Listening to BOBBY SEALE (1999)

Photo by Robert Altman, 1969

BOBBY SEALE * 17 March 1999 * unedited transcript

I interviewed Bobby Seale (official site) in person in Oakland for Vibe Magazine, on a commission by Peter Relic, who was editing the front section of Vibe that year. I think the transcript runs to 12,000 words. The published Q & A was about 700 words. There’s lots of great stuff in here about Black Panther Party history and philosophy, Bobby’s times in prison, barbecue and so on, after we get done with talking about what he’s up to at the moment…—Jay Babcock

Bobby Seale: I’m out here [in Oakland] for David Hilliard. David Hilliard is running for City
Council, 3rd district, to mount a real student involvement and people’s
involvement-type of campaign for him to win that particular political
office. It’s all about the continuing progressive Old Left-radical politics
today. We want to get these students involved in this campaign to teach
them techniques and methods of the old Black Panther party campaign, Old
Left radical politics, progressive politics. To teach students that they
gotta take over, that they have to be part and parcel of this kind of
stuff, they gotta take seats over all over this country and this is gonna
set an example for that. That they’re the ones who have to begin to
understand the need to control, run these political institutionalized
functions whether they’re city council, county seats, state legislative
seats, etc., and make laws, legislation and policy that reflect the real
true human liberation of the people, the empowerment of the people, whether
you’re black, white, blue, red, green, yellow, polkadot, we don’t care.
We’re progressive. In the 1960s we were an ALL power to ALL the people. We
didn’t care what you were.

People think we were just a strict so-called xenophobic-type Black power
organization. Not true. If people look and know our history…as an
African-American group of young people who were part of a young
intelligentsia of the 1960s, what we evolved were some of the most profound
progressive politics that emerged out of the Black community: to set up
coalitions, working face-to-face coalitions with all our white left radical
friends, with all the young Hispanics, young Puerto Ricans with the Young
Lords organization or the young Mexican-Americans Chicano brothers and
sisters with the Brown Berets and the Cesar Chavez farm labor movement. We
had a working coalition with that organization. AIM—American Indian
Movement—we worked directly with. All the young Asians, young Chinese and
Japanese worked with us, like the Red Guard out of Chinatown. Young Chinese
students and young Japanese. In fact, of all those ethnic groups, it was
always a few of each one of those ethnic groups that actually literally
joined our Black Panther Party. I’m just saying that, that’s the kind of
progressive, “All power to the People” politics that we put into the ’60s.
We crossed racial lines even though we were able to be an African-American
community organization that ran our own organization without any
intellectual or offbeat, abstract, academic dictates. We REFUSED to allow
for that, because our concept and our method was putting theory into
practice. Learning as we did.

And we want to show the youth—when I speak today—we want to show the
youth that if you participate, I want you to sign up for this campaign
because it is not about just a political seat, it’s about another kind of
movement, moving into this Y2K period…it’s not necessarily about the
continuing, old politics as usual of the Democratic and especially the
right-wing conservative Republican politics… There’s the Green Party,
there’s the Constitutional Party, etc. so on. For instance David is running
his total non-partisan, there’s no political party per se mentioned here in
terms of being listed on the ballot. So. We’re saying there are
multi-thousands of these seats. You talk about 50,000? or are you talking
500,000? …duly-elected seats in the United States of America, especially
on the local level. And this campaign is not the last of this era, it will
be another one evolving.

For instance in Winston, North Carolina, used to have a chapter of the
Black Panther Party there. The Party was over, what, in the late ’70s and
early ’80s? What in effect happened was the former Party members ran for
political office. Larry Little, the former Deputy Chairman down there, won
a councilmanic seat that represented that poor low-income African-American
community there. And since then, for 26 years, it’s always been a former
Black Panther connected to that seat. The people will not allow anybody
else. If you weren’t in the former Black Panther Party organization in
Winston/Salem, North Carolina—they call it , the old other conservative
council members call that particular seat “the Panther seat.”

In other words you have to remember those young Black Panther Party people,
young students and others, they put together a free ambulance program for
the people. They put together a free health clinic with a free pharmacy
program which all chapters and branches did. They put together free
breakfasts for children programs that served those people in that
community. So those people never forgot that. They remembered that. These
are tangible programs. This was not rhetoric, this was not talk. So this is
what I’m saying.

So we have various examples of former Party members still in political
office like Bobby Rush, who was an alderman there in Chicago for 12 years
and then became a Congressman. We have Michael McGee in Milwaukee, he is
still a councilman up there representing a heavy electoral group of the
African-American community.

What a lot of people forget is this is really the politics of the Black
Panther party. Even though we had a lot of shootouts and a lot of battles
with the police attacked us, when the politicians would send their law
enforcement agencies in on us, even though J. Edgar Hoover and all these
guys were out to smash us, try to terrorize us out of existence, they
killed 29 of my people in this country, particularly in the year 1969. 14
policemen wound up getting killed in those attacks. They attacked our
offices, they attacked our homes and we vowed to defend ourselves. Cuz in
our sense, all we were doing was defending our Constitutional, democratic,
civil, human rights: one, to organize the people, political electoral
community power…

People used to say “you’re outside the System.”
You can’t be outside of something that’s oppressing you.
You have to get right into the middle of it, change its structure,
change its direction, change the laws, change the
policy to serve the empowerment really and truly of the people.
And THAT’s the kind of politically revolutionaries we were in the 1960s.

So this is
the kind of stuff, and I’m going to be talking to these students about
today, … Not only that, but, Where are we going in the future? Getting
another kind of paradigm that incorporates where we are today. In other
words, there are Civil Rights issues, there are human rights issues, there
are people-community empowerment-economic issues, etc.

BUT–we are not living in the ’60s. Even though we know the ’60s, there’s a
lot of things we can PULL from the ’60s, a lot of positive organizing
methodologies we can pull from the ’60s…BUT how do you place it in the
present day context? So I’m trying to get these students to understand: you
live in an overdeveloped, high-tech, fast-paced, computerized,
scientific-technological social order. You are NOT living in the ’60s. This
communications technology information base world globalizing on the level
it’s in, you’re gonna have to learn how and get creative with this
communications technology an integrate it into some of your methodology,
your communicating and organizing and raising the consciousness of the
people, politically and programatically.

