Cleaver's readings from her upcoming memoir were tender and honest.
By Alice Embree / The Rag Blog
October 16, 2008
An interdisciplinary conference at the University of Texas at Austin
focused on 1968: A Global Perspective. In a previous Rag Blog
article, Thorne Dreyer highlighted the keynote speakers, Daniel
Ellsberg and Kathleen Cleaver and a panel discussion on "SDS and
Student Activism Today." The same post gave information on an exhibit
at the Center for American History that can be viewed through January
2009. Susan Van Haitsma wrote about Ellsberg's fine presentation in
another Rag Blog article.
Kathleen Cleaver, law professor (Yale and Emory) and former leader of
the Black Panther Party read from her memoir, "Memories of Love and
War" on Friday, October 10 on the campus of the University of Texas
at Austin. Cleaver was a keynote speaker at "1968: A Global View."
Cleaver's work – still in progress – was both tender and honest.
She and Eldridge lived in Oakland at one of the epicenters of
revolutionary activity. She described the raids on her home, the
murder of Bobby Hutton, the organizing to free Bobby Seale. It gave
context to the news that she and other Panthers heard in their
attorney's office on April 4th – that Martin Luther King, Jr. had
been assassinated. She is unrelentingly honesty. The Panthers were
living day-to-day with escalating repression when the advocate for
non-violent resistance was gunned down.
Cleaver's respect for Eldridge was obvious. She came out of the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and he came out of
prison, a self-educated, well-read political analyst. Their marriage
co-existed in the cauldron of revolutionary upheaval. They lived in
exile in Algeria for several years.
In her responses to questions, she never seemed to "triangulate" on
truth. A student asked her opinion of what the New York Times calls a
"post-racial" America. "First," she said, "don't rely on the New York
Times to define you." She talked about the Panthers' study of Franz
Fanon and his theories about colonial domination. When an audience
member asked her about feminism, she responded that they were focused
on trying to keep both their brothers from being murdered.
Cleaver will be coming to teach at the UT law school this spring.
Hopefully, this will allow for more dialogue.
On Saturday, October 11th, Thorne Dreyer and I participated as the
elder generation in a dialogue about student organizing. Rosario
Martinez of (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan (MEChA) and
Kelly Booker of Campus Antiwar Movement to End the Occupations
(CAMEO). Martinez talked about successful efforts to build a
coalition around immigrant rights before the April 10 and May 1,2006
Austin marches. Booker spoke of the successes and challenges of
antiwar organizing in a post-9/11, Patriot Act environment. There
were huge antiwar mobilizations preceding the March 2003 invasion of
Iraq. When they did nothing to prevent the invasion, morale shattered
and many decided that marches had no effect.
If you want to support the current generation, there are two things
that you can do:
1) Boycott Chipotle until they sign a contract with the Florida farm
workers and agree to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
(CIW). This has been an effective strategy with McDonald's and Burger
King and Yum Brands. Visit www.ciw-online.org for more information.
2) Hear Camilo Mejia at 7 pm, on Thursday, October 16 at UT Garrison
01.102. CAMEO is the sponsor of this event. Mejia grew up in
Nicaragua and Costa Rica before moving to the U.S. He joined the
military at 19. After fighting in Iraq for five months, he became the
first known Iraq veteran to refuse to fight. He was convicted of
desertion and sentenced to a year in prison. He is the author of Road
from ar Ramadi: An Iraq War Memoir.
Also of note, the Center for American History at UT has an exhibit in
progress that features 1968 poster art and the SDS Comic Show. Panels
from Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History are
displayed. The book, published by Hill and Wang, is written by noted
graphic artist Harvey Pekar, illustrated by Gary Dumm and edited by
Paul Buhle, senior lecturer at Brown University and left historian.
Austin panels included in the book are featured as well. The Center
is open 10-5 Monday-Friday and Saturday 9-2 (when UT doesn't play an
at-home football game). Parking is easy. The exhibit is free. It will
run through January 2009.
To learn more about the conference, see Daniel Ellsberg, Kathleen
Cleaver Headline Austin '1968' Conference by Thorne Dreyer / The Rag
Blog / Oct. 7, 2008
And Daniel Ellsberg and the Concept of Freedom of Conscience by Susan
Van Haitsma / The Rag Blog / Oct. 9, 2008