Barbara Cox Easley
Interview with: Barbara Cox-Easley
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: Eden Lowinger
Date of interview: 26 January 2012
(Start of Interview)
SM: I got two of them, and I keep checking them every so often. First question, what do you think of the 1960s, and the 1970s? What is the first thing that comes to your mind? And how would you describe the time from your own life experiences?
BCE: A raising of consciousness? I think the March on Washington was 1963, I think. And that seemed to bring a nationwide attention to the whole question of civil rights, education, that type of thing. I was in California the latter part of (19)63.
SM: You want to turn that TV off?
BCE: Oh, yeah.
SM: Okay. And I check things, every-
BCE: Give me uh, read that question again.
SM: When you think of the (19)60s and (19)70s, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? How would you describe the time from your own life experiences?
BCE: As stated, the March on Washington in (19)63, was an eye opener. I myself, I was living in, I had moved to California the latter part of (19)63. I was aware of the concept of not being able to get a job because they were not hiring Blacks at that time. But after the March, I applied for a job with the Pacific telephone company, and I was hired immediately. And I always attributed that to Martin Luther King and his group was soldiers, to people who were on the frontline at that time. Now in (19)66, or maybe a little earlier, I attended San Francisco State Community College. And then I transferred to San Francisco State College. And that was the beginning of the student uprising, the Black Student Union at San Francisco State, and it spread like wildfire across this country. And in 1967, early part of (19)67, I was introduced to the Black Panther Party. So, in a matter of seven years, before 1970, I had gone from a nice Catholic girl to a revolutionary-revolutionary comma radical feminist. I mean, my own personal growth was amazing in that period of time, but it was all in connection with the broader social, and cultural environment. And I was very fortunate that I was around people who were the leadership of many of the movements. Yeah.
SM: How did your parents respond to that? From being that Catholic girl in high school to being- and you went to high school in California?
BCE: So [inaudible] I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I think it frightened my mother, but I do not think it frightened my father because he had made a statement years ago- because I am a daddy's girl, and I grew up under him- he will never have to worry about me, because he knew I had common sense. He died in (19)69. And let me back to Philadelphia for a few moments.
SM: Now again, that was from going from Philly to San Francisco.
BCE: Listen. My father introduced me to a very nice young man who was a soldier. And I had been writing him for one year. And he came back and he made me an offer I could not refuse. He said, "I want to get married, because I do not want to be looking for women out on the streets. But you cannot have children for five years, and you must go back to school." I said, "Okay." So, I thought it was a very good opportunity to leave my mother's house. You know, the [inaudible] fourth [inaudible], that was just amazing. And for five years, we stayed married, and at the end of the five years, we were still friends. To this day, we are still friends. His wife and daughter call me I mean, it is amazing. But he made me go back to school, I started night school. But we were always talking about events that you see on the nightly news. So, besides my father, he was the only other- not only man, but one of the first men in my life to make you a partner in life, you know, educate you, update you. Otherwise, I would have been an empty-headed little cutie. So that was how I got to San Francisco. But at the end of the five years, unfortunately, I had outgrown him as it often happens. And but we thought it friends I mean, I served him the divorce papers. So, you know.
SM: Yeah, it says here, how did you become who you are? And I mentioned this, I say your growing up years, your high school, your college, who your role models and your mentors. And of course, you already mentioned how you got to San Francisco, Oakland area and, how did you become a female Black Panther- so-so you were right now out in California, and you meet these people who were more worldly than this gentleman. And that kind of-
BCE: Um. [disagreement]
SM: -more political more–?
BCE: It was not more worldly or more political at the time. It was that I had gathered some inner strength. You see, I was not afraid to move out on my own. I never have been, come to think of it. But my sister had moved to California and she was living with me along with several other women. So, it did not strike me as that big a deal. Also, Emily and I had become friends because gone to school together. And he was sort of the first person I knew that was in that Black Panther thing, and–
SM: He was going to the community college too, or San Francisco State?
BCE: I think it was community, I would have to ask my sister because she will remember that part much better. But the student movement on campus at that time and the history books, tell some of the story. It was always so busy. But I would go and do whatever I could do. But I was not taking a leadership role, even though there were women there what doing that and I chose to shift my attention to the Black Panther Party. I found them to be, I do not want to use the word exciting, but fast moving, fast paced. You know, they had the newspaper, they were opening up offices. And I also, and we also had introduced me to my future husband, Donald, Donald Cox or DC as they call them. So, I had moved in with DC or no he had moved in with me. That was what the feeling was. And I was kept busy with Panther activity, the breakfast program newspaper, selling the newspaper, political education classes. At one point I had gotten into some trouble, because I was a little petty bourgeoisie. [laughter] And you know that some of that Catholic background coming up, you know, you hear all the stories about sexism and you hear all that. But I was, at one point, I had a 10-point platform and program on how to conduct yourself in my house, on the door! Oh boy, they used to- I used to rile, but at any rate they had suggested I do, I think was a week or two weeks of 24-hour duty. So that means you go to breakfast programs, you go to sell papers, then you come back to the office and you cook, and then you work overnight, doing something. And I chose to do political education places, that meant-
SM: And what did that entail?
BCE: Generally, the younger members or new members, you would take Mao Zedong's red book, several of the books that were good, but Mao Zedong was the main book at that time, and even the newspaper, and you would read and discuss what you read, make it pertinent to today, frame of reference so that people could understand. You know, when you talk about Marx and Lenin and Stalin, and [inaudible], you need a dictionary. And many of our members were very young, you know, educated but not. And some of these books and words, they had no experience.
SM: What was the age of these-this group?
BCE: I would say 15. I would actually say 15. Because Lumiere for 15, when he joined.
SM: [inaudible] this book
BCE: Yes, oh I am in this book too, yeah, I am in here, but that is another story. So, they were like 15. And because youth, even our youth is a very romantic time in your life. Right, you are invulnerable, you are going to live forever, and you are going to accomplish so much. So, the youth made up a large majority of rank and file members. Now, the older members, and I would actually include myself in that in terms of what was I, 25, 26. Life experience had taught me certain things. And if I read something, and I believed in it, that, you know, those were my guidelines. And, however, as my father had told me, many years ago, I never hit you, let no man hit you. So, joining the Black Panther Party did not present a problem to me, because I know you put your hand, I am going to get you.
SM: So, you were a stronger–
BCE: I- you could not verbally or physically abuse me. And but because I was associated with Don Cox, and he was to field motion on the Central Committee,
BCE: Nobody ever really bothered me.
SM: This is an important point is no one was really brought up, because I have seen Bobby speak live, I have seen Bobby speak like four times-
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: –from when I was young, and then older, but that most of the people that you were trying to educate and prepare, -and also the individuals that were older than-that they all had a strength within them. You know, they there is this image of this toughness, and, you know, the pigs and all this other stuff. But there is also a sense, I get a sense of self confidence, not arrogance, self-competence, and being proud of who one is. And to make sure that is the most important thing, proud of your background.
SM: What were you trying with instill in all these recruits?
BCE: But see, that was the period of the early (19)60s. Black is beautiful, James Brown.
BCE: What was going on, Marvin Gaye, the group from Philadelphia. People getting ready for the train to Jordan. I mean, that whole period of time was- especially for the youth- very much like Rent became back in late (19)70s, okay. Of course, I am not sure it led them-them in the right direction. But–
BCE: But that period of time built up something and a lot of young people, and-and I do not think it was just the Panthers or African Blacks, it was Latinos. Everybody was getting a sense of their history which had been denied to them. So that rapid growth from (19)60 to (19)75, yeah. And it has not gone away. See, it has not gone away. It is still here. But I would say that we were so intent. So, driven by the free Huey movement, we were constantly seeing other activity, whether it was Black, white, Spanish, speaking from this example. And then I think, for me, it was the heroes of not just the civil rights movement, yes, civil rights movement, because Stokely came from there, rap came from there, Fred Hampton out of Chicago came from there. So, Bobby and Huey, who were very dynamic, dynamic–
SM: I know he was a smart–
BCE: And Eldridge [Cleaver], when Eldridge came-
SM: Yeah, he was smart too.
BCE: You see, and all of these people running around the country. But they were ours. So yes, we did stick our chest out a lot. And some fantastic things were done. You remember the whole [inaudible] between Jane Fonda, and the French woman- I cannot remember her name-, Leonard Bernstein. A lot of the musicians, if we had a function, maybe they would come, you see. So, California at that time, was-usually the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but the sun was in the West coming to the East. Now, but on the East Coast, New York with its own fabulous African American Black history that goes all the way back to Marcus Garvey. By the time the Panthers came to the East Coast, they embraced it because they were already there. They were, they already knew history. So certain, you know, other communities. Like they might have liked the leather jacket and the man with the straw, that thing. But and then, too, we were ambassadors. And that, for me became a very good thing because by my husband being the Field Marshal, he traveled all over the country. And every chance I got, but New York, and Philadelphia, and especially Philadelphia. When I came here, that was when I met Amir and the people in Philadelphia chapter, and I also met Merriam and Bill Sadler, who became my bubby and my- Bill was killed right after the split. William Sadler was killed and I was overseas I could not come back because it was too dangerous and I always felt the split was the reason he was killed because wherever I was, him and his wife, they were right, Barbara will get it Barbara do not worry about it.
SM: Was that (19)82 around?
BCE: No, the split was-we had the babies in (19)70, (19)71– we tried to go to Germany and we had to wait. That was the early part of us (19)71, he was killed.
SM: Right here in Philly?
BCE: Yes. If you put, if you Google William, Merriam Sadler, you will come across. But that was a very hurting thing for me.