In other words, the Black Panther Party, historically, we set up numerous
programs. It united a lot of people in the community. But the programs
were not just for the sake of setting up programs, it was to get the people
INVOLVED on a practical level. So those very people who were being served
with this programs became part and parcel…and the ones who became active
and the ones who became involved, as they went out and organized more and
more people, and they became the voters for thes eyoung political
revolutionaries. Whether you were white or black, and if we could assess if
you were a young white radical, i fwe could assess that your
heart-mind-soul was dedicated to true human liberation for all peoples,
BOOM–we would vote for you, set you up, you’d be part of this new wave
that was the 1960s.

I’m saying the same thing can happen in this high-tech-fast-paced social
order. More important, it HAS to happen, because too much corporate
money-rich people control the politicians in this country, campaign
financing, etc. For instance, this campaign we’re talking about, it’s not
about money. “How much money you have to run the campaign?” We tell the
students about your participation, and YOU get out here and get involved
and YOU when you turn 25, 26, 30 years of age, YOU need to be running for
these offices. YOU need to be taking over these seats, city council seats,
county seats, state legislative seats, etc. and caucusing up and evolving a
PROFOUND people’s human liberation ideology. And I like to say an “ideology
in motion” cuz I can’t stand strict, doctrinaire ideological approaches,
that’s theory without practice when it’s too doctrinaire. Once you get out
there and get with the people, you see, you can come up with somehting that
makes human sense…so you can EVOLVE a future world of cooperational
humanism. This is the kind of message I’m gonna give to the students today.
But I do this for what, 40 colleges a year. This will be the 20th
engagement of 1999. I’ll do six more during the spring.

I’ve been living in Philadelphia since 1983. When I first resigned from the
Black Panther Party, I actually wound up in Denver, CO. The Party had
dwindled down to less than 200 and some odd members, and there was some
small ideological problems. You have to remember, the Party at one time had
5,000 active members in 45 cities throughout the United States of America.
45 chapters and branches of the Black Panther Party. The peak of that was
January 1969. The Party was almost 2 and a half years old. Started in
October 1966. We had international notoriety seven months later, May 2,
1967. Martin Luther King was killed April 6, 1968. Up to Martin Luther King
I only had 400 members up and down the West Coast, San Diego to Seattle.
When Martin Luther King was killed, in a matter of a couple of months,
particularly when the colleges let out, it blew my mind that so many young
people started flooding into our organization. They were so angry that
brother Martin Luther King was killed. They said, ‘I’m joining the Black
Panther Party.’ So we had an influx, 60% of that membership being
particularly college students, high school students headed to college who
decided to postpone their college education.

In a matter of 5 or 6 months following the death of MLK, we had peaked at
5,000 active full-time members of the BPP. Plus our working coalitions had
EXPANDED to a point that by 1969 we were able to create what we called the
National Committees to Combat Fascism as an extension organizing effort
BEYOND the Black Panther Party, we didn’t care whether you was white,
black, blue, red, green, yellow, polkdaot, anyone could be a community
worker with the NCCF. And that group was composed of almost 10,000 more
people. This was why the power structure was really afraid of us, about
that. Because to mobilize those kind of people, to mobilize those brothers
and sisters, people who were angry, and to tell them we need to take over
all of these political seats. These political seats, whether it’s a city
council or making legislation, laws and policies, are not serving the basic
desires and needs of the people. So we the young political revolutionary
humanists, we can get in there. We’re saying the same thing as to exist now
— in the context of the present, though.

By 1968 when the BPP was two years old, Huey P. Newton was on trial and in
jail without bail. I ran for California State Assembly with my name on the
ballot. We had a working coalition with the Peace & Freedom Party. Kathleen
Cleaver ran for state Assemblyman out of San Francisco. Eldridge Cleaver
was slated as the presidential candidate in 28 states and garnered 2
million votes. YES! 2 mllion votes Eldridge Cleaver got! Huey Newton was in
jail, defending himself for his life, and we put his name on the ballot of
his ninth congressional district. Running for political office was always
part of the Party–[it wans’t] just the programs, not just the philosophy,
the argumentative left radical critiques and ideology. And we critiqued
them, about the War, about racial discrimination…wetc. We did all of
this. But the BPP’s real true character was manifested in the programmatic
organizing relating to political electoral commuinity empowerment. To unify
votes of people on another conscious level and opposisiton to the
corruption, the avariciousness and the racism manifested in the political
institutions of America.

Jay: WHY DID THE PANTHERS DECIDE TO GO THAT WAY INSTEAD OF BEING SEPARTISTS?

Well we never related to it. You have to remember, I come up in the
high-tech world. Before I ever got involved with this stuff, I was working
on the Gemini missile project in the engineering department at [unintellig]
aerospace and electronics. I was doing electromagnetic field, black light,
non-destruct testing for all the engine frames for the Gemini missile
program. For all three stages of exhaust housing for the Gemini missile
program. I went to college originally as an engineering design major, and
when I went to college, remember this is AFTER the four years in the United
States Air Force, structural repair, hihg-performance aircraft for the
USAF, so …raised a carpenter and a builder…architect by the time I’m
18. So I based everything in my life and my understanding, even by the time
I got in college, based on it on good, proven, scientific evidentiary FACT.
So when the Nation of Islam, as religious Black nationalist-type of
organization was propagating some very mythical misunderstanding, it’s not
scientific fact for me. I have no time for it, you know what I mean? I did
respect their call for financial self-sufficiency in the Black community,
etc., but in terms of having an organization, we refused to have religious
and/or myopic, xenophobic Black nationalists as the ideology or as any part
of, we didn’t want that as the head, or the leading ideological notion.
What happened was that in forming the Black Panther Party, Huey and I came
up with what we called a functional definition of power. In those days,
people were spouting in 1964 or ’65 or ’66, “Black power! Black power!”
There so much RHETORIC, you see what I mean. It was so much TALK, it was
not really being put together. Huey and I set the word “black” to the side
for a minute to come up with a functional definition of the term “power.”
And we came up with “Power is the ability to define phenomena and then in
turn, make it act in a desired manner.” What I’m getting at here, this is
like three-dimensional to me. An engineering design major, an architect, I
THINK three dimensional. [That definition], oh my god, it’s metaphorical,
it’s applicable to understanding what the situation is. If the city council
are a bunch of low-life avaricious racists, BANG! We have defined them for
what they ARE. Now we must unite all the people, vote they butts out of
office and make them in turn act in a desired manner, giving greater
people’s community political representation POWER. So this is where we came
from.

