few policemen here and there who understood what we were getting at when we talked about structured racism inside the police department. Most people don't know that when Huey and I, around the time we first started the Black Panther Party, we had a Black policeman who was a friend of ours, who recruited with the police department. We didn't want to destroy the police department. What we wanted to do was run it. That's why I ran for mayor of Oakland in the first place, so we could reorder it and redirect it and make sure it served the real basic desires and needs of the people. So when we had a Black mayor, a Black police chief, et cetera, that was like a sign of things beginning to change, you know, to control those agencies of government was important in terms of when you started talking about power or Black Power.
Specifically, let's talk about Gary. Let's sta--
Well, see, I don't know that much about Gary. I just made that statement as a sign of direction of change that was coming--I don't know much about Gary. I knew that we had a Black mayor. I thought that was great, that a Black mayor could be elected. The fact that we had our, uh, some policemen there and a po--a Black police chief, that was important. Now, on the other end of the fact, what if that Black policeman chief later had turned out to be a vicious c--vicious, I'm going to call him a vicious Black pig. You see what I mean? So, I mean, I can distinguish between the color you are and the content of your character. You see what I mean? So, it was like a hope for decent character that may hopefully evolve.
Okay, what was your message to the convention in Gary? And how do you feel you were received?
I wasn't allowed to participate in the convention. I was taking some entertainment thing to speak to some people for twenty minutes, which, uh, I always thought was absurd in the first place. Being one, a, an organization as the Black Panther Party which was entrenched and rooted into this overall struggle. So for whatever reason whoever organized that convention, they obviously didn't want a leading representative of the Black Panther Party to participate in the convention.
Okay, a major theme of Gary was unity without uniformity. Do you recall a sense of unity or was the convention marked by rifts and differences in opinions?
I don't even know nothing about the convention. I flew in one afternoon. I got in there at si--uh, four, five o'clock. I spoke that night, later went to a hotel and caught a plane the next day. See, I don't even know what those guys were pulling. You know, they didn't want--they didn't us in it, that's what it was, for whatever silly re--
Largely the Central Committee evolved to a point that we had maybe had ten or twelve different members. They were mostly initially composed of people who ran chapters in other states. Ah, many times like we may not get to Fred Hampton or Bobby Rush in Chicago but if the Central Committee, if we had a quorum for it, if we had a majority or three quarter votes for a particular policy, now this is all right. We're going to have to create Breakfast for Children Program--the Central Committee agreed--called democratic centralism majority vote. Then we give directives to chapters and branches that they had to set up a free breakfast program or set up a pr-- preventative medical health care clinic, uh, beginning with maybe with sickle cell anemia testing in a local church that may allow the use of that church. So it was a lot of directives given. Ah, we may have, we had Minister of Defense, Chairman, Minister of Education, Minister of Information and so on. Well, in each chapter, we had Deputy Chairman, Deputy Minister of Defense, you know, Deputy Minister of Education and so on. Each branch, you know what I mean, it was like, uh, Director of Minister of Education and so on with each chapter and branch so that they could carry out their basic functions based on the directives they got from the Central Committee of the Black Panther Party.
Okay, uh, cut. Okay, we're just going to, uh, switch--
How were you contacted about coming to Attica?
How were you contacted about coming to Attica.
Um, Huey Newton was first uh, asked to be a member of that committee dealing with A--Attica. And the Central Committee voted that, uh, maybe I should go. And, uh, via Bill Kunstler, I think it was, who originally had called, uh, was the real initial contact to that I think if I remember. I forget exactly how that--
Let's cut a second. But it was Kunstler.