SM: Was it that was around the same time Fred Hampton was.
BCE: No, he was-
SM: He was killed in-
BCE: (19)60, um, Fred Hampton was killed-
SM: We know he was killed in-
SM: He was probably too much of a threat to oh–
He was just a brilliant young man.
SM: What- One of the things I want to mention as an African American female-
SM: -in this period from the 1950s, you know, growing up in the (19)50s, even before meeting the Panthers and going out to the California norm. And then of course, being in California, and then your life since- I have tried to break it down. When you think, when you look at the periods of boomers have been alive, it has been 65 years. This is the first, this past year is the first year that the boomers actually reached-
SM: -65. And so, I break it down. What, what was it like I have four periods, or five periods. What was it like being an African American female, between the end of World War II in 1960, when John Kennedy came in, and then that whole period from 1961, to 1970. And then you got into the (19)70s, from (19)71, to (19)80. And then you had the period from Ronald Reagan from (19)81 to (19)90, the Reagan Bush era, and you had the Clinton era. And then you have the Bush Obama era, just from your own perspective, and maybe from not so much as-as a Black Panther, but as an African American female, and even who Kathleen in there, you can clear from a female's perspective from an African American female perspective, how do you define those periods for African American women, in your view?
BCE: I can only define it for myself.
SM: That will be fine. That is–
BCE: Okay. Because I never all, or most.
SM: I cannot, you cannot generalize. Yeah.
BCE: I remember the (19)50s because of the Korean War. My uncle was a sailor and a cook on the ship. And he used to come home with souvenirs from different countries. But I remember he used he brought us these dolls, little dolls one inside of the other day. And he was talking about Korea. I did not know anything about Korea. And he told me the military since Truman had integrated the military, you had more Blacks everywhere. He said, but I can honestly tell you that it is very difficult for them. And he talked about- I think it was Germany at the time, because he traveled all over- and he was saying how they would run up and ask you can I see your tail. Now.
SM: This is 1950?
BCE: Yeah, he was telling stories, because he has been in the service. So, I am very young. I do not understand it all. But we were protected as young girls. See the community I grew up in, everybody protected children. And I was acutely aware of that, okay. Now think, because I live here (19)63. But the one thing that- I am a daddy's girl, as I told you before- my father talked to us. He took us to see movies and would explain what we were looking at. And I remember several films, that till this day I watch him. One is "Nothing but a Man." And that was the experience of a Black man, wanting to marry the preacher's daughter, the school teacher, and people were not going for that. And integrating the Pullman- yes, see that, he then he explained all that. [inaudible] that cowboy movie and everybody loves and Alibaba with John Derek. But the song was sung by Nat King Cole. And my father said to me, "Do you believe a man can be that beautiful?" [laughter] So, but he did not like any Tarzan movies? He said, "That is not realistic." And James Bond he never liked, he never liked. And I did not I do not like until this day. But that Superman concept, you see? White Superman? No, no, no, no. So, for me growing up, everything was a history lesson. Every experience is valued because we were protected. On the weekends, he would work the bars and he would sit us at the end of the bar with a hamburger and a soda. And tell us, “Never drink when you are out by yourself. If you want something to drink buy it and put your money under the glass, you are not for sale for a drink. You see that woman over there? Do not be like that." So, I grew up with a very strong sense of self, and image. Image. He took us to the gas clubs but I was so young, I missed that. I could not grasp that, you see. Whereas my mother was you know, she worked the factories home buddy. Nice. She taught my sister how to bake- I still do not know how to bake- see I was a daddy's girl and my sister was my mother's daughter. But and then in the (19)60s. As I said my first husband, he made me stand up even straighter. Because he always used to say "If something happens to me, what you going to do." And that was always a thought. But I also had my father's ability to integrate myself into people's lives, make you feel like you knew me forever. Even though my eyes would glaze over, I would still be interested in your conversation. So, I would never, you know you just become that person. And now the (19)70s I returned back to America because I lived abroad about three years. Coming back to America in latter part of (19)73 I found a whole new world, I mean, the turn brothers sister did not mean anything anymore. It was the beginning of the drugs and you know other things. But because of my background I never got into that, stayed away from it. It was not appealing. I did waitress work for two years in the heart of what I would call the drug territory.
SM: That is in the Bay Area?
BCE: No right-right here. And but my thing was Hi, hi. Hi. Hi. Because I was not interested in that, and for me, the revolution was still going to come and during that period too I had, my husband was an exile several of my friends were killed or jailed and so I was a woman with a child. I had to make a living. I had to make some decisions. And having a bubby helped. Merriam Sadler, was wow, when she passed that that was hard but no, is a bubby a mommy or daddy? I just know bubby [inaudible]. But so, I made-she sold me a house for $1 at that 20th in Colombia. And I rented the first two floors out for income. Then in 1975 I got a job with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a social worker, and I stayed there 25 years, 26 years. But I liked the job because the job actually paid me to do what I love.
SM: Helping people.
BCE: Helping people. So, and through those years, the organizations that I have affiliated with have always been something that evolved around people, and also the Panthers 10 Point platform appropriately. So, for me growing, it was good, because I held on to my past to go into my future. And I recognize that if you are wishy washy, or you change your name midstream, or you become involved with [audio cuts off]
SM: My next question is in your own words, define Black Power, let me, define the difference and then define the difference between a revolutionary and an activist. So, in your own, define Black Power, and secondly, the difference between a revolutionary and an activist–
BCE: My own words, define Black Power?
BCE: [whistles] I guess we would have to look at the definition of power first. And what does it say? Influence, sometimes by force. So, but Black Power is the (19)60s slogan. Everything meant self-pride, okay, a source of growth. And a change in Gower Black Power, okay. For change. But Black Power, like I said, influence by force or by persuasion. Still working on that. Okay, still working on that. And it is not something that is for me, a local national, it is a world concept. For me, it is a world concept. It does not just belong to those who lived in the (19)60s. It is a world concept. And it has so many aspects, I could not begin to give you details on that. But the difference between a revolutionary and an activist I think it is a mental state. Because I would not you know, I would not call myself a revolutionary in the sense of now, but I would call myself an activist for change. Because the word revolution can be applied to lipstick nowadays if I am not mistaken. [laughs] So revolutionary, this, that and the other. So, revolution is a term I would not use lightly, because now they do not even take revolution. They say things like the Arab Spring, the Arab Spring.
SM: I think a lot of people that have a problem with the term revolutionary- because I went to a conference just last year at Kent State. Several of the white activists still consider themselves revolutionary. And when you read some of the literature, some people make fun of that term because they are talking on what are you Che Guevara and Fidel Castro? I mean, what are you trying to prove here? Or some leader? [inaudible] on Africa, but are we talking about? I mean, what are you talking about? So how you how the term is used, and what is the feeling I guess?
BCE: Well, it is also like I said, a mental state of mind because among my intimates I might say, "I have revolutionary thoughts." But I know activism is constant. It is a constant for me.
SM: It says, my next little thing here is describing any issues, you or your Black Panther, female peers had with the conflicts between Black Power and the so-called civil rights movement or the women's movement. Could you be both? I remember I bring this up because Johnnetta Cole is, she wrote a book called Sister President and in there, I mean, she was so involved in the issues that you were involved in. But then she also got involved in the women's movement. And then there was pressure within the the-the Black Power movement or whatever to what-what are you doing over there? I mean, you got to concentrate on this. Play Dr. King going north. No, you got to stay south, Dr. King, you cannot talk about Vietnam, you are, you are you should be talking about African American issues in the United States. It is like, so- Did you sense that? Did you and your peers, those women, those powerful, self-confident women, that your peers in Oakland, with Kathleen, you and others, Lane Brown, did you feel that there was a tension? Because if you not only cared about Black Power, but you also cared about Women Power, was there a tension here?
BCE: You have touched upon two issues, all right? Within the organization, women–
SM: I just have to check one thing, it is not always–
BCE: That is alright.
SM: Yeah, especially this one right here okay we are fine.
BCE: But within an organization, there came a period where women were demanding more, not responsibilities. Well, responsibilities, respect. leadership roles. And for the most part, some of them of chapters and branches across country that was given, that was given because you had women in Boston-I think in Chicago, too, but-but what I am saying is that women were used, instead of just cooking, or selling papers, our intellect was called upon. Okay, now, the bigger feminist movement that came what was it, the early (19)70s, no?
SM: Late (19)60s, early (19)70s.
BCE: Yeah, okay. That was a European type movement, if you think about it, Gloria Steinem take off your bra, I want to come out the house. So those issues, were not really something that many African American women focused on. And, and several have testified to that. But there had to be alliances between some women between some thoughts, because we were all after the same bigger picture. So, I myself, and quite a few of my associates, for lack of a better term, at this time, we were open to almost anything. But, of course, as you said, the Party came first.
SM: This, this is really important, because I asked this to Emory too. And I know over a year ago asked it to Ross and I have asked a lot of people. A lot- it did not matter what color you were and the background you were the mere fact that in the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement, one of the reasons why the women's movement evolved was because that women were placed in second class positions. And, and we know now that there were many women in the civil rights movement, who were down on the South that went on Freedom Summer, getting Casey Hadden and the list goes on and on. So that is not the case, and then we all know Dorothy Height, was the only really female that was on the platform in 1963. It was all men, Mahalia Jackson saying and-and certainly Mary Travers was there with Peter, Paul and Mary–
SM: -but the women outside of Dorothy Height, they were not seen at that, at that march. And I think that was very sensitive to Dr. King and most of the civil rights leaders, and certainly the antiwar and the question is like, what I am getting at is within the Black Panther Party, within the-the Black Power movement, were you treated with respect were you given, were you were you not only looked upon the- for your intellect as well, you know that is what I am getting at because a lot of the people went into the women's only because they were treated as second class citizens. How did the Black Panther male–
BCE: Wait-wait-wait, [inaudible] you are going- they went into the women's movement because they were treated as–
SM & BCE: Second class citizens.
