In January of 2013, I first encountered Bobby Seale on Facebook. I am not sure how I ever got on his radar (although it might have been the article "The Open Assassination of Fred Hampton," which was read by his brother Bill Hampton and their mother, which Bill was kind enough to share with me). However it happened, it came about that I was to meet and get a chance to speak with another one of my personal heroes.
The incredible turn of events over the course of 2016, resulting in a Trump "election" to the Presidency and the explosive growth of the Alt-Right (neo-Nazi) faction has been too distressing for me to write about at length. Suffice it to say that I see this phenomenon as the last gasp of white supremacy that sees its time shrinking. We can only fight against this new fascism and educate those among us about our history and our possible future. While I, and some other researchers, see this as a natural outgrowth of a war that began, in some sense, on 11/22/1963, there were many other key events that have emerged in the last fifty-plus years.
The beast of white supremacy, expressed in the secret government that hates humanity and truth above all things, must be slain.
Back to the present subject: While I was rooting around in my email, I found an email from Bobby from 2013, and after a moment remembered what it was. When we first started talking, I had asked him to do an interview that would eventually be published in Dissenting Views II. He wanted to perhaps gauge my seriousness, or at least get some idea of what I would be asking him, so he asked me for a set of questions. He looked at the questions, responded back quickly, and within a week or so I was recording us on a lengthy and incredible conversation.
Sometime after we had recorded the interview, he had sent me an email with his written responses to the questions I'd submitted! And I had forgotten all about that until today. So what follows below are Bobby Seale's written answers to the questions I first submitted to him when initially seeking an interview. The ground covered is similar, but with enough additional detail to warrant a read.
Or so I think.
In October of 1966, you and Huey Newton formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. How did you come to meet Huey?
On an introductory handshake I first met Huey in the early spring semester of 1962. It would not be until spring semester of 1963 we got to actually know each other, after he helped out my argument about the need for correct social science references to our African American people in one of my many anthropology classes.
How critical was the assassination of Malcolm X in kick-starting the BPP?
It caused me to make a move to try and start another organization. I put together four different programs and the Students Advisory Council. But it would be a year and a half later I insisted to Huey that we finish writing up our proposed ten point program for the Black Panther party at night in my office where I then worked for the Department of Human Resources for the Oakland City Gov at the North Oakland Neighborhood Center.
The Panthers, in the public mind, tend to be associated with guns and violence. And yet the most radical thing the Panthers were doing was attempting to feed and educate young people. Can you talk about those programs?
Yes, I created all of those first programs while Huey sat in jail a political prisoner. In my film we will show that my tangible community service programs and the "Free breakfast for children program" in particular was the real threat to J. Edgar Hoover and the Nixon administration. With our film project research committee we can literally document these facts in depth, beyond the public threats by J. Edgar calling our very programs a threat to the internal security of America.
Very often the Party writings would draw a direct comparison with the overt colonization of, for example, the Vietnam War – and the covert colonization on the streets of Oakland, and Chicago, and Detroit and elsewhere. Has anything changed since the 1960s with regard to this colonization?
By 1967 our BPP phrasing was, "The police occupy our community like a foreign troop occupy territory." That is, it was fascist containment of our ghetto communities, not 'protect and serve.' In 1966 months Before the BPP, my close organizing friend, Virtual Murell and I founded and created the Soul Student Advisory Council organization at Merritt College. Virtual and I with that newly registered organized on campus. We organized the first major Anti Vietnam-war rally at Merritt College.
[Huey was not around, but in night private law school in San Francisco by this time. –ed note]
It was an anti-draft rally telling black students to resist the draft because, one, we black people have served this country in every war since before the end of slavery, and to this day this racist USA does not recognize our constitutional democratic civil human rights. Twenty nine percent of all solders dying in Vietnam are Black Americans.
Speaking of colonization, in many ways the War Against the Panthers – as Huey called it in his thesis – was a real war. Many people – who are not as well known to the public, like Little Bobby Hutton and Fred Hampton –were murdered in cold blood by the police. To this day, even to discuss these subjects remains controversial. What is your perspective on this?
