|SEIZE THE TIME The Story of the Black Panther Party
This book derives from tape recordings made by Bobby Seale in the early autumn of 1968 and the autumn and winter of 1969-70. The first series was made with the cooperation of the editors of Ramparts magazine. The second series was made in the San Francisco County Jail. Art Goldberg, formerly an editor of Ramparts, was responsible for the editing of the transcribed tapes; however, Mr. Seale supervised the preparation of the final manuscript and every word is his.
* * *
Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense of the Black Panther Party, the baddest motherfucker ever to set foot in history. Huey P. Newton, the brother, black man, a nigger, the descendant of slaves, who stood up in the heart of the ghetto, at night, in alleys, confronted by racist pigs with guns and said: "My name is Huey P. Newton. I'm the Minister of Defense of the Black Panther Party. I'm standing on my constitutional rights. I'm not going to allow you to brutalize me. I'm going to stop you from brutalizing my people. You got your gun, pig, I got mine. If you shoot at me, I'm shooting back."
* * *
There are a lot of misconceptions about the Black Panther Party. I wanted to write this book so people could have better insight into the inner workings of the Party, so that people would have a more true understanding of the Black Panther Party - what it really does, the kind of people who are in it, their everyday lives, the things that have happened to the Party.
Many things about us that appear in the mass media are distortions. In addition, the demagogic politicians have lied about the Party and have lied about who the real enemy is. But here are the facts - a picture of what the Black Panther Party really is and how it operates. This book shows the chronological development of our Party and how it grew out of the social evils of an unjust, oppressive system. It also shows that repression is a natural product of this wealthy, technological society, owned and controlled by a small minority of the people.
Many things about us that appear in the mass media graves if they could see lumpen proletarian Afro-Americans putting together the ideology of the Black Panther Party. Both Marx and Lenin used to say that the lumpen proletariat wouldn't do anything for the revolution. But today, in a modern, highly technological society, with its CIA, FBI, electronic surveillance, and cops armed and equipped for overkill, here are black Americans demanding our constitutional rights, and demanding that our basic desires and needs be fulfilled, thus becoming the vanguard of a revolution, despite all attempts to totally wipe us out.
We're not the vanguard because we wanted to be, but because it was given to us through the blood and death of our members, and because nearly 100 of us are political prisoners at present. So I see this book as the work of our leader and Minister of Defense, Huey P. Newton, and of Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter, Bobby Hutton, John Huggins, Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, and all of our brothers who have been murdered; and of political prisoners like Erica Huggins, Langdon Williams, Rory Hithe, the Panther 21 in New York, and the Panther 14 in Connecticut; of political exiles like Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver; and all the dedicated Black Panther Party members functioning throughout the country.
The life and existence of the Black Panther Party, the ideology of the Party in motion, is a biography of oppressed America, black and white, that no news report, TV documentary, book, or magazine has yet expressed. To do so, the media would let the people know what's really going on, how things have happened, and how we're struggling for our freedom. So before the power structure, through its pigs, attempts to murder any more of us, or take more political prisoners in its age-old attempt to keep us "niggers," as they like to say, "in our place," I have put together the true story of the Black Panther Party.
I dedicate this book to my wife, Artie, to Erica, the widow of John Huggins, to my son, Malik Nkrumah Stagolee Seale, and his brother. One of my son's names derives from the lumpen proletarian politically unaware brothers in the streets. Stagolee fought his brothers and sisters, and he shouldn't have. The Stagolees of today should take on the messages of Malcolm X as Huey Newton did, to oppose this racist, capitalist oppression our people and other peoples are subjected to.
Malik must not fight his brothers. One is named after revolutionaries of our times, and me, who loves both of them. Power to the youth; all power to the people, and power to the latest born in the Black Panther Party, little Huey Bunchy (Li'l) Bobby John Eric Eldridge Seale, whose mother is Rose Mary. Brothers and sisters will struggle together in unity from generation to generation for liberation and freedom with the love of we fathers and mothers who brought our young ones into the world.