So our point was, I think it was a pivot point when we came up with that
definition, we looked at and began to see a CLASS analysis, in the sense
that it was not only black people that were being oppressed, we had poor
whites who were oppressed, poor Mexian-Americans who were oppressed, Native
Americans, etc. Crossing the racial lines. And THAT’S why we moved not for
some Black nationalist, xenophobic-type separtist ideology. Two, I didn’t
think that way. Ohmigawd, gimme a break, you know. I looked at the world
as being interconnected and interrelated. Thinking three-dimensional.
See, we were part of a young Black intelligentsia. We were researchers. We
were avid readers. We took time to know. You couldn’t just come up with
some platitude, some emotional speech, ha ha ha, to get us all hooked up.
Cuz we would QUESTION it. “Where you going with it? What do you mean
by…?” So much theory. “Well how you gonna put that theory into practice?”
In other words: I’m an architect. When I draw and lay out the plans for
building a structure, those plans are only theory for the idea, right?
[But] When I build the building, it’s real. You have to put it in practice.
So you have to put all that together and you can see where we came from.
The separtist ideology was ABSURD. And I used to tell people, “No, we’re
not outside the system.” “Oh yes you are.” I says, “Agnew said that!”
Agnew, the vice president of the United States, part of a corrupt political
structure, telling people we were outside the political system. Which was
BULLCRAP, when we’d already ran for political office. How can you be
outside of something that’s oppressing you, I would tell peopl. “Oh that’s
right, how can you be outside of something…” Then I’d ask the white left
radical buddies one time, after Bobby Kennedy was killed, [they were
saying] “Oh no Bobby, man, we’re tired of the System, man. We’ve dropped
out, man.” I says, “You CAN’T drop out. You cannot drop out of the total
system. We have to get rid of the avaricious corporate monopoly capitalism.
We have to get rid of the institutionalized framework of racism in America.
Those two aspects we must fight against.” “No we’ve dropped out!” I sez,
“You think you can drop out of the TOTAL System? cuz everything IS
interconnected and interrelated, then you take all your buddies, go down to
Cape Canaveral, I want you to hijack one of those rockets, take your butt
to the moon. When you get to the moon, the president of the united states,
Tricky Dick Nixon, is gonna send some troops up there, bring you back.
There is no such thing as dropping out of the total system!” So my point
becomes you must struggle to CHANGE the frameworks, the institutions and
make those institutions make human sense.

So this is the argument and this is where we came from in the 1960s. I
mean, yeah we were political revolutionaries, yeah we identified a racist
for what he was, and if we said “Black power” as fast as we said “Black
power” we said “Red power” and as fast as we said “Red power” we said “Brown
power”, “white power” and then we summed it up with “All power to all the
people.” See what I’m getting at? So this is where we came from. Our
concept was that working closely with other people, particularly students
and young people, cuz it was student movement., people forget that, it was
student movement. Students did that 1960s protest era. They were the key,
they were the young intellectuals, they were the ones who became and
learned how to critique, we were the ones, we must have had over 200 very
heavily circulated underground weekly tabloid newspapers throughout the
United States of America and including the BPP being one of em. We were
circulating up to 250,000 copies of this newspaper every week on time,e
very saturday by mid-1969.

So if you understand that, then we understand where we were coming from. We
just didn’t have a time… if you look at the original Ten-Point Panther
program, I don’t think we used the phrase “Black Power” as such. We make no
reference to religion. We make no reference to state control command
economy-style socialism. People think the BPP eveolved out of
Marxist-Leninism. It didn’t. Later on, we picked up on, checked out and
critiqued Marxist-Leninism. But what we thought may be valuable out of it
…But ours was more of a democratic socialism, if anything was going to
develop out of it. …or cooperative community control form of socialism,
even allowing for democratizing capital for some concepts, possibilities,
depending on what we got creative with, of market economy socialism. And
then of course we dropped all of the social phrases and came up with
community controlled economics. How do we evolve greater community control
of economic frameworks and reach out and produce services and goods in a
high-tech fast-paced social order of the USA?

The Soviet Union’s Politburo state control command economy socialism was
out. I pushed it out of the BPP because it started seeping in, a few
concepts of it. I pushed it out. But we had to grow through this
process–these arguments, these debates, implementing programs, seeing what
was happening, etc. And we come up with community controlled politics. Well
that’s more related to the concept of direct democracy, or greater
participatory democracy. Participatory democracy is people’s grassroots
community decision-making democracy, NOT the decision of a handful of
bought-out politicians, politicians bought out by the corporate money-rich.
So that was the difference.

Q: NYC COPS NOW?

The recent shooting of a Guinean immigrant, 41 shots, heard him 19 times,
he was unarmed. I think there’s three major incidents that happened there
in the last year and a half or so…
[weary:]

I’ll say it this way: We have still too many cases of police brutality.
That’s really overwhelming, it’s a key issue that a lot of students have to
understand that you have to have new policies and new legislatures and new
directors, new training programs, and all these city governments, state and
legislative frameworks in the one hand. But the primary difference between
the ’60s when we were out there is that it was ten times as much police
brutality and murders and stuff going on as it is now. Two, nobody went to
court in the ’60s. Police were not charged, were not put on trial, were not
suspended, you see what I mean? Undue and unneccesary force with glaring
evidence, witnesses–they didn’t happen. Today at least we get a lot of
these people to trial, to court, etc., win or lose the case. So that’s one
somewhat change, even with the overwhelming amount of police brutality we
still have going on now today.