Actually, Bill Kunstler had contacted the Black Panther Party. Originally the request from the prisoners was for Huey but then the Central Committee decided I would go. When we arrived Attica at first they wouldn't even let me in the prison. The very first day. I mean, these guards came up and pointed shot guns at the front windshield and the rear windshield, you know. And then finally Kunstler was called out and then uh, they refused to let me in. We left the grounds, we was on the highway headed back to Buffalo, New York. Here come some state troopers stopping us. You know, "Warden Oswald wants you to come back." "Oh, okay." Well, we go back. They let us in. I see the committee for a short period there and, uh, they're trying to, some are talking to me about the need to get these prisoners to drop the last three negotiating points. We go into the prison. When I get into the prison, uh, I make a speech to the prisoners, you know. And power to the people, uh, prisoners power, et cetera, to this effect. Okay. Then f--we finish with the speech there was a lot of other committee members with us, you know, the negotiating committee. And ,uh, it was about two, was a couple of the brothers calling us, said, "Bobby can we pull you over here and talk with you?" So they pull me down to the other end of the table, away from everybody else, away from any cameras. And this is what they explained. They wanted me to see if it was possible that, if we could get a helicopter, a sizeable helicopter to come in over the wall real fast, let the nine or ten prisoners who wanted to get out and then take them out of the country, and then they would drop the last three negotiating points. I says, "What?. And they says, "You." They heard, these prisoners heard that we had a Black United Airlines pilot, I mean who flew on a full time job with the United Airlines. And he did work with us because he was a editor part time of the Black Panther Party newspaper. And I said, "Hey, I don't know." I said, "But I see where you brothers are coming from because that would be real revolutionary act." I really had to identify with that. Could we pull this off? I says, "I've done dumber things," I says, "I'm going to have to leave man, in the morning or something to get back to Oakland because I got to Central Committee. I can't talk on the phones or whatever." That's right. So, next morning. So, I leave the prison. Next morning I try to get, really get back into prison. But they won't let me back in. Oswald, Warden Oswald would not let me back in. I leave and, um, catch a plane at twelve noon or something. I wind up in California. You know, it'd be two or three hours behind the difference in time, what have you. I have a meeting, Charles Garry, our lawyer, Charles Garry, he's the Chief Counselor of all cases that the Black Panther Party comes under. I tell him what the situation is. We deduct it is impossible to get even anybody, any of them in, even our White radical friends or anybody that, with such short notice even to even consider whether or not they would take the chance of getting killed to fly over with a helicopter. I said, "Well, I'm going to have to go back." I says, "You know.?" So that night, Sunday night, remember I flew in--
Okay, let's start from this question. What was it like when you got to Attica? When you, when you finally got to the prison? What was the atmosphere like and how were you treated?
When me and my, ah, other Black Panther Party members arrived there, we was readily surrounded with shotguns, you know, a couple of guards in front and a couple of police, state policemen in the rear, shotguns pointed directly at the window. I mean, actually pointed when they found out I was Bobby Seale. That's when they did it, okay. And, what we were trying to say to somebody, well the lawyer he said, "This is Bobby Seale." And so he got a hold of Kunstler and Kunstler came out and that's when they took the shotguns away. And then, ah, the word was out that Commissioner Oswald did not want me in the prison, would not let me in. And the news had covered that event, you know, that I was leaving. And the prisoners saw over the television, inside the prison, that I was not allowed in. And something happened because I had split, you know, we was halfway back to Buffalo, ten miles from the prison and a State Trooper car comes along and stops says, and says, "Commissioner Oswald would like for you to come back to prison. He will let you in."
Good. Let's cut.
Now, you went inside and you met the other observers and Commissioner Oswald and they presented 28 points to you. What was your reaction to the 28 points.
