By Ron Devlin
Nekeed Upshaw was near breathless with emotion as he described
ex-Black Panther Bobby Seale's talk at Kutztown University.
"Inspirational," gasped Upshaw, 20, a criminal justice student at KU.
"I feel lucky to have seen him, it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment."
Seale is 73, but his Black Power rhetoric still resonates with
students whose parents were children when the Black Panthers cut a
revolutionary swath across white America in the late 1960s.
On stage in the Boehm Science Center for more than an hour Tuesday
night, Seale provided a living history lesson of those turbulent
times for a packed house of several hundred.
Some in the mostly black audience stood in the rear doorways, craning
their necks to catch a glimpse of the legendary political activist.
"It was a retelling of history," declared Gregory Cephus, 37, of
Reading. "Just simply to see him, to hear him articulate and speak,
With Huey P. Newton, Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party in
October 1966 in Oakland, Calif.
He was invited to KU as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series on
Law and Justice. His talk was titled "The Intersection of Race,
Politics and Criminal Justice."
Seale meandered across a landscape of civil rights and anti-war
protests in explaining the origin of the Black Panthers, who wore
black leather coats and brandished shotguns as they patrolled the
streets of Oakland.
It was a time, he said, when blacks and anti-war protesters were
being brutalized by police and racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
The Black Panthers
The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was formed Oct. 15, 1966, in
Oakland, Calif., by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.
An icon of 1960s counterculture, the organization espoused a militant
black nationalist ideology loosely based on Marxism and Maoism.
Initially it excluded whites, but later renounced that policy.
Members wore "uniforms" of blue shirts, black pants and black leather
jackets while patrolling Oakland neighborhoods.
Ten Point Program called for free medical care, adequate housing and
full employment for blacks. Also advocated teaching black history in
the schools, excluding blacks from military service and ending all
wars of aggression.
Prominent members included Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael, H.
Rap Brown and Angela Davis.
Garnered national attention in 1967 when members brandished shotguns
during a protest in the California Capitol in Sacramento. Had a long
history of confrontation with police, leading to deaths of party
members and police.
Labeled "the greatest threat to internal security in the country" in
1968 by then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Became a target of the
FBI's domestic counterintelligence program. Party disbanded around 1976.