I say we need to network with hundreds of thousands of neighborhoods, whole
blocks, network with camcorders, of if you can get people to pool together
and set up some town or block watch, some camera systems to watch these
police. Take this stuff and put it on the Internet. Edit the stuff down and
get some of these young, youthful students, these computer whizzes and
political organizational groups and make video leaflets. Not even for that
community but for the whole congressional or councilmanic district, etc.
That kind of stuff. Integrate all this communications technology into our
ability to raise the consciousness of the people to unify them in
opposition to government frameworks that perpetuate this crap. There’s
profiling going on in Jersey, that’s a big issue. I’m sure there’s
profiling going on all over the country. In jersey state troopers are
trained by policy to stop Blacks and hispanics if they’re driving nice cars
as “suspects” or possibly running or carrying drugs. Now. The training
procedure that’s set up, the racial profiling… Young college students
were shot, cops coming to the window with guns drawn based just on the
racial profiling. Verbal altercation occured, the police stepped back and
started shooting. State trooper. When in fact under the law the cops are
not supposed to be stopping unless they have reasonable cause to do so. To
train police to SUSPECT people because of their racial ethnicity who may be
driving nice cars as drug pushers is not reasonable cause, it’s beyond the
law. So that’s another aspect of what we call insitutionalized racism. The
institutional function of the police department, setting up policies…

This is only one issue. The real problems and issues I think are primarily
rooted economically. We talk about a boom economy–I’m saying every poor
and low-income person and others need to be able to root themselves
economically in such a way and evolve to a point in a 10-year period to
where they put themselves in some decent standar of living way above the
poverty line. This is the uppermost overd-developed, high-tech, richest
country in the world. It’s absurd for this not to happen. So these are the
real issues. The other issues are higher education for the masses of the
people. Part of our mass protest movement…you have a handful or
organizations runing around saying ‘That’s the white man’s education.’ I
say, ‘You’re full of shit. 1 + 1=2 if you got it in your head whether
you’re white, black red bluegreen yellow polkadot, that’s your education,
that’s your knowledge. If you master the quadratic formula in college math,
that’s your knowledge. You can apply to probably every field of research,
even when if I think something’s being taought incorrectly in some way,
it’s skewed such as anthropolgy that use the word “negroid” when I think
they should use the word “Africanoid”..this kind of stuff.. it becomes my
education, your education as a human being.

To me, education is about whether or not your ideas, your beliefs, your
notions, your understandings, your new relaizations, whether or not they
correspond correctly to reality or not. That is the definition of what
education is. Whether you get it out of institutional framework or whether
you do a lot of self-education.

Q: WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY IT’S AN ‘OVERDEVELOPED’ SOCIETY?

We have a corporate money rich, not only in America but expanded to the
worldwide framewqork, where too much 1) money and political power is being
concentrated int he hands of one percent. Overdeveloped to the extend that
90% of the wealth is ultimately owned and controlled by that % corporate
money rich. Too many of those corporate money rich are too avaricious. They
overproduce goods to a point of pure waste. To the point that we have
excessive environmental problems. Wastefulness. I say Hey we can provide
environmental renovation jobs projects, if I can raise this first $10
million with my barbeque book-CD-ROM-DVD cookbook guide. I’m gonna raise
$10 million to set an example of an environmental renovation youth jobs
project, which would be a community controlled economic development
project. Putting youth ages 16-27 or 28 renovating old houses, old cars,
and step by step evolving alternative energy. We could create 2 or 3
million jobs this way across the country. These are just two examples.
I came from a line of carpenters, of builders, hunters and fishermen. I was
an architect by the time I was 18. [Air Force, Gemini…] This was all part
of my make-up on the one hand, then wehn I began to learn about the social
ills, and began to realize that I had to make a contribution to deal with
trying to end institutionalized racism in America, BANG. I shifted to the
political, social and behavioral sciences in college, and next thing you
know, I’m out here organizing. But I brought all those skills and
abilities, insights, concepts, my 3-D view of things with me and applied it
to that grassroots community development.

Q: WHAT DOES ‘POLYECTIC’ MEAN?

In the old days we talked a lot and used ‘dialectics.’ It’s applicable. But
I thought we wouldn’t hit six billion in world population til 2003, 4 or 5,
but we’ve already hit it. We gotta one, slow down this exponential growth
of population but at the rate we’re going it’s estimated by the year 2040
we’re gonna have 10 billion human beings on the face of this earth, living
human beings consuming resources. Now, how do you beging to deal with this
when you’re trying to teach or get people active? Develop another paradigm,
raise it to another level, so it’s applicable to a broader, interconnected,
interrelated, interdependent situation that goes on. So dialectics I
rememeber tended to be a line-linear analysis, thesis-antithesis-synthesis,
but generally it was applied to one or two factors in a general sense. You
could find multiple factors related to that, but what I’m saying here, I f
we move to the higher level paradigm we could find the dialectics of 20
different oa hundred different categorical things… We have to see how
they interesect, how all these dialetcial points of view intersect,
interrelate. One of my next books is called “Polyectic Reality: The
Non-Linear Analytic View.”

When you go back and you hear Malcolm X say the ballot or the bullet, if
you read further, you’ll find out the man preferred the ballot. And he
defined it in terms of black folks unifying their vote. And even he said
when we get some black unity then we can some black and white unity, but
they killed Malcolm. What we did with the BPP, we could move this up now.
We moved it up a notch. We coalitioned with all the progressive young
whites, etc. and any ethnic group that’s progressive enough to understand
and relate.

If a former Panther runs for office, he always gets a group, they will get
a group of us to come into the city, come on in there and support them,
because that was always part of the characteristsic aspect of the BPP–we
run for political office, we put four people’s names on the ballot right
here in the state of California including Eldridge Cleaver with the Peace +
Freedom Party coalition, in 1968.

Most of these politicians perpetually amend bills and everything else to
empower the corporate rich and concentrate too much political power and too
much money in the small one percent who control things.

What we’re saying is, Here we are in another era, there’s no Cold War, a
boom economy and people are gettin’ ready to get sucked. People are looking
for something different. We want to raise the consciousness of people to
get something different. Jesse The Body Ventura getting elected is an
indication that people are ready to step outside the old politics, the
corporate money rich–controlled politics of usual of the Democratic and
Republican party.

Q: WHAT ARE SOME OTHER MISCONCEPTIONS THAT PEOPLE HOLD ABOUT THE PANTHERS?

Sure. When people see the movie “Panther,” 90% that you see portrayed on
the screen is absolute fiction. Crap. It has nothing to do with the real
true history and the involvement of what the BPP was truly about. It
totally missed the true character of the party, it missed the coalition
politics of the BPP. That was essential, that was a profound characteristic
of ours that the power structure hated. They hated us crossing these racial
lines! If you got people racially divided, politicans up there easily use
one group against another. When you get people crossing those lines, going
to the real issue and critiquing them as the enemy, as the avaricious
racist enemy of the masses of the people, ah, they don’t like that!
Politicians think they own these seats. You don’t own this goddamned seat,
the people own this seat.