SM: In the antiwar and civil rights movement.
BCE: Well-well let us look at this. As I told you before, when I was in San Francisco State, I shifted to the Black Panther Party because it was more exciting, more driven for me. But the type of individual that I am, that Kathleen is, Elaine Brown, Ericka Huggins, Audrey out of Boston, I cannot think of Audrey's last name. Sasha Core, I think even Fanny [inaudible] at some point. The women were not only in the party, getting beaten and thrown in jail as much as any man. Our numbers was, our numbers were great. Many women, there were a lot of women in the party. Sometimes it was four women to one men-to one man. So, decisions were based on who can do the job. Now, there was some chauvinism. I am not going to deny that, but because I was able to function quite well, and my husband kept me in Philadelphia, the next thing I knew, they was saying, "When you come back with, you better come out of there, we need you around here." Because I worked very well, raising money, influence. But it was also due to the Black Panther party that was here in Philadelphia, they were open to suggestions. They were open to dialogue about, "Let us gather, what should we do."
SM: And were not threatened by new ideas?
BCE: No, no. And, well, "Barbara, you are good with all in the peace groups, you to go downtown, you deal with that. You go over there and deal with that." So, the best thing he ever did for me was send me here, because I was like [breathes deeply], so overseas, wherever I went after that, I knew what I had to do. And I would always drag women with me. "Come on, I need to come on." Now, but working very good with men. So, the women who joined if they the weathermen, you know, and the Peace and Freedom Party, okay? Because I remember them. And they were hell raisers. They were great. They were like freedom! Burn the [crosstalk] Oh, so they were like, "Let us do this." And that the civil rights movement, look, it from a church, okay. It started church people. They met- and they were older, and even the student movement of the so many young, Black people and white people that went.
BCE: Yeah. They started out voter registration, okay, fine. But you see that? What does Stokely say at some point? Is, "You come in here with a gun, I am going to get a gun." So, you think that elevation and growth of, "No, Daddy, I am not, I am not turning the other cheek. No mom ah-ah, it is not going to happen." So, in my mind, it is like you grow and you develop. So, within the movement, people come in. And I think too the reading material that we have all given the heroes that we worship, foreign and domestic. Yet, things change.
SM: I think it is interesting. You raise a very good point here because you talk about the church, when Dr. King replaced the minister in his very First Church that Dr. King- that minister was kind of let go because he was a rabble rouser on pardon me, I forget his name I cannot believe. Like, I am really upset that I am going to, but then Dr. King-King came in and gave his first sermon and you remember seeing the movie about that? Yeah.
BCE: I thought we just going to run [laughs]
SM: And Dr. King never planned to be what that Dr. King became, he wanted to be a minister. And so.
BCE: But you cannot help–
SM: But he went the next phase and then then you have Stokely and HRM Brown coming into the next phase challenging the John Lewis's and the Bob Moses' is in terms of the [inaudible] setting that is going. So, you are seeing that more commonly, would you, could you describe Oakland in 1966? Because that was when the Black Panther Party was founded. What were the reasons behind the formation of the Black Panther Party and what were the living conditions in the Oakland Bay Area or in California where African Americans felt that the civil rights movement, that nonviolent direct-action approach was not working?
SM: I thought that was a big challenge to Dr. King and Bayard Rustin and James Farmer. Right, [inaudible]. Is that different?
BCE: Well, I think, a police state, for lack of a better word, and [inaudible]
SM: Knew it.
BCE: And I do not think it was up to the West Coast. Because Reza was here in Philadelphia, so we were talking basically a police state and sort of like the Hispanic people. I am not sure, is the correct word Hispanic or Latino now, find themselves in Arkansas. You are harassed simply because you are of color. And young boys are, are more flammable than, say, a middle-aged black man. And, and this is not unique to California. So, you know, oh, he was carrying a gun. That was why I shot him 100 times. So, Bobby and Huey, as they state in many articles and books, said "What can we do to stop the police from doing all these horrible things in the community?" And so here we are, what, 50 something years later? No, 40 years later, right? Almost 40 something years later, and we find ourselves still burdened with police states, the blue line, the code [inaudible]. Then at that time, the other thing that might add to that is that many police departments were not really integrated. No Asian, Latinos or Blacks. So, you know, that whole period of time was ugly. And even though the Civil Rights segregation marches, the pickets and so forth, had come to California, that was the basis of the Black Panther Party.
SM: Interesting in your thoughts over the years, I know this happened at the [inaudible] house campus, because the students just did not like the cops. And they were white cops that were coming, they were 50 and had a beer gut. And there was, they wanted to create a younger police force and actually one that did not symbolize Bull Connor in the south, which is what happened the (19)70s. But the question is a lot of African American, Latino and Asian American men and women have been hired in the police force, but there still seems to be-I am just me- there still seems to be that divide. You still see the divide even though the police have been integrated? It is almost as if those of those cops are cop outs or something.
BCE: Well, I have very few police friends, okay. I have very few friends that are ex policeman or whatever. But they only reflect a larger society and in these troubling economic times, it is not even a question. It is a fact.
SM: Yeah. Who were- I am going to come, I have a question here on names and I got to find my list here but-but who were the original- I am going to read off questions that will come back and one of them these are the questions I want to ask, who were the original Black Panthers? How many more there? What was their background? Where do they come from? Wherever they headquartered, and how did they recruit? I think you have already talked about that. What were the 10 basic points and how many men and women were in the original group. And we-we already did the, were women treated as equals and have the Panther Party spread nationwide, and why were they labeled as threats to America? And what were the main causes? And what did they do for the community? And how were they named in the logo and bringing some also, some questions about that meeting that that your husband had with Leonard Bernstein and the dislike for Tom Wolston in his book, but, and I got the names of I have the names of the people that I want to ask about some of the originals, but yeah, who were the original Black Panther and–
BCE: Did you answer me, that question? [laughs]
SM: Yeah, I did, really was not getting it in this and I am going to go right to this point. Because for young people-
SM: I am a history nut, and these people need to be remembered 100 and 200 and 300 years from now–
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: For young people who are not aware of the key leaders and personalities and people linked to the Black Panther Party or Black Power movement–
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: In a few words, who are these people and why is it important to know something about them? And these are the people that [inaudible] one at a time but Huey Newton, Bobby Seale,
BCE: Mhm [agreement]
SM: Bobby Hutton.
BCE: Mhm [agreement]
SM: Eldridge Cleaver.
BCE: Mhm [disagreement] [inaudible] original–
SM: Ok, um Fred Hampton. I am just throwing the names of Eldridge Cleaver, Katelyn Cleaver, Dave Hilliard, Elaine Brown. Donald Cox, Stokely Carmichael. H Rap Brown. And those are the individuals just a little bit something about them. Oh, those are the originals right there?
BCE: These are the original.
SM: I am going to take a picture of this. Because I know we all know Bobby, and we all know who Huey. We know Bob- We know, Bobby Hut- we know about the murder.
BCE: Big man.
SM: We do not know about him.
BCE: Big Man.
SM: We need to know more about him. We need to know more about him.
BCE: The Forte brother.
SM: Yeah. See, the history books have these three. These three.
SM: They do not have these three. So, I would like you to maybe say a little bit something for the book about those six.
SM: So why do not we go one at a time. Who was Huey Newton?
BCE: Okay. Huey Newton was a student at Merritt College at the time, right. And Bobby was also, that was where they met. Okay. Little Bobby Hutton. I am not certain how he got involved with Huey and Bobby. Um, the Forte brothers, Reggie and Sherman. Were and I think and sort of bad boys on the corner. But and Big Man.
SM: What is his full name?
BCE: Albert Howard.
BCE: Albert Howard. Big Man. I do not remember how Bobby said he met him; you know what−
SM: Are any outside of Bobby. Are they oh, any other?
BCE: Bobby and Big Man are still here.
SM: The rest are gone?
BCE: Yeah. Gone-gone-gone.
SM: What happened to Forte Brothers?
BCE: No, wait-wait-wait. Reggie, uh kidney stuff.
BCE: Sherman Forte. I did not see him when I was out there. I am not really sure where Sherman−
SM: Let me turn this off until you are back. Because we are just basically describing who they were and why they are important. Huey Newton.
BCE: Huey was a nice young man, intelligent, very, very smart, a good reader, you know, articulate who also had a concern for Black people. I think that had a lot to do with his background, his parents are from Louisiana, if I remember correctly. Yeah, I think so. But when you look at any of the films and early writings, you could see the concern for Black people in general so and the same for Bobby Segal. The very same for Bobby Segal. And together I think they, there was a killing, a young boy. And the first newspaper was a mimeograph. But if you go on the website all of it is listed and I think that was the first thing that struck them as so wrong, unjust. I just encourage people to look at some of the films because you are asking me about personalities and certain things that I really did not have time to deal with.
SM: You think it was? I do not want this to be a setup question. But the way he died, he was, he was shot being accused of drug trafficking. Well, what how did, how did the guy with a PhD−
BCE: Well, that is true. I mean, you know, that was, that was how he died. But I do not- Eldridge. He died. Eldridge died from what was it, a massive heart attack, stroke whatever. How did he go from being the hero to the bum that we did not want to deal with? There is an expression of the good die young. Because you still got a chance to fuck it up. [laughter] And like I said, the- we was a microcosm of society−
SM: That is a great quote.