In my film we have documented, and we will depict all the FBI-police or coordinated attacks by the government and the shooting and fascist "murder" of Black Panther Party members. All backed up with solid evidence of how the FBI COINTELPRO operation literally planed the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark December 4th, 1969.
Bobby Hutton? The policewoman witness on the scene testified at the inquest "...they murdered Bobby Hutton." A quick hundreds of thousands of dollars settlement with the Hutton family.
And that night in all the smoke from the tear gas and the fire that broke out, Eldridge Cleaver calling out to Little Bobby Hutton. "Bobby, take your clothes off Bobby." I believe to this day the police thought it was I, Bobby Seale, they were shooting.
The FBI used COINTELPRO used espionage tactics in many cases– direct infiltrators, as in the Fred Hampton case, or using mail outs of fake “Panther” coloring books to discourage white support, or in the case of Stokeley Carmichael (Kwame Ture), using a faked informant report to create the impression he was working for the CIA. How aware were you at the time of the size of the operation against the Panthers?
At the beginning of 1969, US Attorney General, John Mitchell, in the news, declared that by the end of the year we will be rid of the Black Panthers. I did not know the details of many things until various actions against us had happened. At the time I only speculated that it was of course the government planning the operations against my Black Panther Party... in my film I will show how I tactically moved to get Panther party members to fortify and ready themselves for defense from what I believed would be more future attacks. How, in the final analysis, we “won” the LA shoot out a few days after Fred Hampton was murdered in Chicago.
I note that the Tea party rallied against me speaking three years ago at Seminole University in Orlando Florida, when they had declared then that they agree with everything that J. Edgar Hoover did to my Black Panther Party. Oh, by the way, there are two former BPP progressive people who are duly elected to the United States congress.
Martin Luther King, on April 4, 1967, gave a speech that signaled a sharp turn toward a more radicalized critique of the U.S. government foreign policy. A year later to the day, he was murdered. Was King an influence on you? What is your feeling about his legacy?
MLK's legacy is very special to me. Moreso than Huey's or Eldridge Cleaver's. It was Martin Luther King in 1962 at the Oakland Auditorium who first inspired me. Later, in 1968, several weeks before Dr. King was murdered, Dr. Reverend Ralph Abernathy called me at my Central Headquarters office in Oakland, CA. explaining that Dr. King wanted me and my Black Panther Party organization to work with his upcoming poor people’s march, and further wanted to know if I would be willing to participate in a round table of more than a hundred organizations. One to identify all the common issues and problems we are all organizing around and working on. To meet and to work, over a period of time to come up with some practical economic goal objectives for people of color. Yes, Yes. Yes, I enthusiastically answered Dr. Abernathy. It was the BPP that organized people in the community and pulled off a rally at the Oakland Auditorium for Dr. King's Poor Peoples March.
In addition to so many Black Panthers who were either murdered or imprisoned, many great leaders from the 1960s were also killed. All of these figures were on the Left. Is there any connection, in your mind, between what happened then and the country we have now?
In the summer of 1969, I created a major one-week conference beginning at the Oakland auditorium with more than five thousand participants, 75% were all our white left radical friends and supporters from all across the USA. The conference was: "The United Front Against Fascism." Out of it we came up with the NCCF's: The "National Committees to Combat Fascism." At the conference I was in opposition to any ideas of state control command economy socialism, as I despised any and all advocacy ideas of Stalinist, politburo state control. I was about real bottom up organizing establishing "All Power to the all the people," neither the elites nor the corporate controlling rich. I introduced the ideological direction of greater Constitutional Democratic Community Control: from community control of police programs to greater community control of economic frameworks that retail and produce services and goods. First we democratically unite the small business in the communities and second how do we also start up businesses that are non-profit managed and actually owned by all the workers.
What has happened today is the avaricious corporate control of these Republican-Tea Party economic extremists.
What did you think of the Occupy movements?
A very good and necessary Movement.
Do you think real change is possible in our time?
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