Other misconceptions is that we were all locked up and put in jail. We won
95% of all our coutroom cases, people don’t know this. We had one of the
best legal teams in this country, we won those. They had me in jail without
bail for 22 months, and I won both cases. Angela Davis own her case,
ultimately Huey Newton won his case. Geronimo Pratt. We still got Party
members in there, maybe we can get amnesty for them in the next few years.
“You picked up guns cuz you hated white people!” What do you mean? We ran
up and down the streets with millions of our white buddies. We almost got
killed together, in fact they shot and killed some of my white left radical
friends, buddies, right here in Berkeley at People’s Park protesting. We
were working directly with Stu and Judy Gumbo Albert. And they shot and
killed and brutalized 10, 20 people up there. We weren’t the ones gettign
shot and killed, although we were a focal point in terms of the racist
mentality of the FBI and police departments led by the politicians. They
ain’t just a cop. Somebody has to be giving orders and
directives–policy–of how to treat the Black Panthers, how to treat the
left radical movement. People don’t understand that.

That doesn’t mean that everybody in the BPP was perfect. Not true. I mean,
I could probably cite 15 or 20 people out of 5,000 Party members who did
some fuck-ups. We had to kick em out of the Party. A couple people got
hurt… But let’s talk too about the provocateur agents that in the BPP.
They screwed up shit out there and then the FBI tried to blame us, but it
was the FBI. We got the COINTELPRO documents that we can read at the
library to show all the dirty tricks they pulled on us. So these are the
things that were in the Establishment newspapers that never got really
corrected, movies don’t know, most of these jive plays that people write on
the Panthers, they don’t even know the history of the Party. Half of the
academics or most of em who are writing books STILL do not know their
history. I networked with over a thousand party memebers. We can tell our
own history–real-life, real active involvement, human experience history,
which is what we’re doing. We’re not sitting on our butts. We’re about
getting that feature film out, Seize the Time, named after the book, which
would really be my life story, but 80% of this feature film will be the
rise and decline of the BPP. The real history.

Our producers got John Singleton, by 1992 he was contracted and had an
option payment already in his pocet, I had an option payment in my pocket
before Melvin Van Peebles ever started Panther. Now when he put the movie
out, Warner Brothers, who made a mistake with Wyatt Earp and Kevin
Costner…[TAPE ENDS] We had the coopeartion of 20 former Panthers, we’d
been in development. So Melvin jumps up and does some cheap $7 million
production, scraping money, rushes some junk out there that 90% of whiich
has nothing to do with our real true history.

Q: BUT NOT MANY PEOPLE SAW IT. IT WAS KIND OF A BOMB…

Wellll…I’m saying it this way. It was a bomb.

Q: SO THAT HURTS YOUR CHANCES FOR MAKING A FILM.

No it doesn’t hurt it. It hurt THAT chance. They did it in 1995 and we’re
almost into 2000. So if I can geta film done by 2002, major feature film
that really reflects us….I’ve written the screen play, me and my wife
expanded the screenplay, we’re including all these other former Party
members’ contributions to get a continuity-type story, okay? So it’s done.
We’re gonna do this. I’ve taught myself how to produce movies. I went and
talked to Danny Glover, who tentatively said he’s definitely interested in
helping me raise the money and possibly being one of the producers in this
thing. That’s just a possibility. If I can get Will Smith to do this,
playing Bobby Seale, my $42.5 million budget’s gonna jump to $62.5 million
cuz Will Smith needs $20 million a film. But that’s what we’ll DO. Will
Smith playing Bobby Seale based on Bobby Seale’s script, NOT some other
cheap script or cheap research that has nothing to do with the real history
is. People got notions in their head…but they don’t know, unless you talk
to real Black Panther Party members, you don’t know what the real history
is.

Q: WASN’T THERE SOMETHING IN FOREST GUMP THAT WAS REALY DEROGATORY TOWARDS THE
PANTHERS?

Yeah. It was a satire. They used BPP to play with a satirical notion.
That’s all it was. I’m not even upset about that. I’m more upset about a
major feature film, publicized, and he and his son, gets on television and
pretends that this is the real history of the BPP: “Oh yeah it’s really
fiction but it’s real history.” I sued! I took all the production companies
and Melvin Van Peebles to court. I lost the suit because I’m a public
figure. But my point is, my real reason for suing them is, win or lose, is
that I want to y’all to know that I totally disagree with that film, I
totally disagree with the crap you put out. So for the record, for the
historical record, you know. You know.

Q: WHERE DID THE MONEY COME FROM TO FUND THE PANTHERS’ COMMUNITY PROJECTS?
First, our BPP newspaper. Individual chapters made 15 cents per paper they
sold which helped pay rent, phone bills, etc. The other level where money
came form is really a lot of people–black and white–I’m talking about
Ossie Davis, Jane Fonda, Paula Weinstein, people don’t even KNOW Sammy
Davis Jr. donated over $60,000 to the BPP, $10,000 here, $15,000 there.
Paule Weinstein’s mom, Hann Weinstein the movie producer set the thing up
with the conductor Leonard Bernstein. You see what I’m getting at? Sarah
Pillsbury from the Pillsbury Cake and Flour people just donated money. The
Stern fund our of New York used to, they handed me $100,000 a year. These
are foundations that did this stuff. Then we had individual people who just
came around. We had one lady who wanted to help out, a little old white
lady, I got her to give us $250,000 to buy this one square block school and
church, to take the whole thing over under a non-profit entity.

Q: WHAT ABOUT SELLING THE RED BOOKS?
We did sell the red books, but what I want people to understand is that the
BPP did not evolve out of Marxist-Leninism, it evolved out of a profound
research and understanding of our African-American history. Red book didn’t
come along until a little bit later. Huey calls me up one day, I think we
were 5 or 6 months old, “I know how we can make some money!” Since this
news over and over and over had talked about China, Mao Tse Tung and the
little Red Book, they would show millions of people on the television news
holding up the little red book, Huey stumbled on a place where we could buy
them in bulk for 20 cents a piece, we bought 200 books, went up to Savior’s
Gate at University of California, 40,000 student population, half of them
walk throught that gate, “Get your Red Book! One dollar, right here!” They
sold like hotcakes. We went and bought some more Red books, bought some
shotguns, paid the phone bill at the office, got some more books and
reading materials, etc. THen a couple of weeks later we heard there was
gonna be a big giant antiwar rally at Kesar football stadium in San
Francsco. Naturally we left our guns at home, so we took our little
contingent of 25 or 30 Party members, that’s all we had handy to go out and
do the work and sold 2,000 Red Books all day long for a buck a piece. Now
check this out: we sold that book for a solid month and hadn’t even opened
it to read it. [laughs] We were busy making money to be financially
self-sufficient, to pay our rent, to buy more shotguns, to buy more
political education African-American history books, etc. THIS was what was
important. So that’s how the Red Book got in there. But that little
portrayal that they did in the movie PANTHER about the Red Book, it was
totally off. Bobby Hudd never said, ‘This one I’m putting my money out
for.’ That’s bull shit! Lil Bobby Hudd, ‘Wow man we making money!” He was
the first one to help sell Red Books. See what I’m getting at?