BCE: Aren't we just, you know? I mean, it is business with the Penn State man. 50 years of coaching, and all you going to be, you are not, you are going to be remembered for that. But you are going to be remembered in connection with the [inaudible].
SM: They always tell young people too that you do, you could do 100 great things in your life, but they only remember the bad ones.
BCE: Okay. So, and then I also, my husband had written.
SM: Yeah, yeah, and who was Donald Cox.
BCE: Oh, here we go. Cut it off.
SM: Your husband, who was Donald Cox? And why was he important to the Black Panthers? What was his again, overall, his role, his work? And then of course, I know something happened in Baltimore, and he had to go to Europe. And he lived there the rest of his life. So, who is Donald Cox?
BCE: Okay, Donald Cox was Field Marshall of the Black Panther Party. He was also a person who had lived in the Bay Area for about, I would say about 15 years or so. Very quiet. Gentlemen belong to NAACP, loved photography. He worked running a printing press in San Francisco. Little shop there. And his cousin Fred Dolan mentioned to him about these gentlemen over in Oakland were talking about carrying guns. And he said, "Really?" [laughter] And he said, "I would like to meet these guys." Well, the one thing that he did when he did meet them, he realized that he knew more about guns because he grew up in Missouri than they did. And he instructed them in the use, the care the buying the selling, how to so they made him a Field Marshal. Which meant you ran all over the country your first task was to make sure that the office was set up in a proper way, certain rules and guidelines were followed and etc., not all people were privileged to his private instructions. Okay, he literally just surface stuff and he was responsible for security because Stealth Lee, Rapper, it is an endless list of names that came through our house. If you came through San Francisco or Oakland, he was responsible for your safety. Now-
SM: Was he in charge of like when Kathleen went off to [inaudible] State, the people that were on the stage was−
SM: That was all the locals and that was the panthers.
BCE: Yeah, because he was still overseas. He left- was the 1970s, he left?
SM: But when he was doing this role and say, Eldridge or Bobby and Huey and Stokely and H. Rapper going around and Kathleen, were going around speaking, was he, did he go as an advance person to make sure that there was safety or-?
BCE: Not always but you know, what is really funny? Excuse me. Not always, but you can see that−
SM: That is Stokely.
BCE: Yeah. And Angela.
SM: That is, that is a young Angela.
BCE: Yeah. Before she went to jail. And that is me.
SM: Oh, what a great shot.
BCE: And it is me. So, we−
SM: Got a great shot.
BCE: Yeah, and see, this is a poncho. And in the poncho, I had a [inaudible] ranger, okay. This gentleman behind here, always carried a gun. People were carrying guns. You could carry guns back then.
BCE: I mean, I was on−
SM: Yeah, that was to protect you. That was the whole concept of the Black Panther was, "We are not going to shoot you, we are just going to protect ourselves." That was his method.
BCE: Whatever. But the other thing, young, romantic. We did not know it all. We did not know how dangerous the beast could be. [laughs] But, and Don, he really loved the- he loved the party. He loved the party. He had disagreements with the leadership because he could not, he was not a chauvinist. I think that was the thing they really got him in a little bit of trouble on and off.
SM: Who were the chauvinists? Or you do not want to mention that?
BCE: History will tell.
BCE: I do not think Bobby was a chauvinist, because he had a decent side to himself. But he was swaying too often. Some people get swayed.
SM: And the other ones are in that group there. They were the main force, those six.
BCE: These guys were not.
SM: They were not chauvinists?
BCE: Big Man, no. He was too young. He was funny. One night he kicked the door in looking for some guns that Eldridge had left at the house. And it was really funny because what I think that was the night Don- Don was there.
SM: What a great shirt that is, oh wow.
BCE: And June Hager, David’s brother.
SM: Oh, yeah, and that is Don, right?
BCE: That is Don.
SM: And who is that guy?
BCE: Big Man.
SM: That is big man. Okay, and this is who?
BCE: June Haggins.
SM: When was that picture taken? 19-
BCE: (19)69, I think?
SM: Now, the one thing I wanted to ask here is that meeting that he had with Leonard Bernstein, I met the man, you go into the web, and that is all they talk about.
BCE: I know.
SM: Now, he was there raising funds for the 21 in New York.
SM: And, and then you guys ended up really disliking Tom Wolf, because he wrote that book.
BCE: Well, I do not think everybody dislikes Tom Wolfe, but back to the girls−
SM: That was the first days- I will wait. We ended up getting to meet Leonard Bernstein. And I guess it was at the−
BCE: I do not remember.
SM: −same building that John Lennon lived in the−
BCE: Oh, the butcher’s name building. Yeah.
BCE: Well, I do not remember the details. But here is the thing. When the New York 21 got busted, somebody had to come back to New York because the whole leadership was and the rank-and-file members. So−
SM: What year was this?
BCE: New York 21? Had to be (19)69. I can double check, but it had to be (19)69- a lot happened in (19)69. He came back, right? And so, this huge uproar about all these Panthers being in jail.
SM: And those 21 Panthers were the leadership of the New York chapter?
BCE: Yes. And some, yes, rank and file person, young people. I think they just came to the house and took everybody. But here is the other part of it. So, Don comes back, they sent him back with one or two other persons to sort of like, find out what is happening, what can we do blah-blah-blah-blah. Well, the newspapers are running around like crazy. There is a lawyer, lawyer by the name of Arthur Turco. I do not know where Turco is now. But it is Arthur Turco and he, the Nation of Islam, quite a few other Afrocentric groups, and they are all running to the office to show support. You got newspaper people running their- Arthur Turco is representing some of these people, and he is offering his services. So, you just have a multitude of people. Now, I would have to go get Khan's book. To give you some more details on that. Can I get it really quick?
SM: Yep. What did Don do in Europe from the time he went over there to the time he passed? We are talking 30 years-
BCE: Yeah, you are talking 30 years. Well, he was in Algiers, the first six or seven years, but when Eldridge and Kathleen, when we had the international section, so he was over there. And then when that fell apart-you always make friends remember too you always make friends−
BCE: And French person or two said, "Come out of Algiers. Come to France, get over here. If you get here, we can help you." And so, he got there. And he did photography, high fashion photography, because he was a good photographer. He did photography. He married a French woman who had money. [laughs] And when he called me, he said, "I am leaving!" I said Don, "Please do not leave, please stay with this woman. “Friends-wise I like her a lot, but she is a piece of work. But so, they were married about-? Well, I do not know if you remember this, but the French government started clamping down on immigrants. And they started with, must have been in the early (19)80s. They started with Africans with no working papers. So that was a problem because even though you were not an African, you were not a Frenchman, so to speak. So, because he did a lot of rehabilitation of housing, too. So, he decided to leave Paris and go to [inaudible], which is in southern France, the base of the Pyrenees Mountains area. And he bought a little farmhouse there. He fixed that up, started growing, really grew his own food, his own marijuana. And he got into aromatherapy. He was so good at aromatherapy, it was unbelievable. And the house was huge, beautiful place we were trying to sell it now. And he would have, people come from Paris. And like I said, he was not a chauvinist, and at one point he had all these Muslim women come down there to talk about fighting back. Fighting, "How did we get from behind the veil?"
SM: So, what is happening today?
BCE: Heck, some of them may be still there. But the aroma therapy became, that was why when you were talking about books.
BCE: He has got a wall of aromatherapy stuff. And he got noticed in one of these aromatherapy magazines.
BCE: And he hung with that for years, he would sell. He would take some plants and stuff and squeeze the juice out and sell it to different people to create odors. So, he made a living with that, it was not a lot. But one thing that really blew my mind with him was astronomy. He has got a what is it called, telescope. When I went to move it, ah shit! [laughs] I had to go clean up the house. But if he was sitting here now, and we could look out to the stars−
SM: He knew it.
BCE: He knew it.
SM: So, it was just a hobby, it was an interest, like his photography. But that was professional though.
BCE: Yeah. But the, so you had aromatherapy, astronomy cause the magazines came to the house. And then you had, oh, the French and African slave trade. I got to find someone to speak [inaudible] all those history books that he collected].
SM: And those six years or six years in Africa, he-he led the main headquarters for the Black Panther Party in Africa, or?
BCE: Well, it was Eldridge, Don, Pete O'Neill.
SM: Stokely went over there too, did not he in the end?
BCE: That is something else. He went to Africa, but he is not come there. [laughs] I am trying to find the spot−
SM: Again, when you talk about the−
BCE: Oh, he has radical [inaudible].
BCE: I am just looking.
SM: As like, as you are looking here. So, when you were talking about the originals, there were, these were the six originals then, the six originals we talked about.
SM: And where did they all come from? Did- where did Huey come from? New Orleans originally, he says−
BCE: I am not sure.
SM: Where did Bobby come from originally? Does he grow up in Oakland?
BCE: His family has a southern history.
SM: How about the brothers?
BCE: I do not know the Forte brothers' history.
SM: And then Bobby Hutton, same there? And Big Man? They were all living in Oakland, though at the time.
SM: Nobody was in San Francisco. They were all Oakland and they all kind of met.
BCE: Except for Emory.
BCE: Emory is not on there.
BCE: But he was next in that circle.
SM: Right. And there were no women then in the original. But who were the original first women?
BCE: Matilaba, or Tarika [Joan Tarika Lewis], her name is Tarika now.
SM: How many original women were there?
BCE: I- Huey had a girlfriend named Laverne, Bobby was with Adi. I could not call any names beyond that.
SM: So, they really the beginning was the girlfriend's then?
