The Black Panthers' Elaine Brown for President?
Could Be, If She Gets Enough Signatures
Date: Thursday, December 13, 2007
By: Gregory P. Kane, BlackAmericaWeb.com
That's all Elaine Brown needs to get on the ballot as a Green Party
presidential candidate in Washington, D.C. She needs them by
tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 14. And I hope she gets them.
Brown is a former member of the Black Panther Party. In fact, she's
the first woman to serve in the BPP as chairman. She took over that
position after Bobby Seale, who co-founded the BPP with Huey Newton
in 1966, left the organization in the early 1970s.
So why does a staid, curmudgeonly conservative like myself hope that
Brown -- whose politics are 180 degrees opposite of mine -- hope that
she gets on the ballot in D.C.? Oh, for a number of reasons.
First, I have to point out that I have no dog in the fight over who
gets the nomination of the Green Party for president. As a registered
Republican, my ballot will probably be cast for Texas Rep. Ron Paul
in the party's Maryland primary. Paul is against the war in Iraq. On
that point, he's in accord with many Democrats.
Paul also supports normalizing relations with Cuba. On that point,
he's ahead of many Democrats. Paul is a maverick, an
anti-establishment Republican who's out to upset the
business-as-usual apple cart of American politics.
Brown's been doing that for years. She was with the BPP when the
organization decided to get involved in electing candidates to public
office. She helped register voters in Oakland, California and helped
elect Lionel Wilson the first black mayor of that city.
When California Gov. Jerry Brown made his run for president in 1976,
Elaine Brown supported him. Jerry Brown beat future President Jimmy
Carter in several primaries outside the Deep South. Elaine Brown
should get part of the credit for that.
Brown tells the story of her involvement in politics in her
autobiography "A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story." The book was
published in 1992 "and has never been out of print," Brown is fond of
It's never been out of print, nor should it be. Reading Brown's
autobiography changed my mind about autobiographies, which I used to
contend were "heavy on the auto and light on the bio." Most
autobiographies are self-serving tripe designed to make the author
look good -- for the most part -- and everybody else look bad (Think
"The Autobiography of Malcolm X" when you read that last sentence.).
Brown spares no one -- not herself, the BPP, Huey Newton, Eldridge
Cleaver, Bobby Seale -- in her book. She tells the good, the bad and
the ugly, and does so with superb writing. (Her second book, "The
Condemnation of Little B," is about a 13-year-old black youth in
Atlanta who was accused of murdering a black man who was supposedly a
loving husband and father. That book was published in 2002; it
shouldn't go out of print either.).
Full disclosure requires that I tell readers that I've met Brown
personally through a mutual friend of ours. In fact, I drove her from
D.C. to Baltimore so she could speak to my writing class at Johns
Hopkins University. We learned that though our politics are
diametrically opposed, we both detest D.C. rush-hour traffic.
Congress was still debating the S-CHIP program at the time. "If it
weren't for this woman," I told my students, "there would be no
S-CHIP program. The Black Panthers were the only ones talking about
free health care for poor people in the 1960s. Now you have Democrats
AND Republicans supporting S-CHIP in one form or another."
Brown then told the students about her experiences in the BPP and
what she's been doing since. She said she supports free health care
"Some people call that socialized medicine," Brown said. "My answer
is, 'And your point is what?'"
The conservative in me would answer that the point when a federal
government that has failed so woefully in education tells me it's
getting into the healthcare business, then that government is in
essence telling me to plan an early funeral.
But I liked Brown's question. I like Brown. If members of the Green
Party want a presidential candidate who has -- albeit arguably -- had
more influence on American politics than any candidate they've had so
far, then they should get Brown on the ballot.
Of course, if they don't, then they should go with someone else.