Q: TO GO ALONG WITH THAT SELF-FUNDING THING… SO THAT’S WHAT YOUR BARBEQUE
BOOK IS ABOUT? YOU DID THAT FIRST IN THE ’80S?

First cookbook I ever wrote, I wrote that in 1985 and ’86, and I …I had
the idea, but I really buckled down to do it when 15 former Party members
in Philadelphia met with me in my office at Temple University. ‘Chairman,
we need to raise some money. We need to get something to do with renovating
these housing, creating jobs for these youth.’ And they were giving me the
information, they were former Philadelphia Panther member, they knew more
about Philadelphia than I did. I said ‘Well dang the only thing I can think
is we ain’t got the Stern Fund no more, we ain’t got these other groups no
more. Jane Fonda did an aerobics tape and I heard she donated her money to
things. I’ll tell you what; What about me writing a cookbook?’ ‘Right on,
Chairman!” So it was us ex-Party members.. ‘Come on chairman, man, right
that book.’ We”ll raise some money with that and with that we’ll try to
buy a couple of these houses up. So later on I went to work for the
Environment YES program, environment youth program, I did have some youth
…. But that’s the real reason I worte the barbeque cookbook.

Now–the book went out of print, I wrested control of the book from the
original publisher, that was in my original contract. Now I got the book.
I’m expanding this hundred and some odd recipe book to a 450-page recipe
book. This cookbook, I’m intending to have a CD-ROM with DVD
demonstrations…three-dimensional graphics of how to light a pitfire on 20
different styles of barbeque pits. Plus the recipes.

I’ve been barbequing since I was 12 years old. We used to have rallies at
the park right here in Oakland, 5,000 people, we would sell to two and
three thousand barbeque plate dinners. Another source of our funds for the
free breakfast program, the preventative medical health clinics, etc.
My uncle taught me how to barbeque in Liberty, Texas when I was 12 years old.
Now if I roll out this new edition with CD-ROM and DVD… there’s a TV show
that goes with this, a 16-part series, 13 for the summer and three for the
winter/holidsy season pit smoking. Cuz in my recipes you can pit-smoke a
whole 22-pound turkey with a cranberry baste marinade. Whole roasts, whole
rib roasts, beef roasts… Hmm mmm. These are recipes that people could
use. My point is if I pull $20 million, $10 million of it goes into this
idea of environmental renovation youth jobs non-profit entity structured to
evolve examples of a community-controlled economic development project,
youth jobs.

I’m just the type of guy who love to organize the real program. I’m a
grassroots guy. I don’t have no money, so I have to make money, and then
pour money and funds in…In other words, in the final analysis, even
though I think in terms of ‘How do we evolve a new economic practice where
we truly democratize the capitalist system, democratize capital, this is
all I’m talking about’, at the same time, you have to set examples for
people to say ‘Oh okay this makes sense.’ It is not about politburo state
control command economy socialism which is the model of the Soviet Union,
which I rejected in 1968. It is NOT about the continued avaricious, racists
behind the major corporations who are part and parcel of why all the money
and political power is being concentrated in one percent of the population.

Q: WHAT SETS YOUR BARBEQUE STUFF APART FROM THE WAY THAT PEOPLE DO IT RIGHT NOW?

Well a lot of people are still barbequing with bottle-back recipes. A lot
of people who say Well I just want some barbeque.’ So they pick up some
sauce, they see a bottle-back recipe, and 9 times out of 10 it tells them
to rub the sauce on some raw meat and put it over hot coals. All barbeque
sauces have some kind of sugar content, epsecially store-baught barbeque
sauces. Honey, mollasses, brown sugar. If you put sauce on raw meat over
hot coals the sugar tends to BURN before the meat is even seasoned or done.
So in my book we have numerous recipes with various flavors, what we call a
baste marinade–totally different from sauce. This is the way I learned to
barbeque form down south, from my uncle and most people down south barbecue
this way. Even old white folks KNOW that you baste meat, good old down-home
white folks down south know that you baste marinade the meat before you put
all the sauce on. Now you can put the sauce on at a certain poiint, halfway
done or three-quarters done, start braising the sauce in. But that’s what
sets mine apart. So all these various blends of baste-marinade recipes, I
got ‘barbeque quick!’ recipes, I got heavy blend recipes with boiled
vegetables, worchester sauce, hickory liquid smoke…

Q: THAT’S WHAT WAS SPILLED IN THE BACK OF THE CAR?

Hickory liquid smoke. It’s extracted from hickory wood. In the old days,
people barbequed with hickory wood, that was the most popular wood to
barbeque with. You can also barbeque wiht various kinds of ruti woods,
sweet woods, etc. You can even barbeque with oak wood, as far as that goes.
But it’s the outdoor wood flavor that goes with the taste. Now. What has
happened over many many years, since I come out of the military, some
company started extracting the pure hickory liquid smok, juice, out of
green hickkory wood. THAT’S where it comes from. And it’s pure, so it’s
strong. You can buy it at a supermarket. It comes in mesquite now, too. If
you want to buy large quantities you go to restaurant supply places, you
can buy up to a gallon. A gallon, if you just barbequing for the house and
the home, might last you a whole year. A cup of this, and a cup of
worchester, a cup of red wine vinegar, or you might want
some….raspeberry wine vinegar! Or you may want…onion wine vinegar!

