Part Ten: My Friend the Devil
Marcus Garvey Park would be the last time I'd see Cleaver for several years. Even though I'd found his speech about Fannie Lou Hamer disgusting then because of my Islamic Puritanism at the time, today I would agree with Cleaver in bowing down at the altar of Fannie Lou, that great revolutionary woman from the Southern liberation movement who challenged the Democratic party for its unabashed racism at the time. Yes, Cleaver, I would kiss her pussy too! In his utter madness but searing insight, Eldridge said, "Nine out of ten women are an insult to a dick." So Fannie Lou Hamer was that one out of ten women who deserved praise and honor for valor and steadfastness in the face of brutal white racist savages in the South.
It must have been not long after his New York speech that Cleaver returned to California to face charges for the shootout with the OPD, or maybe he was supposed to turn himself in as a parole violator but instead he donned the persona of a woman and slipped out of his house in San Francisco to reappear in Castro's Cuba. In Cuba he soon discovered the role of Afro-Cubans in the history of revolutionary struggle in their land. Brother Carlos Moore had written about the African role in the Cuban liberation struggle. And it was in the eastern or African province of Cuba that the revolution began. Cleaver learned the white Cubans took over the leadership from the Afro-Cubans. He would name his son after the great Afro-Cuban revolutionary leader, Antonio Maceo. Of course Robert F. Williams (Negro's With Guns and leader of the Revolutionary Action Movement or RAM) had preceded Cleaver in exile on the island. Williams had grown somewhat disillusioned with the Cuban revolution and slipped away to China. Cleaver said after associating with the Afro-Cubans and telling them about Black Power, the Cuban government grew suspicious of the Panthers and basically wanted them to stop spreading the ideology of Black Power. Eldridge said they had to arm themselves with AK47s against the Cuban government when they attempted to put the Panthers in check. At the time Castro was pushing the line that all Cubans were one, negating any special emphasis of Africa or Afro-Cubanism. This attitude changed when Cuba decided to help Angola by sending troops to fight the colonialists. Suddenly, Cuba fully recognized her Africanity and solidarity with the African revolution. Many Cuban troops died fighting in Angola and confronting the apartheid regime in South Africa which supported the reactionary forces in Namibia.
Eldridge slipped out of Cuba after blasting Castro's Latin racism, but this was Cleaver's MO: to submerge himself into a phenomenon, study it then expose its contradictions. We will see this pattern as my narrative continues. He will go from being a Muslim in prison to Communist to Panther to Christian to Moonie to Mormon to Republican to Science of Mind to Crack Head. His life ended before he was able to deconstruct Crack.
He arrived in Algeria and the Panthers were soon given diplomatic status as the representative of the North American African peoples. Eventually the Panthers were given a building that had previously housed the North Vietnam or Viet Cong embassy--if I'm correct. Thus the BPP was now international and recognized around the world as a national liberation movement. With diplomatic status, the International Section of the BPP was able to meet and greet diplomats from other national liberation movements around the world, including the PLO, the Chinese, North Koreans and liberation movements throughout Africa. Cleaver traveled throughout the world as a diplomat of the North American African nation. Kathleen had arrived in Algeria just in time to give birth to their son, Antonio Maceo Eldrdige Cleaver. Their daughter, Joju would be born while on a visit to North Korea.
It was in Algeria that the BPP had to be taught the role of culture in revolution. After the Algerian International Cultural Festival, the BPP stopped slamming the cultural revolution in America because along with armed struggle there must be a cultural revolution. And as I have written, the BPP had evolved from the Black Arts Movement. Panther leadership had received consciousness in BAM, including Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Emory, Sam Napier, George Murray, et al. They had come through Black House, BAW and the BSU's Communication Project, directed by Amiri Baraka when he was at San Francisco State College/University.
Huey Newton had often said I taught him things, but the only thing I may have taught Huey was street theatre which Black Arts West and Baraka's Black Arts Repertory School in Harlem demonstrated. The BPP took street theatre to its highest level when the Panthers donned their uniform of black berets, black leather jackets and blue shirts.