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
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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