We dedicate this book to all the youth of America, from Huey, the Central Committee, and all the dedicated members of the Black Panther Party.
Chairman, Black Panther Party
led by the Minister of Defense,
Huey P. Newton
San Francisco County Jail
GROWING UP: BEFORE THE PARTY
WHO I AM
When Malcolm X was killed in 1965, I ran down the street. I went to my mother's house, and I got six loose red bricks from the garden. I got to the corner, and broke the motherfuckers in half. I wanted to have the most shots that I could have, this very same day Malcolm was killed. Every time I saw a paddy roll by in a car, I picked up one of the half-bricks, and threw it at the motherfuckers. I threw about half the bricks, and then I cried like a baby. I was righteously crying. I was pissed off and mad. Every paddy I'd see, whop! I'd throw a brick, and it would hit the cars, and zoom! They're driving down the street, and I'm throwing bricks for a motherfucker. I thought that was all I could do. I was ready to die that day.
Kenny Freeman and the rest of the cultural nationalists came down there to get me, and I told them to leave me alone. I said, "Get away. You niggers are crazy." I got mad, and I busted a window in the house. I put my fist through a window. I told them all, "Fuck it, I'll make my own self into a motherfucking Malcolm X, and if they want to kill me, they'll have to kill me." That was a big change with me. They never understood that.
Eldridge says Malcolm X had an impact on everybody like that, and Malcolm X had that impact on me.
* * *
When my wife Artie had a baby boy, I said, "The nigger's name is Malik Nkrumah Stagolee Seale."
"I don't want him named that!" Artie said.
I had read all that book history about Stagolee, that black folkloric history, because I was hung up on that stuff at the time, so I said, "Malik Nkrumah Stagolee Seale!"
"Why Stagolee?" Artie asked.
"Because Stagolee was a bad nigger off the block and didn't take shit from nobody. All you had to do was organize him, like Malcolm X, make him politically conscious. All we have to do is organize a state, like Nkrumah attempted to do."
Nkrumah was a bad motherfucker and Malcolm X was a bad nigger. Huey P. Newton showed me the nigger on the block was ten motherfuckers when politically educated, and if you got him organized. I said, "Stagolee, put Stagolee on his name," because Stagolee was an unorganized nigger, to me, like a brother on the block. I related to Huey P. Newton because Huey was fighting niggers on the block. Huey was a nigger that came along and he incorporated Malcolm X, he incorporated Stagolee, he incorporated Nkrumah, all of them.
"The nigger out of prison knows," Huey used to say. "The nigger out of prison has seen the man naked and cold, and the nigger out of prison, if he's got himself together, will come out just like Malcolm X came out of prison. You never have to worry about him. Hell go with you." That's what Huey related to, and I said, "Malik for Malcolm,1 Nkrumah Stagolee Seale."
I was born in Dallas, Texas, October 22, 1936.1 grew up with a brother, a sister, and a cousin who lived with us named Alvin Turner. He was the son of my mother's identical twin. Off and on, I learned things like everybody else learned things. I'm no different from other people growing up and living and learning. I was raised up like the average black man, like a brother in the black community.
A lot of things affected me in a way that caused me to see things. Huey was most significant, but a lot of things in the past affected me before Huey molded my attitude - unjust things that happened.
The farthest back I can remember is when I was unjustly whopped by my father - I can never forget that. My father and mother were having an argument. I was supposed to be washing some shirt in the back yard of a house we had in San Antonio. I was the oldest of three children, and was about six years old. I remember very vividly that I was playing in the back, and how my father told me to get the wash basin, put some water in it, and wash his shirt. I tried to wash his shirt, but then I guess I started playing. He was arguing with my mother, and it had something to do with that shirt. My father came outside and was mad at me because I hadn't finished the shirt; he took his belt off and really beat me. He went back inside the house and argued again with my mother. I was crying. When he came back and beat me again, my mother came out and stopped him and snatched the strap away, but he got it back from her and argued with her. Then he pushed her and beat me again. He told me to wash that shirt. I never forgot that beating. I never have, because it was an unjust beating. The argument he was having with my mother was directly related to him taking it out on me, and it wasn't right.