See, it’s blending. That’s why I say cooking is creative. None of my
recipes is secret, never have I tried to say they were secret.
Some guy told me one time, ‘I canout-barbeque you. My recipe is better than
yours.’ I say, “Okay fine. Whachu wanna do, you come up here you cact like
you want a contest..’ ‘All my friends say no way you gonna get, Bobby Seale
can barbeque circles around you. We gonna hold a acontrest.’ I say,
“Waitaminute.’ So when I first wrote that book, I had my draft with me, so
I got out and said run down to the corner and copy me a copy. I copied my
recipe and said Here, here’s my recipe. ‘Huh?’ I say, Oh yours is secret,
right? Mine isn’t.’ ‘Oh I see you got apple juice here.’ So when the
contest came down, I din’t use apple juice! This time I shifted to
pineapple juice in one recipe and then shifted over, he says ‘ Whachu doin
over ther’ I says ‘It’s a turkey.’ “Turkey?!?’ “yeah, a 14-pound turkey.’
And I put a little bit of hickory, a little bit of worchester, and a whole
quart of cranberry juice. The accent is on it! And I take that turkey
sitting in a plastic bag in a high-rim pan and I twist-tie it so that the
marinade will come all up around the turkey and sit it in the refrigerator
over night, marinating. Then you come out and you save that base marinade
and you put that turkey on the pit in a small shaving pan and baste it with
that same marinade. You take that marinade out of there, you could even put
a little butter or margarine in when you warm it up again. MMMm uhh!

So I did television shows on this stuff, showing people boom boom boom
boom, they loved it. When we first published this book I did one particular
show, one of those early cable TV shows and I think I got 1,300 orders. I
was only on there, demonstrating for approximately 16 minutes, in between
commercials. They put my address up on the screen, boom boom boom, you can
get this book, you can write Bobby Seale and he’ll autograph for you….
I’m just saying: This works. Cuz it’s family-type buying. If you ever
studied the market, systems of how this market has survived, one of the
things that’s caused this market to survive is family-type buying of the
whole computer technology. When you develop techonolgy that’s usable by
people, they will buy it. Specially if it’s a functional for them. This is
something that’s functional, lifetime function. You’re gonna get this big
spiral-bounded 450-recipe book with a CD-ROM maybe …and a separate
DVD….DVDs are now being made for six hours, imagine I can practically
alll of those video demonstrations of various recipes…That’s a marketable
item, it’s ahousehold item, it’s something people like to do. And I teach
you not only to barbeque in pits, I teach you oven-baked barbeque, I teach
you microwave, convective oven barbequing,etc. the whoel gauntlet. I teach
you how to actually take and cook some of your meat, boril some of your
meat right quick and I teach you how to blend all of these items, put them
over and cover this thing in a microwave, and i just want you to
quick-broil it, and kick that in the microwave but seal it down, so to
stpeak, all those juices and sauce stuff just comes together! [laughs]
this book is gonna be fantastic.

Q: AND YOU DID A LOT OF BARBEQUING THROUGH THE YEARS WITH THE PANTHERS.

Sure man, that business was one of the key things I intergrated! See,
that’s why you have to do a lot of things, it’s not just a “rally.” I never
liked “just a rally.” Specially when you gonna do it at a grassroots
community. When we had a rally, we not only had barbeque for sale, we had
the bandstand, the rock bands and the rhythm and blues bands and the blues
band, we had the speakers there, we let other organizations’
representative groups cuz we was in coalitions speak too, then we would
have tables, every fifty feet some tables and a big giant sign: ‘sign up to
work on the breakfast for children progam.’ another sign: ‘sign up tot
work on the people’s free medical health care clinics. sign up to work on
the six-cylinder engine testing program. sign up to work on the free shoe
program. sign up to work on the BPP’s free clothing program. Sign up to be
a voting registrar and do some community work. You don’t have to join the
BPP. See you’re doing more than just speaking, you’re organizing the
people, they become part and parcel of something.

And me I was always a troop feeder. I learned that in the military service.
All the troops have to eat! We were always able to leave and go to the chow
hall three times a day and eat to our hearts’ content. How do you think I
got B-52 bombers out of them docks? I’m a crew chief leader, and I got 6-8
people and a B-52 bomber with 450 gigs on it, shet metal structure repair
gigs, and BOOM. We got four weeks to clean this plane. I cleaned that plane
up in 2 weeks, 2 and a half weeks. We were able to go eat! You feed the
troops [punches hand rhytmically]. So in the BPP, I had cookin’ crews. And
I was one of the head cooks. Lotta the times when they wanted to have a
central committee meeting, I’m the Chairman, the head of the Party, guess
where they held it? In the kitchen. I might be smothering down a hundred
pork chops, big giant frying pan and a half-pan, and I got this big giant
pot here with the onions and the celery and everything already chopped up
in there, and you’re gonna dump a couple of cans of blended stew, tomatoes
in there. As fast as I brown them pork chops, I’m dumpin them in there,
this is gonna gravy up itself, right? I cook a couple of pots of long-grain
rice, I had these big ol pans where we could bake 24 cornbread muffins at
one time. We have two or three pans of that. Party members come in from the
evening working, selling papers, to this day, and I’m not tryign to be
conceited, Party members say ‘We love the Chairman!’ Why? ‘He used to feed
us, he used to…’ That’s what you do. ‘What the Chairman cook today?!” Big
6 or 8-gallon pot of that hickory sirloin chili. i had 65, 75 Party members
working at the headquarters. Each head office had to have cooking crews!
For party members. You eat breakfast there…boom boom boom…If you
tellin’ your troops to serve the People, there’s something got to be in
your structural framework where if you got arrested in jail, we had a bail
fund. Your fett be hittin’ ground. You’re not gonna sit up in a jail,
[laughs], unless you got in there with murder and they ain’t give you no
bail. But party members, boom. You know, out selling papers and some cop
starts harassing them and somtehing happens and words of exchanged and he
comes in an arrests them all, ‘they was disturbing the peace’.’ Man, two or
three hours your feet are on the ground. And then we’d go to court. We
loved to go to court. Fast as the court is open we got the press–and the
underground press–and we always could get 20 people from the Guardian to
the Barb to whoever, to come to the press conference, telling the people
about what this case is about. This case is abotu harassment, the police
said this and he said this and witnesses… Most people don’t even
remember, 90% of all the arrests, charges amounting to 2,000 charges,
sometimes people arrested with two, three counts of charges….were
dropped, right after the arrests. 10% of all thsoe charges ever went to
court and then we turn around and won 95% of those cases.
We were a helluva fine organization, because we dealt in multiple
leadership. We didn’t limit it to one mono thing like Farrakhan is some
mono-type leader of the Nation of Islam. He’s probably got a committee, I’m
not criticizing him there per se on that. My point is that we dealt with
committee leadership. Each chapter and branch had a committee. And each
chapter and branch had leadership spokespersons, two, three or four of
them. Multiple leadership! So when they put me in jail, forced Eldridge
into exile and Huey was already in jail–we the top known leaders, early
organizers–the party continued to function. David Hilliard was Chief of
Staff, he kept it together. When I came out fo jail, they put David in
jail. [laughs]

