Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy birthday, Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale is 74 today.

Above is a clip from Chicago 8, based on the infamous 1969-70 (Nixonian) trial of the radicals charged with causing the riots at the '68 Democratic convention. Bobby was charged, even though he was only briefly in town during the riots. He was intent upon receiving his rights under the law—still very idealistic—not yet realizing the extent that power will corrupt in its effort to destroy those who defy it.

Bobby stood tall and strong in the face of Judge Hoffman's mean-spirited and narrow mediocrity, never giving an inch. Hoffman famously had him bound and gagged to a chair, and still he kept fighting to be heard, toppling his chair, and leading to Hoffman's decision to sever his trial from the others (creating the Chicago 7), and the vindictive, record-setting four year prison sentence he received for contempt.

He was freed after 18 months, when a Federal Court threw out his preposterous sentence—though his incarceration, as well as that of fellow Panther's founder Huey Newton, weakened their movement significantly, as did the infamous and despicable COINTELPRO offensive J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI waged against them, effectively destroying the Panthers by use of disinformation, infiltrators, malicious and false prosecutions, and even overt brutality and murder.

Bobby has kept fighting, though, albeit less confrontationally—guess the sonsofbitches he went toe-to-toe with can knock that desire out of anyone—remaining a community activist, and a teacher. Below is a clip where he explains the Panther's Ten-Point program.

"Black people, we are organizing to stop racism, you dig it? When you stop racism, you stop brutality and murder of black people by the racist occupying army in our black community."

I was especially moved when he talked of Huey Newton stressing the importance of expressing their goals in simple, easily understood terms, that could be converted into action—no esoteric statements, no argumentative tracts—so that ordinary people could understand, and be engaged. I thought of how Huey graduated from High School, not knowing how to fucking read. How he taught himself, struggling for months to get through Plato's The Republic, finally reading the book countless times, and mastering it, igniting his intellect—ultimately leading to his PhD, in 1980. Ending on 9th Street in West Oakland, nine years later.

Yeah, fuck. Poor Huey. Still hurts a little, thinking about it.

Anyway, have a look at the video. In case you didn't know, the Panthers had it going on, for awhile—their principles were basically just American values—or what's been advertised as such—being extended to African-American people, mixed in with a healthy dose of humanity, and giving a shit about your neighbor (which may or may not be an American value, depending upon who you ask).

Bobby—happy birthday, Bubba. You're one of those guys whose spirit makes me gladder to be human.

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