Well, they were basically 28 points and to me they were demands, they were the demands of the prisoners, you know. Of course my point was that I needed to get inside the prison to talk to the prisoners about the 28 points. A couple of the people of course said, "We've got to get them to compromise on these last three points." I think Commissioner Oswald had made the statement that we cannot negotiate on these last three points. So we went inside. When I went inside the prison, finally when we got past of all this massive amount of fire power and idiot guards making a statement, you know what I mean, "Yeah, we'll blow your ass away," or something like this, what have you, etc., "If anything happens, you get it too." They were saying that to me and my other party members who was with us. Finally, when we got to where the prisoners were, well the leaders of the negotiation, the prisoners asked me, to have me speak. I spoke. We sit down and we start talking and then three of the brothers pulled me to the side at the other end of the table where no cameras and nobody was there. And started rapping to me about, "We need a helicopter in here. If we can get a helicopter in here and get to eight or nine or ten, whoever it was, they wanted out, who could leave the country and go into exile." Then that, that point they would negotiate on. They would drop the other three points that Oswald would not negotiate on, which involved some prisoners leaving the country as exile, on one of those points, one of those last three points that were non-negotiable. So, in effect, I couldn't, ah, ah, in other words, I, I just couldn't make a decision that I was going to bring a helicopter. I told them I had to go back to Oakland, California. I had to talk the Central Committee of the Black Party to do this. So the next morning, which was Sunday, I came back to the prison, and attempted to go in again. Commissioner Oswald would not let me in.
Next morning I came back to the prison and I got inside. I went into the negotiating committee's room, you know, this-- and, ah, Commissioner Oswald was there. I told him to tell him I wanted to get in. Commissioner Oswald came out and says, ah, "Oh, are you going to tell them they have to drop the last three points?" I said, "Commissioner Oswald I can't do that at this time," you know. He said, "Well, if you can't tell them to do that then you can't go in the prison." So, I left, caught a plane a couple of hours later. Flew to San Francisco. Immediately had Huey P. Newton and other members of the Central Committee and Charles Garry our lawyer come because we had to make this private between, Charles Garry was all of our lawyers, right. So, if anything come about conspiracy, well this is between our lawyers and us and what legal ground we have. And I explained to them that they wanted a helicopter to fly in over the wall to let the prisoners, nine or ten prisoners get out and then, 'cause they heard we had a United Airlines, Black United Airlines pilot, who was a member of the Black Panther Party, who edited our paper, newspaper part time, sometimes. And they thought maybe we could get a pilot for the helicopter break. Huey P. Newton and I and the rest of the, it was too short a period of time, it was too short notice, even if we, even if we could have got one of our White Radical revolutionary friends. It was too short a notice to even put it all together, that the best thing I could do is go back and try to get with, with the negotiating committee to try to see what we could do now. The problem with me is I wasn't able to, ah, say for the prisoners, that you're going to drop those last three points. I couldn't do that. But that morning, Monday morning when I arrived back in Buffalo, coming from the airport, one of the local lawyers had picked us up, dropped us off at the hotel. We threw our bags in the door. Shut the door. Got back in the car. Live on radio is suddenly, as we're driving a couple of miles from Buffalo, "The prison and the prisoners are being attacked." I mean this is what's going on. We hear this live on radio. We drive a few miles and see they have attacked the prison. I mean this is live. Next day, I was still there in Buffalo. The New York Times has printed that Bobby Seale had went in that last Saturday night and told the prisoners to cut the throats of the guards, which of course, the coroner later confirmed that not one of the prisoners, which I never did tell the prisoners that. Because I would--
I want you to pick up from after you, you went, after you left the, uh, uh, prison you went back to Oakland. What happened when you went back to Oakland?
When I got back to Oakland we had a Central Committee meeting. Charles Garry came over. We discussed the fact that it was impossible to get a helicopter or a pilot to fly into, ah, over the prison wall and that the best thing for me to do is go back, so Charles Garry decided to go back with me, and that's in effect basically what happened.
When you got back you heard about, you heard about, you were in a car, and you heard on the radio that they had attacked the, uh, retak--retaken the yard.