BCE: Girlfriend or wife.
SM: And that was how Kathleen- because she got to know Eldridge?
BCE: Eldridge had Stokely on one of his trips back East. And he was impressed. And then Katherine and Stokely and some of the NIC brothers came out to−
SM: And how do they spread nationwide? Well, how did the word- I know the Black Panther Paper in Oakland? But how did New York and Chicago and Atlanta and Philadelphia, how did they find out about the Black Panthers originally, how did it just spread?
BCE: Well, here is the thing, the newspapers and the TVs helped, but also people would tell their relatives in different cities. So, if you were interested in it, you had to come to Oakland to ask to form a branch or a chapter. And that was what they did. They came, they came.
SM: And why were they labeled as a threat to America, in your opinion? It is well documented, the police liked to call them thugs. And so, they would use a denigrating term to show their insignificance, but in reality, they were watching them all the time, and why were they labeled as a threat to America?
BCE: Well, why did we call people terrorists nowadays? And what does that really mean? Now we have homegrown terrorists, but I think labeling is part of the first step of disposing of any obstacles, you are you are labeled, then you are set up. You are infiltrated. Like I said, we were young and romantic, we did not realize the nature of the beast. But now, thanks to the internet, everybody knows everything. And, but it still disturbs me. When I see homegrown terrorists, 14, 15, 16 years old in Florida, planning to blow- get out of here. You infiltrate these little young boys or girls and buy some chemicals. And then you got a case against them. Come on.
SM: We all know that he talked about the threat of the police and so forth within the community. But what if someone were to come here today and, what do you think the main sort of misinterpretation of the Black Panthers are? What would you say? There is an interpretation for many that they are no different than the weatherman. They were they were cre- the weatherman may have stood up, but they also believe in blowing up buildings, so they want to kill people. They want to blow up buildings. Black Panthers did not want to blow up buildings. But there is this perception when you talk about radicalism and lack of law and order that Natalie Lee talked about the weathermen that talked about the Black Panthers, why is that?
BCE: Why not?
SM: What is the misinterpretation?
SM: What would you like to say to that? What image that is created about the Black Panthers are you most upset about?
BCE: That we dislike white people. That we were racist. And that we were violent. No, no more than anyone else. No, no. And we were a group of young, maybe idealistic, maybe romantic, young people who wanted to see a change. Now, I really did not answer that. Yes, I did, yes, I did. Because
SM: And how were the Black Panthers named? Why were they called the Black Panthers?
BCE: Oh, well, we took that I think they took that from the [inaudible] organization. They had the Black Panther, when they were voter registration. They were using the Black Panther of Lowndes County, somewhere down there. But we were the Black Panther Party for self-defense. And it is very important, for self-defense.
SM: And the Black Panther Party stood for much more than that. What were some of the projects they were involved in? I know, I know, the list goes on. We know about the food program but- Yeah, yeah. Just in a short synopsis. What were the programs that the Black Panthers were involved in that not only were well known locally, but became part of the national scene in all other cities?
BCE: Let us say well, the breakfast program led to feeding kids in America, in schools. The medical clinics, we focused on sickle cell at that time, because that was something that had not been-we had a lot of people with sickle cell anemia. Prison-prison, taking families to the prisons, you know, we saw that as something that needs to be done. And the food and clothing giveaways is of course, were a great success and also the-the image but I like the idea of internationalism that we put out there.
SM: You are known all over the world.
SM: So-so you when you talk about that is why that term revolution when you talk about what was happening in America, revolution, there was a link to revolutions in other parts of the world too, revolutions in Africa. Whether it be Cuba−
SM & BCE: South America.
SM: There was a link there. It was kind of−
BCE: It was, and you well, you know, North Korea, Mao Zedong even Russia, before World War II. But was that in relationship to the word revolutionary versus activism? A state of mind? Because we were not fighting like, in Ireland, the IRA, correct?
BCE: Yeah, I mean, these people actually sniping, killing bombing. I mean, ongoing, historical situations. But yeah, we were we were revolutionaries. Definitely in our mental states, but not so much in the physical situation. And never got a chance. [laughs]
SM: You know, it is interesting, you know, Harry Edwards. So, who was- Harry, we brought to our campus, and he wrote a book that we were required to read in grad school, to which I think it is one of the greatest books ever written? It is called "Black Students." And it was a brilliant book about activism and it is really defining revolutionary, militant, activist, and anomic activist.
BCE: Anomic activist?
SM: An anomic activist is a person for hire who does not give a darn about anything except, "You just give me the money and I will do anything you ask." And that was the ones that he said people fear the most about. Anomic activist is not the Black Panthers. I mean, I think they were referring kind of to the weatherman there.
BCE: But no-no-no, I do not think the weatherman would "Give me the money and I will do anything."
SM: No-no, that is true. I think what we are referring to here, is he just put that down as a [inaudible] because he felt that a lot of the leaders of the movement were older. And [inaudible] on college campuses, the militants were the-the older ones, who were the role models for the younger activists and so forth. And then revolution [inaudible] another thing. If you have anything more to say on that meeting with Tom- could not find it? Did you find that though, the way America was treating that incident with that situation when he goes to visit Leonard Bernstein these chic Hollywood types? What do they have to do with the Black Panthers? I mean, they were trying to raise money. I know a lot of people make fun of it.
BCE: Well, but-but also that particular meeting was interesting because the things that came out of it. Okay. That was one thing, but then across the country I like the word European, but I got to say white, because it seems to save time. [laughs] A lot of well to do white people came out of the woodworks across the country. It was not just New York. I mean, here in Philadelphia, I was talking about Dill Miller, little Jewish Quaker man, right. And that was how I got this house. [laughs] Well, not from him, but his organization. And because I was living somewhere and I just keep, I came to a meeting to get away from somebody. And he was there talking about building houses around here. [inaudible] Barbara. So, I put my name down. I did not think no more about it, two days later, they going to be, "You want to house, duplex? You want a house?" I said, "Okay." Because I could not beat the price. And Joe knew me from the old days, because when Huey got out of jail, that was where he went was to Joe Millis house. Down on Spruce Street, you cannot even walk through there without money falling from the trees. See, that Bernstein affair. Chicago. I cannot even in my travels every place I go, it is interesting to me, people want to talk to you. Because "I met your husband" which he was a great, great person, but well, you know what so and so did and so and so did and so and so did"- and I be like, I do not want to hear it no more. Because some of is good, and some of it is bad. But there is one thing that I will never shy away from. And that is your pain. If you have pain from those things, I will not shy away from your story. I mean, grown men had just cried [inaudible]. But I know everybody did not come out of that hole, and it was not just about going to jail. It was a mental anguish. Okay. And you have to take time to listen to brothers and sisters. I mean, I was in Washington, DC so Sherry got really freaked out. I am in Washington, DC, right? It is about, how long ago was that? It has been about eight years now. I cannot quite remember what the reason was that I went down there. And it is this white woman. And I know she is a nurse, okay, because I am staying at her house. And we were at this march and all these Black people around and I got her by the arm because I am staying at your house, and I knew you good people, but I do not know who you are. I get tired, I said, "Oh, I want some seafood. Let us let us go back to your house." So, the young lady from New York, myself, and this woman, we stop, get seafood, we go back to her house. And we were sitting at the table. And she goes, I said, "What is the matter?" "Well, you are the first woman I have had a chance to talk to, I got to talk to you." And she starts talking about how she met her husband in jail. And they have been married over 10, 15 years [inaudible]. And then she starts bringing up these weather women. And I am sitting there because I recognize the names. And "You should come and meet Susie." Fuck- I do not want to see Susie! I do not want to see Jane! But I recognize them from California. And I am thinking to myself, "Okay, we help this woman immediately." But the next day, Susie calls on phone and I go, "Look, I am going back to Philly. If you get the Philly, call me." I do not have to wait for Susie to call me because Josie calls me from California! Susie said she ran into-
SM: Well, from him? Yeah.
BCE: So, the-the pain that a lot of people suffered. Whether it was at the hands of a man or woman, because this French guy, he, oh god he was like, I do not understand [inaudible], I do not know, I do not understand either. But so, I continue my role. You know, I continue my role is there some unfairness in the world? He tried to help. He tried to do something.
SM: You find also the pain because of the experiences of COINTELPRO and what they did to people? I really, I think American I think young people and anybody who knows about anybody who stands up in America, freedom of speech and fight for things. What really happened with COINTELPRO- we know it ended at a certain juncture because Andrew Hoover died.
BCE: Do we?
SM: It was gone into another area where he was being watched, but know Hoover was gone.
SM: But the question is what, within the Black Panthers community- I have already talked to every single movement, people from every movement, and it affected their lives. What was COINTELPRO? And you know, what did they do and how did they destroy lives? That was the question and how did they destroy lives?
BCE: Well, they put you in jail and your mother and father or your grandmother, do not have the money to get you out or they can hold you up in court for years. People sold their houses, whatever they had to help their children. And I think that is across the board. Now also some of the children died. Some are still in jail. And their families are torn to thunder.
SM: What were some of the tactics that they that they used against the members of the Black Panthers? And did you feel at what juncture was the first time you realized you were being watched? Not just police in the community now, I mean, really being watched. And how did it affect how you did things? How did you live day to day, fear?