My father was a carpenter in Port Arthur, Texas. My mother had left him a couple of times, and one time when they got back together he built a house up from the ground. My father was a master carpenter. That's where I learned my carpentry work. I learned drafting in school, but I knew basic building structure from being around my father. He taught it to me and my brother off and on while we were growing up.
I grew up just like any other brother. We didn't always have money. During the war we had a little money, but after my father built the house he went to San Antonio, and then we were back in poverty again. It was still wartime and there was some money around, but I remember that whenever my mother and father rented a house, they would rent half out to some other people, a whole family.
I think the first time I really began to oppose things that I saw was when we were at Cordonices Village, the government housing project in Berkeley. People were living in poverty and semi-poverty. We lived in very crowded conditions with my mother's twin sister and her son. The place was always dirty. My mother always tried to save money, but the money was used up every time my father was laid off. (He wasn't able to get in the union at that time. Later, he and three other guys were the only black cats in the carpenter's union in all of California.)
We lived in poverty mostly because of my father's eighth-grade education. His father used to be rough on him. My father was a lot rougher on me in certain periods of my life, just like his father was rough on him. His father used to beat him, and one day my father left and wouldn't work for his father any more. I pulled the same thing. One day I stopped and I wouldn't work for my father any more because he wouldn't pay me. At that time I didn't know what the word exploitation meant, but that's exactly what it was, and I rejected it and opposed it.
My mother never really had any money. When I was thirteen, I used to make money on my own, hauling groceries and cutting lawns. It wasn't always profitable, but sometimes I could make a dollar or two here and there, me and a couple of brothers I used to run around with. I ran around with a couple of gangs in my younger days, when I was fourteen, fifteen and sixteen.
Another cousin, who was already grown during World War II, came to stay with us in Port Arthur, Texas, and that's when I first really learned about sex.
Through a knothole I saw my cousin making love with his wife. My sister and brother and me were all together in this little closet. There was no inner wall section to the inside of the closet, and we just happened to be in there playing one day, while he was making love with his wife. He was in the army, and he was getting ready to go to war. We saw them through the hole. That was my first understanding of sex. We called sex "peeping," because we were peeping through a hole. My mother didn't know what was going on, but she said, "What are y'all peeping at in there?" That's where we got the term from. During the war, when my cousin got home on leave, we knew he and his wife were going to be peeping.
By the time I turned sixteen, I was more opposed to society and the injustices and bad things in it, but I wasn't very articulate about it. In learning history, I picked up on things that had been done wrong - and I began to find out about the American Indian, how rotten he'd been treated, when I met Steve Brumfield. He was about a month younger than I am and he's dead now. He killed himself, they say. We were opposed to the white man for taking the land away from the Indians, and we identified with the Indians because our parents had Indian in them. We didn't know about Africa yet.
It was very easy for me to identify with Africa when I got to Merritt College. I had gotten rid of the stereotyped notion of American Indians when I was sixteen years old, so when the Afro-American Association started talking about identifying, it was easy for me to grasp it and get rid of the Tarzan notion of Africa.
Before I went to college, when I was in the service, I wasn't aware of civil rights; I'd been hearing about civil rights through the papers but not focusing in on it that much. I was personally more concerned then with getting some kind of education. I'd go to the library and read a lot, but at the same time, I was trying to get some clothes, and I bought a set of encyclopedias. I had also begun to play drums. I'd gotten myself a $600 set of drums, which I was also making payments on. I made a mistake in overloading myself, and I got behind three payments on the drums.