Well, we had arrived at the air--we were picked up at the airport the next Monday morning, early that Monday morning. Ah, we, ah, went to a motel, threw our bags in the door, jumped in a car, headed to the prison. After a couple of miles on the road. There was live broadcast of what was going on at the prison and suddenly the live broadcast began to say, "They've attacked the prison, they're attacking now!" And you could actually hear the gun fire in the background over the live broadcast of the car radio. And, ah, I've always contended that I was not the right person to be one of the key negotiating members concerning Attica. Because you needed a person more like Martin Luther King or even Malcolm X probably could handle it better than me, because I had a real dedication to political revolutionary activity, even at that time, you know. Having 26 Black Panther Party members killed by vicious racist in this country. Of course we killed 14 of them too in attacks on us. But it had gotten to a point that I, I considered the idea, if it was possible to bring a helicopter in over the wall, as a pure revolutionary act against the penal, legal system that's part and parcel of the racist power structure in America. To me that was like, ah, ah, really get into the nitty gritty of criticizing the penal, legal system in America. Because if you really got down to real reform in the prison system of America, you would have to question the whole exploitation that goes on with capitalism in America.
Good. Cut. Okay.
When I got into the prison yard and they announced that brother Bobby Seale is here on the microphone as I was walking in. "Right on." These brothers and sis--were like overwhelmed. It was like, it was victory. Bob, we got Bobby Seale in here, the political revolutionary, they probably heard so much about. That's what was going on. I mean it was a pure warm welcome, you know. In the sense that, "Hey, brother Bobby is here." I mean, there's been movies and stuff that mis-portrayed my role there, you know.
Okay, I mean, not just, not just what's happened with the prisoners but with the, the guards and all that.
Oh, that's before we get to the yard. You have to go down this long hall.
Tell me about that.
Ah, Okay. Finally, Commissioner Oswald said we could go. So then we're walking through the halls and finally we get to a certain section that, I mean, they have police, guards, lined up piggy-back, so to speak. Twenty on this side, twenty on this side and then there's an upper level catwalk where there's ten or fifteen up there. They got machine guns. I'm talking about righteous machine guns, shotguns, and, so we have to stop when we walk through this section here. And these racist guards talking about, "Yeah, you guys, you're going to get too. If anything happens, we're going make sure, I'm going to make sure. somebody, I'm going to make sure I blow him away. I'm to make sure I get his ass," or something like this in fact, you know. So that's this racist atmosphere and this is the cut-off point between out here and when you get ready to go down this long corridor, before you go down this long corridor where the prisoners are in control. Okay? This is where we made me walk through this situation, so, you know, vicious racists.
I was invited to speak at the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. And, ah, I thought that I would give some kind of speech to the convention itself, you know, with respect to us, the Black Panther Party, we were heavy political organizers around America. And, ah, when I arrived there, Jesse Jackson met me and at some locations they told us to show at, ah, he brought in Isaac Hayes. Isaac Hayes met me. I rapped with Isaac Hayes for a while. And then later I was asked to come out to speak and I realized that I was speaking following some entertainment event. And so I spoke for ten or fifteen minutes and then, when we finished, I asked Jesse if I remem--if I remember correctly, "I thought I was supposed to speak at the political convention where they were dealing with hammering out ideological and political goal objectives?" He said, "No, you were scheduled to speak here at this event." I says, "Oh." Later, Isaac Hayes went on at this location that I was at, which, ah, to me at that point, I realized that I had been pulled in or was being ostracized from the real convention floor delegates and people. Most of the people I was speaking to were dressed for an entertainment night situation.
What, why do you think you weren't asked to speak at the convention?
I don't know maybe it had to do with the prominence of the Black Panther Party, maybe it had to do with, ah--
Can you just rephrase it?
What was the question again?
Why weren't asked to speak at the convention?
The reason that, ah, maybe I wasn't asked to speak in the convention floor, may have been, ah, had to do with our own prominence, maybe it had to do with a group of people who didn't necessarily, may have thought that we may have took some kind of leadership role in the National Black Political Conventions. Ah, we were heavily critical of, ah, of, ah, cultural nationalism, being a part of leading what we though should have been political revolutionary activity. Ah, that may have been a reason, you know, I couldn't. But, in one context I felt slighted, I thought it was underhanded on the part of whoever organized the convention. Which, in effect, you see that con--contributed to a lot of things that went down in the '60's and early '70's. On the one hand, here we have law enforcement agencies doing everything they can to keep us from getting together.
Okay, we just rolled out. I think we got it.