Obama's inauguration hailed by White Panther founder John Sinclair
January 21, 2009
One of the leading white voices in the American civil rights movement
has declared Barack Obama's inauguration yesterday a victory not only
for the black community, but also for those white people who joined
the call for an end to the "American apartheid".
John Sinclair, who founded the White Panther Party in 1968 in support
of black civil rights, told The Times: "I've been waiting for this
day all my adult life. I never thought it would be possible."
Mr Sinclair, whose two-and-a-half year imprisonment for possession of
marijuana in the 1960s became a cause célèbre for John Lennon and
Stevie Wonder, was in London last night to play a special one-off gig
in honour of Barack Obama's inauguration.
After centuries of slavery, exploitation and oppression of black
people by white Americans, Mr Sinclair feels that Mr Obama's
inauguration represents a watershed for both the black and white communities.
"Obama has used the mechanisms of the social order against itself,"
Mr Sinclair explained. "He's like John F. Kennedy he's fresh, young
and smart. It's just something that the Establishment has never
"When you are a white person in America, you have a horrible racist
history that you were always uncomfortable with, but you think 'what
can I do?' And now they've made the ultimate choice.
"I bet a lot of those people felt they would never vote for a
'nigger'. But it feels good to do the right thing and white people
feel proud of themselves too."
Mr Sinclair was a beatnik poet, political activist and manager of
punk-rock band MC5 in a racially divided Detroit in the 1960s. It was
in 1968, just months after the assassination of Martin Luther King,
that he founded the White Panther Party in answer to the Black
Panthers' call for white people to support their movement.
The election of Mr Obama represents for John Sinclair the first steps
towards a goal set nearly 50 years ago, and one towards which people,
both white and black, have never stopped striving.
"True equality for black people doesn't exist yet; all the problems
are not over and are not even being addressed. But they've addressed
one. Can a black man be President? Yes. They've answered that one,
and it's a good start."
Sinclair grew up on a small white-run farm in Michigan, but it was
the rhythm'n'blues of Ray Charles and Big Joe Turner that made him
what Norman Mailer once called a "white negro".
As a college undergraduate in Flint, Michigan, Sinclair joined the
National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP),
idolising Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Their dream was Sinclair's dream.
Mr Sinclair said: "I lost any hope in the American political system
when they killed Malcolm X, the only man who knew what was going on.
I'll never forget that day. I felt like there wasn't any hope for
"And I've felt like that until now, inaugurating Obama as President."
Sinclair's band, MC5, were the only group to perform at the Festival
of Light protest rally outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago
in 1968 before police and protestors began clashing in violent
battles throughout the city.
It was in Grant Park in Chicago that some of the bloodiest encounters
took place, on the very spot where, 40 years later, Barack Obama
would be standing to give his victory speech on election night 2008.
"Obama's inauguration is pretty amazing," Mr Sinclair said. "It's a
combination of frustration and what they feel at the end of eight
years of Bush. It's destroyed the moral fibre of the country.
"Obama's uprightness and moral integrity and reasonableness and the
obvious intelligence of this guy combined with the terrible
backdrop against which he rose ... has had unbelievable results."
Mr Sinclair, who was the subject of a John Lennon song written for a
mass rally to free him from a ten-year prison sentence in 1971, has
long combined his poetry with his desire for revolution, and has
collected his writings in his book It's All Good: A John Sinclair
Reader, released through British indie publishers Headpress.
In one story he talks of how Detroit felt like a city reborn when
they elected their first black mayor, Coleman A. Young.
Sitting in a house in North London, with a long white beard and a
Malcolm X Academy sweatshirt, seems an age away from those days of
hope. But Mr Sinclair thinks that may change with Barack Obama now in
the White House.
On stage last night, to celebrate Obama's inauguration, he told the
audience: "Look at the mess white people have made of my country.
It's time for someone else to have a go."
White Panther founder hails Obama
LONDON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama's inauguration is a
victory for whites who joined the call for an end to the "American
apartheid" in the 1960s, a longtime activist says.
John Sinclair, founder in 1968 of the White Panther Party, which
supported civil rights for African-Americans, said Tuesday's
swearing-in of the United States' first black president was a moment
he thought would never come, The Times of London reported.
"I've been waiting for this day all my adult life. I never thought it
would be possible," said Sinclair, whose two-year imprisonment on
marijuana charges in the 1960s became a cause celebre for musicians
John Lennon and Stevie Wonder.
Sinclair was in London Tuesday night to play a special concert in
honor of Obama's inauguration. He told The Times, "Obama has used the
mechanisms of the social order against itselt. He's like John F.
Kennedy -- he's fresh, young and smart. It's just something that the
Establishment has never authorized before."
Sinclair told the newspaper that "when you are a white person in
America, you have a horrible racist history that you were always
uncomfortable with, but you think 'what can I do?' And now they've
made the ultimate choice."