I'd bought the drums in Oakland, and they sent a collection agency out after I had missed two payments. At the time, in 1958,1 was at Ellsworth Air Force Base, in South Dakota, and they went all the way up there to collect. Colonel King, the commanding officer of the squadron, happened to be related to the people who owned the collection agency, and he was threatening to put me in jail if I didn't pay my bills. I had run around the base for four months trying to get one of the staff sergeants to co-sign for me, to get an allotment that would be automatically taken out of my pay, so I could pay off the bill. I wanted to keep my drums because I was engrossed in being a righteous jazz drummer. It was an outlet, because you couldn't go anywhere, except for the few times we got to go to one of the faraway cities to find a woman or a girl friend. In the afternoon, I would go with these other cats who were musicians and we had a righteous group. We practiced and rehearsed, went to a movie or the service club, got a hamburger, came back, and went to bed.
One day Colonel King called me in his office and told me for about the fifth time that he was going to put me in jail if I didn't pay my bill. By that time I was run down and I wanted my drums, so I told him, "Colonel King, I'm trying to get the stuff paid off now. I'm doing everything I know how." He told me to get my ass out of the office and pay the damn bills off.
That night I went downtown and played a gig, and I got my $15. Another cat came around with a pint of whiskey, and I was so pissed off and depressed about the whole situation that I got kind of high. I was supposed to be back at the base by 12:00 but when I got there it was 12:30 and the sergeant was waiting. He said he was going to have to report me, and then he left. That pissed me off, and depressed me more.
One of the cats came in and got me to repair something - I was a sheet-metal mechanic - and then he came back again, with another piece which I couldn't repair because I didn't have the right kind of extrusions. I tried to fuck around and modify it. He was in such a hurry, he came back in cussing at me.
I said, "Motherfucker, don't be cussing at me. Get your motherfucking ass out of here." I was mad and pissed off, and I didn't want anybody messing with me, so he left. Then I got a call on the bitch box and the guy said, "Hey, Seale, what do you mean you're not going to repair this part for this guy over here." The cat had gone all the way over to the dispatch office a block away. I said, "I told the motherfucker I couldn't repair the thing because I couldn't find the right kind of extrusion. I'm trying to modify the damn thing, and he's just going to have to wait, and stop rushing me, and not be coming over here cussing me."
"Who in the hell do you think you're cussing," the dispatcher said. "You'll get court-martialed for this boy, you know that?"
I said, "Fuck you, sons-of-bitches," and I just ripped the bitch box out of the wall. Then the phone rang. And I grabbed the phone and just ripped the phone out of the wall. I walked outside into the little office and I saw my tool box, which reminded me that these motherfuckers were trying to charge me for some tools that some punk had stolen out of my box, and I threw the tool box across the room. Then I took the table and turned it over, and I went back into the office and turned over one of the desks.
My partner Rabbit came in, saw what was happening, and knocked me out. He actually knocked me out. He was a partner and he was really trying to help me. He saw I was pissed off and he knocked me out, got me into a truck, and took me to the barracks. When I came to, I walked all around the barracks drinking wine and I wound up in another barracks passed out.
The next morning, Rabbit came in, woke me up, and told me Colonel King wanted to see me. I had already made up my mind that I was going to jail. So when I went in the office, I didn't even salute the bastard, and I thought to myself, "He thinks he's a white god or something."
"You ain't paid those bills yet, huh?" he said, and I just looked at him. "Well, you better pay them goddam bills." He picked up this little steel model plane from his desk and was waving that thing in my face and talking about putting me in jail. When he said he'd put my ass in jail, I blew up and grabbed that model plane. The sergeant walked up behind me, jacked me up, got his arm around my neck, pulled me back, and threw me off balance. Another one came up and got my right arm, and they dragged me outside and pushed me up against the wall. I said, "Let me alone, and tell Colonel King to let me alone. If you're going to take the drums, take the drums. You don't have to put me in jail. He's trying to get the money for them just because he's working with the monkeys downtown."