BCE: No-no-no fear. No fear. Simply. I was in, I went to get my first passport in Philadelphia. And you go snap a little picture, then you go to the downtown. I remember this man walking up and said, "I do not know we going to let you leave the country Barbra." And he walked away. He walked away. When I was in Germany, my son was maybe 13, 14 months old. First time he had seen snow. I am playing in the snow. And they walk up and the [inaudible] walked up. And you know the sun, but then you see the shadow fall. And I looked up, and that was in the German neighborhood, so the fact that you were a German Ma'am, I did not. And he walked up, and he said, "That is a beautiful son you got there, Barbara." That was the first time I felt fear in my life. They know your name. When a friend of mine, freedom of information, shoot me a testimony when I was in Philly. Negro woman named Barbara Easley [laughs] walked with Rosemary Mealy. And it is like, you do not think about it. You are doing something righteous. And you do that. I do not think Rosa Parks felt fear. Because at some point, you are here. And it does not matter whether you kill me or whatever you do. It is there. You cannot, what are you going to do? You either going to go back to church, or you going to go forward, and get your bead bashed in. But you got to do something. [audio cuts]
SM: You mentioned that Free Huey was a very important happening. What was the Free Huey all about? The Free Huey movement? We know, I saw the posters. And then of course, there is that poster of him sitting in that chair that is on a−
BCE: Oh, it is on my refrigerator. [laughter]
SM: But what was the Free Huey all about? What had he done, to free him, that there was needed freedom?
BCE: There was the shooting, a policeman was killed off the fly. And Huey was shot. And this is in Oakland? Yes. And nobody really seems to know too much more than that, the general story. Now. Of course, we took the position that the police set out to set him up. And so, you get some lawyers and you start a case, you form alliances.
SM: Was this in (19068, or (19)67 or−
BCE: Well now they went to the Capitol of Sacramento was- with the guns. Remember that was first, that was first okay. And of course, they were being followed around. And also, I think, you know, newspapers give you a lot of play. And when that went down, all the black organizations in the area ran with us to the police station, quote unquote, "Free Huey" So the rallying call, that became a rallying call and a very successful campaign because Eldridge took it over you see. And yeah, he did not−
SM: And how long was Huey in jail for that?
BCE: Whoa. (19)70, he got out of jail, and it was either July or August of (19)70. You know, it is funny. We were in North Korea having babies, okay. And you take the radio with the antenna and do like this to hear anything. So, all we would hear was what was the military radio station?
SM: Unless you are-
BCE: You know what I am talking about.
BCE: Radio Free America.
SM: Radio [inaudible] Europe or something like that.
BCE: [agreement] So we could hear that. And we could hear that accused cop killer Huey Newton had been [inaudible] in jail. So that must have been August of 919)70.
SM: So you were, let me get this straight. You were in Philadelphia before you went to Oakland. From what years to what years, you were in Philadelphia?
BCE: I left Philadelphia in (19)63.
SM: And then you went to San Francisco. And how long were you there in San Francisco Oakland area? From (19)63 to−
BCE: I would say (19)68 I started traveling, no, (19)69.
BCE: I started traveling.
SM: Now you were in school there for a while but then you dropped out of school.
SM: What were you majoring in at school?
BCE: Elementary education, like everybody else. [laughs]
SM: And then in (19)69, what- where did you go from (19)69?
BCE: New York, Philadelphia. I was here. I left. Did I go back? I went back to Oakland about April−
SM: In (19)69?
BCE: No, (19)70. But it was really scary. Because David and his brother June, Eldridge was gone, DC had left. Kathleen was gone. Bobby was still in jail, Chicago stuff. So, the things that were being done are things that I was not used to, did not like.
SM: And it was during this time that I remembered, you know, David Horowitz he was with the [inaudible]. And he said the main reason why he changed from being a conservative- I mean, from a liberal to conservative was because he felt that one of his coworkers at Ramparts was murdered by the Black Panthers. I mentioned that too.
BCE: Was that−
SM: And at that juncture, he switched. He blasted the Black Panthers. He said they were a terrorist group and−
BCE: But Jane, the woman, the white woman−
SM: I think so, that worked in the office, and I know he worked with Eldridge at Ramparts.
BCE: Yeah, but you know, something. Where was I, recently? It was in the last few years.
SM: You were in (19)70. And then you went to from Oakland over to Africa?
BCE: Yes. Well-well see. Eldridge was gone, Kathleen was gone, Bobby was in jail. DC had left also behind this Baltimore indictment.
BCE: So, I was assigned to work in Oakland. I could go back to San Francisco to our apartment and sleep then I would come back to Oakland, but because I no longer felt that I had the protection of the Field Marshal, it was a little scary. And I contacted Miriam and Bill Seidler my godmother. Back in Philly, "I am thinking about coming home, get some money together. Get some money in case I have to come." Well as it turned out. I was also pregnant. My baby was due in July, end of July, first of August, and Eldridge called and I was there. And he said, "Barbara wins your baby due?" I said, "July, August." Said, "Okay." So, he told June Higgins, "Send Barbara over here."
SM: And he was in Africa at the time.
BCE: Yeah. Because Kathleen's baby is due at the same time, send her here. I was like, "Thank you, God. Thank you."
SM: And well, that was where in Africa?
SM: Okay Algeria.
BCE: Okay. And so that basically got away. And when I got to Algiers, I only stayed one day. And they put me on a plane to North Korea. So, I was there like, June, July, August, October, almost six months. [break in audio] 15 months or so.
SM: And, you were working for the Black Panthers there, the international organization?
SM: But you still have links to all the [inaudible] people here in the United States and Oakland and-
BCE: Yes, until the split came. That, you know.
SM: That was in (19)82?
SM: And this term, the split? What does that mean? The split. The split happened. Who were the people that were being split? And why did it happen?
BCE: Huey came out, like I said, must have been August of 71. I came back to, Kathleen and I came back to Algiers, October. So, there had been some questions about the leadership and direction that the Black Panther Party was going to take. And Huey and Eldridge had differences of opinion. And, of course, we did not realize at this time, that COINTELPRO was also instrumental in setting that up, you know, letters and whispers and phone calls that made you suspicious of certain things, you know. And−
SM: So, like COINTELPRO was saying that Huey was doing this, and Eldridge- that was a lie? And−
BCE: Not all of it was lies. Some of it was because you came to Africa. And you told us what happened to you. I mean, there were people who came. Who said, "Look, man. This is going on that is going on. The direction is, it is not going this way, it is going that way." And therein lies the split. You see, East Coast, West Coast alliances to Eldridge, alliances to Huey. So just not the destruction of the party, but the destruction of the Black Panther Party as I knew it.
SM: It survived though till about (19)82, did not it?
BCE: Yeah, just about.
SM: Who ended up, if Huey was no longer in power and Eldridge was no longer in power and they ended up leaving, who became the power source, that David Hilliard?
BCE: David Hilliard, I think Elaine Brown was also in there.
SM: And that is the period that that David Horowitz talks about where the person was murdered. And does not, he did not talk about the period when Bobby and Huey were- he was talking about- and Eldridge, he was talking about this period because they were close friends, he was close friend of Eldridge. Enough said. I, a couple things here. Many Black Panthers, I think I have already gone over this, but many Black Panther stated at the time that they were not racist and to not hate whites. And, and of course, there was some perception over there that the Malcolm X kind of mentality that all white people were devils. That was what Malcolm had for a short time in (19)63. And then he went to Mecca, and he did not think that anymore. And I think that was part of the reason why, you know, we was killed, but that is another story. But your thoughts on that. That is all, that is another misinterpretation of the Black Panthers then that, that, that white people were devil that was kind of a Black Muslim mentality.
BCE: Well, it was also a cultural nationalist kind of thing. But I had to respect it because it goes all the way back to slavery, quote, unquote, I mean, you know, so you have to understand, well, I will say, like, a white woman. One day, I was talking to her, and we were having so much fun. And I looked at her and I said, "You are all right." She slapped me. I said, "Why did you slap me?" She said, "I understood what you said. But do not you ever forget that I am white." And I understood what she said. So, you-you-you see this−
BCE: -thing here. And what was it? I do not know if Tom Wolfe said it in his book, but for some reason I am thinking he might have.
SM: Chic, that radical chic.
BCE: Radical chic was that, all these little white kids run around here, they can take a bath, get the haircut and put on a suit and go back home. You cannot.
SM: [inaudible] Emery too, but it is [ inaudible]. You are- this was when Bobby and Huey, well they were not in jail. When the Panthers are, you know people are threatened by them. But-but everybody was really got you know, you were recruiting people. What would be a- you get up in the morning? You go over to Oakland, what was the typical day like, for when you were working in Oakland? And were−
BCE: You did not have to go to Oakland. No matter where you were, it was the same routine.
SM: What was your routine?
BCE: Routine. Yeah, you were up at 5, out the house by six. At the breakfast program, wherever it was. You leave there if you were lucky 8:30, 9:00. You go to the office. You pick up 25, 50 papers you might sit around for a few minutes with a cup of coffee, some Tito's talking for a while because depending on what time of day, it was, because you want to be out there by 11. You had to be out. So, whether you were in New York, Philly, 11 o'clock you out on streets selling their paper, you generally return to the office after you sold all your papers. Or at least by four o'clock. Five o'clock at the latest people come in and go in the word blank-blank-blank. You would eat a meal because somebody would cook a pot of beans or anything, you know. Some people would actually go home and then some people would go to paint the pads, where you would sleep on the bed or you know, an army cot, whatever you know or you would go and stay at the office and sit around and talk.
SM: This is all volunteer, this is not paid.
BCE: No, no money. Your needs were met. I mean, we would buy women's sanitary napkins. We did not buy cigarettes you know but the personal things of a few people who did not have family contacts or any money coming in. But then some of us were like always kept friends.
SM: You what?
BCE: Always kept friends.
