Part Eleven: My Friend the Devil
Of course it wasn't uniforms that made the Panthers shake up the world, but the presence of armed black men and women on the streets of America, which took armed struggle in black liberation to another level, although there was resistance to slavery every day of the centuries we were kidnapped and terrorized on American soil (see the History Channel's documentary Slave Catchers and Resisters). There had been black men and women who took up arms against racism and white supremacy in the South, e.g., Deacons for Defense in Louisiana and of course Robert Williams in North Carolina. While in Houston, we visited the Museum of the Buffalo Soldiers and were especially moved by the 1916 revolt of black soldiers, most of whom were hanged after they avenged the murder of a soldier by racist police in Houston. We wonder why resistance history is not the primary lesson in Black Studies. But the BPP's "street theatre" told the world black men and women had had enough and would fight to the death to defend themselves. This is the significance of the Panthers, that they were willing to defend community at the pain of death, or as we used to say, "No slave should die a natural death."
And of course the cultural revolution backed resistance. Ben Caldwell's play The Job is about a Negro who came to the employment office to say he didn't come looking for a job but came to do a job. He proceded to beat the white employment couselor to death with a baseball bat. Maybe we can understand Mixon of Oakland in this light: all he wanted was a job, yet he obviously came to do a job--we don't know his ideology but we know he was clearly in Al Ansar territory, a Muslim cult founded by a former criminal renamed Master J, who taught his followers from Supreme Wisdom. Nation of Islam Muslims, Five Percenters, Al Ansar and other off shoots of NOI teachings know it is basic teachings to kill four devils, earning one a free trip to Mecca or instant Paradise. Here in the Bay we had the Zebra killings who executed this lesson from Supreme Wisdom. In the early days of the NOI in Detroit, a brother came to the Mosque with a paper bag, telling the minister, "I got me one." He had a white devil's head inside the bag. And in the Bay Area there a innumerable young brothers like Mixon who are steeped in the Al Ansar teachings. As they say here in Houston, "You better ax somebody!"
What I must say about Eldridge, Huey and so many other Panthers who were from the grass roots, and we can say this about the founding members of the Nation of Islam, including and especially Malcolm X (may Allah forever be pleased with him) that Allah went to the lowest of the low to get the people needed to rock the Good Ship Jesus America. The edumaked Negroes wanted to do everything except confront the American beast toe to toe, gun to gun. When Huey Newton confronted that pig shotgun to shotgun, there was a paradigm shift in the history of African liberation, especially after the demise of MLK,Jr and the Civil "Rites" movement. And with respect to Muslims in the Nation of Islam, officials said to me, "We might not carry weapons but we bury weapons." Of course there were instances when Muslims engaged in "armed struggle" as well. When I asked Huey Newton about his connection to the Nation of Islam, he said, "A Party can be part of a Nation." And of course the BPP was not lost on the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He considered the BPP his children, after all they copied his program almost word for word. Compare What the Muslims Want and the Panther Ten Point Program. When I jammed Bobby Seale about this, he went into denial that the Muslims had any influence on the BPP. But when I asked what about the influence of Malcolm X, he was silent and submitted that certainly the NOI influenced the BPP.
But let us get back to Algeria and Papa Rage. We were told on a trip to cohabitate with European women, Cleaver was somehow informed Kathleen had a boyfriend named Rahim. When Papa Rage found out about this, Mr. Rahim went missing in the Algerian desert. The Panther newspaper back in the USA showed photos of Kathleen with black eyes from Papa Rage. Chris Brown and Rihanna are not the first high profile couples who engaged in domestic violence. One of the contradictions of the black liberation movement was our internal violence, especially domestic violence. We talked black power but often went home to beat our women's asses, and this was not lost on the children, many of whom were traumatized as a result and went on to practice this savage art, including members of the hip hop generation. Sonia Sanchez likes to say the hip hop generation is merely putting on stage what we did in private. If you want a literary version of domestic or partner violence see Sonia's great book Wounded in the House of A Friend or my play In the Name of Love, especially the poem Confession of an Ex-Wife Beater.
Now we must bring in Cointelpro at this time because J. Edgar Hoover is clearly in this picture. He had FBI agents writing letters to Kathleen in the persona of a "black sister" informing her of the infidelities of Eldridge, just as the FBI sent tapes of hotel conversations between our beloved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in hotels with women to his wife.
This was done to purposely destroy the family life of black revolutionaries, whether Civil "Rites" leaders as King or revolutionaries like Eldridge. The FBI wrote letters in Black English to create division in the ranks of black revolutinaries. And we reacted according to script. Huey and Eldridge had been driven by FBI division or "dirty tricks" into a war against each other, ultimately creating two armies of black men and women who fought each other coast to coast, with Eldridge's army on the east coast and Huey's on the west. As I've said before, I knew brothers and sisters on both sides of this conflict and it hurt me because so many friends went down in the internecine violence, Samuel Napier being the worst example, since I remember the day he came into Black House as a worker looking for something to do, or in the words of James Brown, to "Get Involved." Samuel was murdered in New York then set afire. Lord have Mercy!