Issue date: 2/27/08
"Crime is not a moral question, it is a political question," said
former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown, during a lecture Feb.
20, in the Willie Albert Tempton Sr. Memorial Student Center.
Brown became the only female leader of the Black Panther Party in 1974.
She began her speech by dispelling the rumor that she slept with
former party leaders to gain a leadership role in the organization.
The lecture was part of a series of Black History Month programs
sponsored by the Office of Student Activities and Leadership.
An avid activist, writer, and lecturer Brown said it was her first
time speaking at a historically black university.
She discussed the party's 10-point platform, stressing concern for
the advancement of Negro people.
"Like point seven, we wanted an immediate end to police brutality and
murder of black people," she said. "This is one of the reasons we
carried guns," Brown continued.
She said this was a means of self-defense and an intimidation tactic.
Kara Willis, a junior agriculture major, who introduced Brown, felt
students could benefit from the discussion of the Black Panther Party
and its policies.
"Now that I have a clearly defined picture of what the Black Panther
movement was about, I'm better able to understand the organization,"
Faces of students registered shock as she ran through a list of
statistics about the black community, citing black people as the most
frequent HIV/AIDS patients, inmates incarcerated and diabetes cases.
"How many of you know someone who has been to prison or is
incarcerated right now?" asked Brown, as heads swiveled to see the
majority of audience members raising their hands.
"That's the sad part, isn't it," she said.
Controversial in her arguments, Brown spoke about the Congressional
Black Caucus, the Bell Curve, the Three Strikes Crime Bill, and the
civil rights movement, evaluating their effect on the black community.
"The Bell Curve was nothing but 800 pages of scientific racism," she said.
She suggested that the Congressional Black Caucus be disbanded. "I
can't remember anything they've done to help the black community
since they were established."
In reference to the Three Strikes Bill, she mentioned the large
number of African American men who were imprisoned following its enactment.
"Now there's this nation of the 'super predator,' the bad black boy," she said.
Although the Black Panther Party ended in 1987, Brown said that the
black community still has much to accomplish.
She informed students that blacks securing the right to vote and
having a black democratic presidential candidate did not constitute freedom.
"We're not going to just go vote and be free at last," said Brown.
She advised students to become active at their universities and to
become involved with the issues affecting the black community.
Currently Brown is lecturing and promoting her autobiography, "A
Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story."
The book has been optioned by HBO for a possible six-part series the
network will title, "The Black Panther."