SM: Oh yeah. [laughter]
BCE: You know the thing about the Bernstein thing let me tell you before Bernstein came along. When DC got called back to New York for the 20 months. I was like so tired of these Panthers. I am running the Panther pad and they angry at me because I am cock blocking, so to speak [laughs]. And so, I had this girl named Lydia and [inaudible} what was [inaudible] name? Well, he was Jewish, and he was so funny. So, I would go to the house, hang out there. They would buy all my papers- do not put this nowhere- they would buy all my papers. And I would sit there and eat, drink. I would stay a couple hours, I would not hang out all day because they had snorting coke, see, I do not I do not do drugs, no drugs. And was this guy called Goldfinger. He had he had a plain fight with the Turks over Turkey.
SM: He had a what?
BCE: [rustle like Easley is making a gesture]
SM: Oh, yeah. Cause he was a drug smuggler. I mean, these people were, I had no idea how interesting they were until we got to New York. Because they said "Well, where is DC" I said, "He is in New York," "Where you want to go, we leaving tomorrow" "Oh, I cannot go, I got to ask Bobby" [knocking noise] "Bobby, Ron and Lydia want me to go to New York with them" And Bobby said, "You are going to do some work, you better send some money back" right. Whatever I had on, I left San Francisco, it was cold. New York is like 100 damn degrees. The building where they took me, if you thought Bernstein's building was something, this building put it to shame. I mean, the women were like with gloves on. I thought the one woman was the Queen of England, the way she- we go up into this apartment and Jesus Christ Superstar comes out. White robe blond hair blue eyes, you know. Six feet tall. Oh, [inaudible] Panther was there. I said, "I do not do that". But these little girls who are no more than 15 or 17 [snorting sounds] And they were white or Black?
BCE: [laughs] Is not no Black people snorting cocaine? All these white people-
SM: And is this in the hotel or−
BCE: No, this is this fabulous apartment building.
BCE: So, I call DC, "I am down here DC with these people." "What have you gotten into girl," because he knew, I always kept friends. He comes the next day. And he does like this, you know [inaudible] for Roger. That was Jesus' name, Roger. Roger is fascinated, so Roger is going to take us for a ride, Lamborghini you follow me. Wait, but he is going with Candice Bergen. But he is also part of this Hell Angel gun running club. So, he takes DC over there, they going to talk about guns. This shit is crazy. I go up to Harlem. I am so glad to get away. So that was- we were over in Algiers, North Africa. And you know, you pick up the newspaper, the International Herald Tribune. And you see Roger. You see Roger. "Hey there Roger."
SM: What does he do for a living?
BCE: Well, I am going to tell you about Roger, because this is when the mind is blown. Roger's going with Candice Bergen remember that?
SM: Oh, she is gorgeous, yes. The guy with a white girl?
BCE: But see Roger's father- this is what was interesting. Roger's father lived in New Jersey. He wanted to meet a panther. So, we told Roger to bring DC up there. DC and Barbara, I wish I had taken you with me. He said, "there are people with money and here are people with real money." He said it was like walking back in to- but anyway, they made generous contributions. This is before Bernstein, okay. But then you got to look at David, Huey and Eldridge, Roger. All of them, attracting white women with money and all this bullshit. We overseas in an International Herald Tribune, it says, Roger- [inaudible] Roger? Our Roger had flown to London with a case of LSD, a suitcase full of LSD. They stopped him at the airport, put his ass in jail. His father to see Richard Nixon, and Roger comes home on the plane.
SM: Oh, my gosh.
BCE: And when you- that is what I tell people- when I come back, and I look back, I go, when I tell you. So, you ask me questions and I tell you, we were a small microcosm of society, we were that big, motherfuckers is crazy. [laughter] However, however, in terms of an overview of the last 50 years I do not think my experience are any, so different from a lot of people in active struggle, okay. It is just that I am one more, and the Panthers are one more link in the chain of human development. Okay, that we have contributed to history, by example. And the fact that we have given strength to other people and their movement is, it is a blessing. And that I have lived to see that. So, I do not get, I regret nothing. I regret nothing. And I still look forward to active participation and change. No doubt in my mind, whether, you know, I always say, what is my favorite little saying? Is- I cannot do great things, let me do small things greatly? So that, you know, it is, it is just that.
BCE: And it is always a pleasure to talk about my shit too. [laughs] That laugh–
SM: Obviously, you know, when I interviewed Emory and when I talked to Roz [inaudible] a year and a half ago. And of course, I want, I really liked Kathleen, because I saw her in person-
BCE: I know, I know.
SM: -at a very important time in my life when I was 22 years old.
SM: And, and the fact is that I, she was, she was young, too. She was not that much older than me. And the fact is, that she was a young woman who was standing on a stage, showing strength.
SM: And for a lot of the women in the audience, and a lot of the men who were young, that meant a lot. And so, if you ever share that with her, tell her I said this, because I was not just some it just some no, nobody person trying to get a hold of her. I really admired her because of that speech she gave, which you could have heard a pin drop.
BCE: Wait, Kathleen came here and gave a speech to the young black lawyers of [inaudible].
SM: The Temple?
BCE: No, no.
BCE: University of Pennsylvania. "Come downtown," they had the dinners. "Come downtown. I want to see you, come on downtown." So, they are going, "Okay, okay." And [laughs]−
SM: Well, she never comes to Philly to visit you [inaudible]−
BCE: Well, you know something. Is she- what is she, well the email the other day, I know she is going to Paris this week, this weekend, and then she will be back. And when am I coming to Atlanta? Never, cause you going to put me to work. [laughter] Well, anyway.
SM: I have a question here.
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: Please describe in your own words, the meaning of Stokely Carmichael his words when he challenged Dr. King and other civil rights leaders saying, "Your time has passed. Your strategy does not work anymore. Nonviolent protest is old school. Dr. King would never support protesters" and I have heard of this, "Dr. King would have never been the kind of person"-neither would Byard Rustin or certainly James Farmer or Roy Wilkins, or Whitney Young or even a Phillip Randolph or even John Lewis−
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: -who would support the protesters with guns surrounding the capitol in Sacramento because they believed in nonviolent, they would think that would be violent. Your thoughts on- you were aware that Stokely challenged Dr. King, there is that famous picture of Dr. King in like this with Stokely, well, that is really not when Stokely said that- a lot of people try to make that, that is the moment. That was not the moment, but it was through words and speeches. So, the question I am asking is−
BCE: What do I think about it?
SM: Yeah, what do you think about that, "Your time has passed", that is what Malcolm told Byard Rustin in a [inaudible] too.
BCE: But that is also what children tell their parents when they rebel. I am the new school, I think he was with the Sydney [inaudible] and guests who to come to dinner, when he had the speech with his father in the room. And he told his father the same thing. Youth has its own growing, you eat the get out of the way, or they push you out of the way. But sometimes if you are very lucky, they will allow you to hang around. But sometimes the contradiction is so great. And at that time, the contradiction was great. So, I could see Stokely saying that. I personally believed in never going against my family, you know, especially my mother and my father. They were- I mean, you call mom before you call God. So, think about it, you know. But in moments of anger or moments of egotism, you say thing. Not necessarily, it does not mean I will not support you. I just cannot go along with your program any longer.
SM: He has not met. When I reflect upon this, I think of Stokely and his commentary about to Dr. King, whether it was in person or through a lecture or whatever it- or through the papers, or an interview, or and Malcolm debating Byard Rustin in 1963, in New York, where he said, "your time has passed," and he said, "your time has passed." But it was not in a disrespe-. And Malcolm did not do it in a disrespectful manner, it just said it is for years moved on.
BCE: But, but also, we all part of this continuation of bringing humanity to mankind. You know, we are- I mean, Barbara Russell did some great things. Martin Luther King, we have to recognize ancestral progress, because you would not be here today. So, you know, come on. But those were flamboyant times. So, what you going to do?
SM: Yeah, and of course, and correct me if I am wrong. It was around this time that Nick was dying. Because, because what the, John Lewis did not want to go the direction of Stokely.
SM: And neither did Bob Moses and Moses went on- he was leaving anyways. But yeah, but they were the original Snick and Snick was kind of splitting to with the H [inaudible] and Stokely going to more of a Black power.
SM: And those, and John Lewis and Bob Moses, and others remaining in that same mold.
BCE: Sure, there you go.
SM: Yeah. I have met a lot- I met John Lewis twice.
BCE: Oh, okay [inaudible].
SM: I had some conversations with him.
SM: And I just think he is an unbelievable human being. I wish he was in the cabinet. I wish that he would take the next step now and become President Obama's Chief of Staff. I think he needs to go the next step. I think he needs to be close; I think−
BCE: [Inaudible] How old is he, Louis now?
SM: I- (19)70, maybe.
BCE: Yeah, no-no-no.
SM: But he [inaudible] he was you know he was [inaudible], when you look at the- these are some other questions here- when you look at the boomer generation, that encompasses 74 million people of all races, gender or sexual orientation, political philosophies. What are the characteristics you admire? And what are the characteristics you least admire about this generation?
BCE: About ourselves?
SM: I looking, making sure this is, I am going to change this one.
SM: Hold on one second, here we go.
BCE: I admire the fact that. 74 million of us, the worldwide?
SM: No 74 million boomers in the United States.
BCE: In the United States?
BCE: Well, let us knock off 30. Let us knock off 30 million who are lost, okay, in jail, dead, are dying, are on drugs, and let us go with the other 40 million, as you say, who are now in trouble themselves. But I think that since the (19)50s, the boomers have done great things, technology wise, medicine wise. Also, in terms of humanity worldwide, a raising of consciousness of Mother Earth, I am really impressed with those of us who are conscious of world- what is it, warming? What do they call it, you know?