At that point, they just stepped back and let me go. The sergeant said, "You'd better go on in there and tell him that. But you better be cool." I went back and sat down in a chair and I was just looking at him. I was a distance away from him. He was looking up at me and was writing something up on me, I could see that.
"This bastard," I said to myself. "Now why in the hell should I sit here and let him mess over me." The sergeant and the other cat had seen me sitting down and had gone in the back, so I just got up and walked right on out of the office. I went over to the barracks and I said to myself, "I might as well leave this motherfucker. There's no reason for staying here. I ain't ever been AWOL but they can call it whatever they want to call it. I've been in this damn thing here three years and four months and I'm getting fucked over again. Later for them." So I proceeded to put on my civilian clothes. The next thing I knew, they had twenty-eight policemen over there grabbing me and handcuffing me.
I cussed Colonel King out for what he was. I cussed him all the way down the streets. I had a whole big crowd of cats jiving and watching me cuss him out while they were taking me down in front of the barracks and all the way back across the lawn in front of the squadron headquarters. They put me in a truck and I was still cussing him. I cussed him all the way across. Then I blotted them all out, I just forgot about them. And they put me in jail.
I wouldn't talk to any of them, I wouldn't say anything to anybody. So they said they were going to send me to a psychiatrist. They thought I was crazy. They fooled around for two and a half months and court-martialed me.
King told me he was giving me my discharge, a bad conduct discharge, and he said to me, "You're not going to be able to get a job when you get out of here, Seale."
"What the hell makes you think there were any jobs out there before I come here?" I said, and I laughed at him.
"Well," he said, "you've got five minutes to get off this base."
"What are you going to do with the other four minutes and fifty-nine seconds?" I said, "cause it won't take me any time to get away from here."
Because the colonel pulled that work thing on me, I decided not to let it impress me. I worked in every major aircraft plant and aircraft corporation, even those with government contracts. I was a top-flight sheet-metal mechanic. They would fire me after two months, when they found out about the bad conduct discharge. Places would hire me right away because they needed me, but two months or so later they'd find out.
I worked at Kaiser Aerospace Electronics near Oakland for six months. They ran my papers through and came back and said that I'd lied on my discharge. "If I'd told you the truth, I wouldn't have had a job," I said. "Anyway, I'm doing your work. If you want to fire me, fire me. If you don't want to fire me, forget it and I'll do the work." They needed somebody on the night shift out there and I knew the whole operation so the engineer decided to quash it and he left me alone. This was on the Gemini missile project. I was doing non-destructive testing. It involves testing for microscopic cracks in metals by a complicated chemical and magnetic process. It's a neat trade to learn and I learned it clean. I quit that job fifteen months later, because the war was going on and I felt I was aiding the government's operation.
I wanted to go to Africa by that time. I was out with the government then and I had become very hip. When I was working at night, I was going to Merritt College in the day. When I was working in the day, I was going to Merritt at night. When jobs got scarce in 1959-1960 because of the steel strike, I did some drafting work. I could read a blueprint sideways, any kind of precision blueprint.
I-wanted to be an engineer when I went to college, but I got shifted right away since I became interested in American Black History and trying to solve some of the problems. During the court-martial they asked me what I thought about the civil rights movement. I hadn't known the significance of their question, but I was stupid and I had read something about the communists and I said, "Well, the communists are leading it, ain't they?" It's funny the way people learn things, and things affect a person.
All of 1959 and half of 1960 I was in Los Angeles. In 1960, I worked as a comedian off and on when I first went to Merritt College. I dropped out for one semester, but I went back in January of 1961 and I met Huey in September of 1962. That year I worked as a comedian in two or three clubs around Oakland and at private parties. I think comedians know a hell of a lot. They know a lot of things that are oppressive and wrong.
I think that when I met Huey P. Newton, the experience of things I'd seen in the black community, killings that I'd witnessed, black people killing each other - and my own experience, just living, trying to make it, trying to do things, came to the surface. It came to the surface when I met Huey Newton at Merritt College. The last nine years I've been in the struggle in one form or another.