Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale speaks in Berkeley
By Kristin Bender
BERKELEY Kicking off Black History Month at Berkeley City College
on Monday, Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party,
denounced last month's riots in downtown Oakland in the wake of Oscar
Grant III's shooting by a BART police officer, instead calling for
greater community control of police.
About 100 college students and community members turned out to see
Seale, now 72 and promoting his book, "Barbeque'n With Bobby," give a
wandering 90-minute talk that prompted at least a dozen students to
walk out. Organizers and other students, however, called a success.
The speech jumped from the history of the radical party to the
importance of electing progressive African-Americans to political
office to why the Grant riots were pointless.
"I wouldn't have rioted," Seale said, answering a question by a
student of how he would have reacted to Grant's killing. "I
understand why (it happened), but I wouldn't have rioted. When Martin
Luther King Jr. died, there were 400 riots in America, (which didn't
Instead, Seale said there must be structured legislation and policies
to "give people the power to investigate the police. These so-called
police review boards are not the name of the game."
Seale, who was part of the original group of 14 young men and women
who armed themselves and "observed" the police in West Oakland during
the 1960s, said Grant's killing shows that racism has not been
banished from police work.
"(The officer) said he was trying to pull out his Taser. Why would
you pull out a Taser, anyway?" Seale asked the crowd. "(Grant) was on
the ground facedown and handcuffed."
Brhett Skipper, a 26-year old North Oakland resident and full-time
Berkeley City College student, said Seale's talk was a success
because he is such a "big name in African-American progress."
"I think it was great to hear more about the (Black Panther Party)
programs," Skipper said. "That is the epitome of what needs to be
done in our community now."
Although former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once called the Black
Panthers the "greatest threat to the internal security of the
country," the party is known for its more than 20 social programs
that gave free breakfast to thousands of schoolchildren every day,
registered people to vote, distributed free bags of groceries and ran
urban medical clinics.
Heavily inspired by slain civil rights leader Malcolm X and his
teachings, Seale and Huey Newton founded the party in October 1966.
Though the party was based in Oakland, there soon were 49 branches
and chapters nationwide with a membership of at least 5,000 at one
point during the '60s and '70s, Seale said.
Seale was one of the original "Chicago Eight" defendants charged with
conspiracy and inciting to riot after 1968 Democratic National
Convention in Chicago. A judge sentenced him to four years in prison
for contempt because of his outbursts in court. Eventually he ordered
Seale severed from the case, and the remaining defendants became
known as the "Chicago Seven."
Seale said that Steven Spielberg was looking to direct a movie about
the trial and cast actor Will Smith as him. Dozens of reports about
the project on the Internet say Spielberg has dropped the project and
that Ben Stiller is in talks to direct it.
Kristin Bender covers Berkeley. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-founder of Black Panthers sees progress
BRIAN EVERSTINE; email@example.com
When Bobby Seale became an activist in the 1960s, there were about 80
elected black politicians throughout the country.
Seale, a co-founder of the Black Panther Party and a defendant in the
famous Chicago Eight trials in 1968, dedicated his life to civil
rights. Due in part to his influence, things changed. There now are
tens of thousands of black elected officials, including, most
notably, the 44th president.
"This is a very, very, very important thing for America's democracy,"
Seale said of President Barack Obama on Tuesday night at the
University of Washington Tacoma. "More important than him being
African American, he is a highly intelligent and qualified brother."
Seale visited the university to share his story and speak on the
progression of civil rights in the United States.
In the middle of the civil rights movement, Seale was one of the most
recognizable faces in the push for change.
At the Longshoremen's Hall, attendees grabbed posters of him from his
most recognizable time Seale in a black leather coat and beret,
following a guard with a pump-action shotgun over his arm.
"Bobby Seale is as much a part of our history as Abraham Lincoln,
George Washington, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Junior." said
Bryan Neal, the president of the UWT Black Student Union.
Seale became a community activist in Berkeley, Calif., in the
mid-1960s before joining Huey P. Newton to form the Black Panthers,
where Seale served as the first chairman.
He was targeted and put under surveillance by the FBI, and dozens of
party members were killed during the push for "freedom by any means
At the same time, law enforcement agencies attribute the deaths of at
least 15 officers to members or former members of the Black Panthers.
"There's a lot of history there, and I can't tell it all in one
lecture," Seale said.
In 1968, Seale and seven others were charged with conspiracy and
inciting to riot after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in
Chicago. During the trial, Seale was jailed without bail and, after
his repeated outbursts, was bound and gagged during court proceedings.
In 1969, Seale was charged with ordering another Black Panther,
Warren Kimbro, to kill an FBI informant. The jury was unable to reach
a verdict during an infamous 1970 trial in New Haven, Conn.
Early in his speech Tuesday night, Seale didn't directly address
Kimbro, who died last week.
Seale said 28 Black Panther members were killed since the party was
formed. Sixty-four were wounded, and eight remain political prisoners, he said.
It's a different time now, and many of today's youths don't
understand the struggle that went into making this country what it
is, said Shawn Jenkins, chairman of issues and controversy for the
UWT Student Activities Board.
"He represents a time when America was a different place, and he has
a story that needs to be a part of American history," Jenkins said.
Brian Everstine: 253-597-8374
Civil rights activist at UW Tacoma Feb. 10
Feb 06 2009
Robert George "Bobby" Seale, an American civil rights activist who,
along with Dr. Huey P. Newton, co-founded the Black Panther Party For
Self Defense in the 1960s, will speak at UW Tacoma on Tues., Feb. 10,
from 6:30 -- 8:30 p.m. in the Longshoremen's Hall.
Seale's talk is titled, "From the Sixties to the Future," and will be
followed by Q&A time with the audience. This event is free and open
to the public.
In 1962, at the age of 25, Seale began attending Merritt College,
where he would join the Afro-American Association (AAA) and as a
result meet Huey Newton, later his co-founder of the Black Panther
Party. Seale and co-member Newton became increasingly skeptical about
the direction of the AAA, and in particular, the AAA's tendency to
analyze rather than act on the problems facing black Americans.
Both Seale and Newton, heavily inspired by Malcolm X, and his
teachings, joined together in October 1966 to create the Black
Panther Party for Self Defense and adapt the slain activist's slogan
"Freedom by any means necessary" as their own. Seale became the
chairman of the Black Panther Party and underwent FBI surveillance as
part of its COINTELPRO program.
Bobby Seale was one of the original "Chicago Eight" defendants
charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot, in the wake of the 1968
Democratic National Convention, in Chicago. Judge Julius Hoffman
sentenced him to four years of imprisonment for contempt because of
his outbursts, and eventually ordered Seale severed from the case,
hence the "Chicago Seven." During the trial, one of Seale's many
outbursts led the judge to have him bound and gagged, as commemorated
in the song "Chicago" written by Graham Nash and mentioned in the
poem and song "H2Ogate Blues" by Gil Scott-Heron.
In more recent years, Seale's actions differ greatly from the radical
ones of his past. In 1987, he authored a cookbook called Barbequing
with Bobby and was also a spokesman for Ben & Jerry's ice cream. In
2002, Seale began dedicating his time to Reach!, a group focused on
youth education programs. He also currently teaches black studies at
Temple University in Philadelphia and is launching an instructional
nonprofit group helping people develop the necessary techniques and
tools to set up community organization within their neighborhoods.
This event is co-hosted by the Student Activities Board and the Black
Student Union at UW Tacoma. Funding was provided by SAB, Arts &
Lectures Committee, CEF and the SI Educational Opportunity Fund.