[sixties-l] Black Panthers: old v. young

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Jun 23 2000 - 00:26:07 CUT

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    radman says: an old story giving some background on the Texas "panther" group

    Black Panthers: old v. young

    London Sunday Times March 16 1997

        A BATTLE for the soul of America's black power movement is expected to
        come before the courts next month as young activists accuse their
        elders of going soft and betraying the cause of "power to the people".

        A group of young zealots has set up a rival Black Panther organisation
        called the New Black Panther party. They want to try to revive the
        radicalism of the 1960s, when the group struck terror into the hearts
        of white Americans and was described by J Edgar Hoover, the FBI chief,
        as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the United

        The original Black Panthers, who took their ideology from Mao Tse-tung
        and Malcolm X but have since mellowed in their outlook, are suing the
        upstarts to prevent them from using the Panther name and logo of a
        pouncing panther. "The Black Panther Party Inc does not wish to be
        confused with the 'New Black Panthers', a group preaching racial
        division and the inappropriate use of arms to promote social change,"
        said the lawsuit. A judge has ordered the new group to stop using the
        Panther name until the case is heard.

        "I don't give a damn what judge issued an order," said Aaron Michaels,
        the 35-year-old leader of the new organisation.

        Michaels, who has led a series of high-profile, armed confrontations
        with the Texas authorities since last summer, said he believed the
        original group of Panthers was jealous of the new organisation's
        success. "We've garnered the attention of the establishment."

        He branded the original Panthers as "has-been wannabe Panthers",
        adding: "Nobody can tell us who we can call ourselves."

        Michaels earned his revolutionary credentials after calling on blacks
        to use shotguns and rifles to protest against the chairman of a school
        board who had been secretly taped calling black students "little

        A few weeks later, Michaels led a group of heavily armed Panthers to a
        black church near Dallas that had been burnt down. "You catch a
        cracker lighting a torch to any black church or any property of black
        people we are to send them to the cemetery," warned Khallid
        Muhammad, the controversial spokesman for the Nation of Islam, who had
        rushed to support Michaels and the new Panthers.

        It was at this point that Fahim Minkah, leader of the Dallas branch of
        the original Panthers, initiated the lawsuit, accusing the new
        Panthers of "race-baiting and bully tactics".

        "For these guys to walk around in their little berets and guns smacks
        us right in the face," said Charles Hillman, a member of the original
        Panther group. "These new groups are not consistent with what we were
        about," said David Hilliard, former chief of staff for the Panthers.
        "They are only spouting rhetoric."

        Bobby Seale, who founded the Black Panther party with Huey Newton in
        1966 in Oakland, near San Francisco, has turned up in Dallas to
        denounce the ideology and tactics of the new Panthers. He calls them a
        "black racist hate group".

        Seale, famed for his tract Seize the Time, appears to have lost some
        of his old revolutionary zeal. These days he is best known for his
        barbecue cookbook, which he sells on the Internet.

        The Black Panther party boasted 5,000 members in its heyday. It
        attracted artists and intellectuals who regarded the movement as the
        height of radical chic; Leonard Bernstein, the composer, hosted a
        party for the Panthers at his home in Park Avenue, New York, in 1970.
        But by the mid-1970s the Panthers had suffered appalling losses at the
        hands of the police and the FBI.

        Some of the group's leaders, such as Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely
        Carmichael, were forced into exile. Newton was shot dead in 1989
        outside a cocaine house in Oakland.

        Of all the former Panther leaders, Cleaver has undergone the most
        profound transformation.

        As "minister of information" for the Panthers and author of Soul On
        Ice, the firebrand book of revolutionary reflections, he was once the
        chief ideologue of the party. But he recently spoke out against
        so-called Ebonics, the attempt to legitimise an African-American
        language. He called it a "pathetic attempt to institutionalise
        dysfunction". Cleaver even wants blacks to forgive whites for having
        been slave owners.

        "What made you dilute your approach to black empowerment?" demanded an
        angry black student of Cleaver at a lecture in Los Angeles recently.

        "I've studied communism up close," responded the former revolutionary,
        who is now proud of having voted for Ronald Reagan. "Our form of
        government is better than any of the alternatives out there."

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