Q” HOW DID YOU SURVIVE MENTALLY IN JAIL, BEING SUCH A NATURAL ORGANIZER OF PEOPLE?
They put me in isolation cell. I had no problem. I’d been in stockade
before in the service. I did six months in the stockade for some racism.
They kicked me out of the military services after three years, eleven
months and eleven days. I only enlisted for four years! I was kicked otu
with undesirable discharge, I couldn’t deal with the racism. I didn’t have
any political consciousness then–I just couldn’t take it. I didn’t give a
damn if you were a colonel, you’re doing wrong. I never allowed a bully to
run over me, even when I was a kid. Even if I get my ass kicked, I’m gonna
confront this bully. And I guess it was something having to do with my
character, I don’t know. Cuz I truly believed in fair-shares equality, fair
relationships between people, I don’t care what color you was. I learned
through the party, and before the party…My biology, your biology–white
or black, that’s bullshit to me. I took biology, I took anthropolgy, I
says, wait a minute, we’re all human beings. I believe that. And I know
that. And I proved it to myself with good human scientific evidentiary
fact. I’m no better than you and you no better than me. You’re just another
human being. Those are the kinds of relationships we had with all our white
left radical buddies. Cuz it was this free-flow attitude. We weren’t
running around, ‘Oh you white!’ WE had no time for that. We kicked people
out of the Party for messing around with our white radical friends.

We had a female who was the head of the whole Massachusetts state chapter.
8 or 9 young black males called me–“oh chairman Bobby, they called me from
Boston, their headquarters–“uh uh, we Black men and we can’t be taking no
orders from a woman, we need a brother, a man in charge of this chapter out
here, and we allg o together.’ So I said, ‘gimme all your names’ and i
told somebody to pick up the other line, take these names down, these
brothers are protesting sister Audrey Jones out there. We finally got all
the names and then I says, Lemme tell you something. You read the rules of
the Party, you’re supposed to write up your charges and your disagreements
and send em in in the mail to me. And you can still do that, you can
appeal, cuz I’m getting ready to tell you something: If you cannot take
directives from deputy chairman sister Audrey Jones, get the FUCK out of my
organization, Cuz I don’t have no time for no punk-ass sonovabitches
running around here with they penis in front of their ego like they’re
supposed to be better than in front of another human being which is a
female and she is THE sister, she is THE organizer. Get out of my goddamned
organization! Roll, cuz I can see it all stickin’ out now. The police come
up there to attack the offices, sister Audrey Jones give you a directive to
go downstairs and get the guns, ‘we ain’t taking no orders’ but i says the
racist power structure is getting ready to kill us, I said, get the fuck,
hurry up. Let the door slam you in the ass and knock you down to the next
block and don’t come around.’CLICK. They never forgave me for that.

[laughter]

Maybe they did, some of them. But my point i, I have no time for the little
dumb…

Q: IT’S SO HARD FOR ME TO IMAGINE YOU BEING IN THE THICK OF IT ON A DAY-TO-DAY
BASIS AND THEN BEING PUT IN JAIL.

Well I’d been in jail before. I was in the stockade, that was the first
time I went to jail. The second time I went to jail was when the BPP six
months, when I led the 24 males and 6 females armed, led that delegation to
the California state legislature, May 2, 1967. That’s when the BPP received
its notoriety. All of that was about leaving a message cuz they were trying
to make a law to stop us from patrolling the police, that’s how legal we
were. We were legally patrolling the police. They couldn’t arrest us just
for observing the police; they were legal guns, as long as they were not
concealed. But we were very disciplined, and they knew this. So I lead that
delegation…and ultimately I had to serve six months in jail because we
were not—it was not about carrying illegal guns that we got arrested, we
got arrested for disturbing the peace of the California state assembly, cuz
some of the party members got ahead of me and happened to walk on the real
floor, just walking, and upset the legislators. And Ronald Reagan wanted us
arrested on anything… But we were not arrested on illegal weapons
[charges]—they had to give us our guns back! We filed a brief in court.
You give us our private property back, and they had to give them back.

Q: SO YOU WERE IN JAIL FOR SIX MONTHS THERE..
Six months there, and then they put me in jail a second time around…by
the time I was in jail a second time, I had a helluva reputation. “Oooo,
don’t let him around the other prisoners.” So they put me in an isolation
cell. Then later they threw me in “the Hole.” The Hole is a punishment
location, isolation cells you get fed with the prisoners but you just in a
different location then the rest of em. Why? Cuz Bobby Seale will organize
these prisoners if they let him in the big room…so they always put me in
isolation cells. Then when I got Connecticut for that case– ‘m in jail
without bail, remember–I took the State Jails Commissioner to federal
court while I got another case, a conspiracy to commit murder case in
Connecticut, and I won, they were violating the Eighth Amendment of the
Constitution of the United States of America. So mine’s was a fight and a
struggle. When I walked into a jail–cool! Now if you’re gonna act the fool
with me, prisoner-wise…? Most prisoners say hey man that’s Bobby Seale,
hey brother man, good to meet cha, white and black, cuz they knew, they see
it on the news, this guy leads the BPP. So, boom.

They beat me up in Oakland, over here in San Francisco County Jail in the
testicles and choked me to unconsciousness and threw me in the Hole for
three days. They really threw me in there for 15 days but I got out in 3.
Because I knew before I went there that the Hole in San Francisco had been
declared illegal. You cannot put prisoners in there. So the third day they
let me out to clean out the junk, it had defecation in it. Some kind of
liberal guard opened the big thick door, it’s a thick door, the Hole is
seven feet this way, six feet wide, a grate in the center, no bed, no
nothing, 12-14-foot ceiling wiht one little light beaming down on you. Well
the grate was where you defecated or urinated, the grate is the floor. The
cheap racist guards flushed it from the outside, they would flush that
thing cuz they knew it was stopped up. I’d be laying

[tape ends]

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