SM: Global warming?
BCE: Global warming, you know. And I think there is about 10, not maybe 15 to 20 million, who are intellectually right wing, and do not give a shit. But then we have this little minority of people who are still active, even though they can collect social security now, but are active and have passed on some traits to our children. And if not, children, by birth, children through education, community, similar interests. So, I am very proud of most of the baby boomers, because done a hell of a job, a hell of a job. And now the grandchildren for lack of a better word that are coming behind us. Not necessarily our children, but our grandchildren. Some of them are serious.
SM: Do you think though, that the-the children, and now the grandchildren for the first time, are they- even in the (19)60s and (19)70s, only about 5 percent may have been activists?
SM: [inaudible] And-and do you feel that the boomers had really been good parents and from all ethnic backgrounds in terms of sharing their experiences? Number one, what, and are their children listening to those experiences? And secondly, are they carrying any of the characteristics that the 5 percent had, which was to be socially conscious of the surroundings around you, and to care for those who are in need, and not just caring about yourself?
BCE: Well, the (19)70s were the, not (19)70s but the but the (19)80s were the me-my generation, if I remember correctly, that turn, not generation but even some of the baby boomers got caught up in me-mine, and I want money, you know. I think that we have done the best we could, whether it be to education, oral stories, I know quite a few grandchildren, who are more conscious than the generation, their parents, the boomers, children are okay. And if we have another 20 or 30 years, and we are not physically encumbered with illness etc. and our minds are still working, we will still be going, we will still be going, okay. And when your book comes out, they are going to be like, "Wait, who, follow up on that story. Who is that person?"
SM: See, what is happening. I got a publisher, and I have got somebody who is- my main thing now is I got so many transcripts to do.
BCE: You do.
SM: -and to get the final publisher, because I have been doing this all myself. But I already have a commitment from Jan Scruggs of Vietnam memorial, he said, "When you get this book done, in the American History Center, I am going to sell your book."
SM: American history, and that that, "You are kidding." "No-no-no," I−
SM: And he is, he does not ever, he is a- he is a rec-, kind of a recluse was but he did say that would be something that I would sell because it is about America. It is about America during the Vietnam War. It is about America. So−
BCE: Well, we the history.
BCE: And they are going to come. Because they come now. I mean, most of my interviews are by high school and college kids. Because they Google me or somebody, they did not want to do something on social program that of the (19)60s, then they find you.
SM: Oh, yeah.
BCE: So, I am feeling good about that. I am feeling good about that. So of course, I hate reality TV.
SM: So, do I. I do not know-
BCE: I mean, how bad is the news and Turner Classic Movies? What the hell is? [laughs]
SM: Yeah, that is the one- that is one of the worries I have about the young people because they got to go and watch reality TV. Well, what about their own lives? I mean, that is reality.
BCE: What, between Twitter and Facebook? I tell my grandsons, the one that is 13 last year. I said, "I tell you what, write me through the mail." Give him envelopes and stamps and my name. Just one page. Just write me anything, what you, read what you did in class. And I will give you $10 for every letter. I am going to be late because I is not paid no money out yet.
SM: Unbelievable, even for 10 bucks!
BCE: So, now but he does his paper delivery and all that other stuff. But in my mind, it is like free money. Okay, what are you going to do?
SM: What is interesting, Derek Bok, now I am getting off the subject here. He, in a recent speech he gave a former president of Harvard, said that college education is supposed to be about preparing young people to be critical thinkers in the world, and to be good writers. And yes, to prepare them for the world to be financially sound to have a, to create a career and all this other stuff. But he is- he thinks that we are lacking in those areas of critical thinking. And in the areas of, and our teachers have to be more creative with students and in getting this out of them. This is not- follows right after, what are your thoughts on the people who blame most of the problems on our society today? Here in 2012, and probably the last 15, 20 years- I am the boomer generation. And on the (19)60s and early (19)70s. Because of the following issues. This was a generation that did not respect law and order. It did not respect authority. It the divorce rate is outrageous. Their lack of church and synagogue attendance really went down into inner spirituality that they were into themselves, this welfare mentality about not being given, being given handouts as opposed to working, this the issue of drugs, of drug culture, instant satisfac- satisfaction and gratification, you know the drugs was about. And even the even the financial crisis we were in because the (19)60s was [inaudible] even Dr. King said, "I am not going to wait any longer." Thurgood Marshall, when he talked about the Civil Rights Act of (19)54 was a gradualist approach that finally took place. And then even then it took a long time after the bill was passed. For equality really take place. Dr. King said oh, I want to know well, that attitude of I want it now, many people believe is part of the reason why we have a financial crisis. They spend, spend, spend, and without worrying about how to pay for it. So, it is a combination of a lot of these particular things. Just your thoughts on those people that criticize the boomers in the (19)60s and early (19)70s for the problems we have in America today.
BCE: I do not think they can put a lot of blame on the boomers. And we, the boomers and I say that term "we." We were not in charge of the World Bank. We are not in charge of Bank of America. The whole concept of raising student loan educations. We did not have an army to go and get the drugs from Thailand and miscellaneous places. We, and we were not masters of deceit. If anything, we were too honest and open and taken advantage of by what Wall Street, the advertising community. But we did not sell out America. We did not we did not sell. I mean you know, take everything overseas. We did not do any of that. And if anything, we were fighting it. We were fighting it. So, during the so called (19)60s and (19)70s, if anything when I look back we were victims of a clever, clever government, institutions, some persons unknown that allowed us like Woody Allen's movie, The Dreamer, allowed us to think we were going to change something overnight. So no, do not go there. And as far as serving institutions even down to it when you mentioned the word religious, I find most boomers a spiritual, not organized religion. And Catholic Church has done its own self in and some of the Christians, my got.
SM: The kinds of sex, drugs, rock and roll was. They point to those three. That is the boomers and the sexual revolution the drugs and−
BCE: But we, I tell you one thing about the (19)60s and (19)70s, we did not have AIDS. Where did that come from, you know. I mean, when that you know, living in San Francisco and I lived in the Haight Ashbury okay, I did see some destructive behavior with LSD, mind alt-, but not with marijuana and coke, nobody could afford it. And nobody really wanted it because if you had marijuana and a glass of wine you was all happy. You know, you had a little music. What was it, sex, drugs and music.
SM: Rock and roll.
BCE: Rock and roll, that was Elvis, we did not have anything to do with that.
SM: The boomers often thought in at that particular time that they were the most unique generation in American history. And a lot of young people that time had an attitude that I am going to change the world for the better we are going to end racism sexism, homophobia, war, save the environment we are going to be different. And the critics will say, "Well geez how is the world different today we have had nothing but ongoing wars ever since and, and now boomers have been leaders for years, we have had the last few presidents have been boomers. And-and now we are not going to have any more boomer presidents. Now we are going into the generation Xers who are going to be president, “What sets them apart from other generations? And how would you compare them to the two generations that have followed the boomers, which is the generation Xers and the millennials that are today's students?
BCE: You know, I read an article in Time from one of these generation Xers as you put it.
SM: They were born any- from (19)65 to 1980.
BCE: Yeah. And I read an article by one of them, and he said that he was concerned about his parents not leaving anything good for him that he wanted to leave for his children. He did not blame it on all boomers. But like I said, maybe it was that 15 to 20 million who never [inaudible] any place but I ever, they never left. But they do control things. So, I am not really but I have a quiet faith that just because I do not see things do not mean they are not happening. I read enough on the internet and magazines to know that there are young people out here who are not into reality shows. Like my son said the other day, every woman is not a falsely, you know? So, every young man once you get past, 22. It is time to give up the silliness. It is time to think about where I am going with this, right. But I just have faith that it is enough people out here to make a difference. And continue. I mean, because if it is not, it was true that 2012 is the end of the damn world. Can I go out and spend all my money now?
SM: You raise a really good point because after King- well, [inaudible] university, the place I used to work at, had their Martin Luther King celebration [inaudible] and I regret that I do not go anymore because I am gone there. But-but I have always felt that even in the celebrations for Dr. King, they were oftentimes missing the point. We are the man, we-service day and all the projects that−
SM: That is a great thing that he would be loving.
SM: But the one thing about Dr. King is that he was about "We." Not me." "We." So first off, I do not think he tolerated any of this until he had died of natural causes. Number one, but he had an inherent belief that we all had it within us as individuals to make a difference in this world and did not have to be Dr. King or James Farmer or Malcolm X-
SM: -or even Bobby sealer.
BCE: Yeah. All-
SM: For you. It is about you. We all have it. And the fact is that when we talk about the unsung heroes, the people we will never know. I often wonder when-when you read when people even talk about the Black Panthers, and we talk about the leaders and the-the-the 30 or 40 names that come forward who were leaders all over the country? How about the Black Panthers who were never in leadership roles? Who may have been in Des Moines, Iowa.
BCE: Thank you.
SM: They contributed too, that is what Dr. King's talking about. I think any leader knows that.
BCE: Well, you know.
SM: They should. [inaudible] A few more here. When did the (19)60s begin in your opinion, and when did they end?
BCE: I do not know why, but (19)65 comes to my mind even though the march was (19)63. So, was the thing-? Kennedy was killed in (19)63, (19)64?
SM: (19)63. November 22, (19)63.
BCE: Okay, and-and then we went into (19)65. I am not sure why I feel that way. But everything exploded. Is that a good way to look at it? It was like, I have to, I am not sure but for some reason, the (19)60s for me began in (19)65.
SM: When did they end in your opinion?
BCE: Close to (19)80. Yeah, (19)75 to (19)80.
SM: Was that the disco era?
BCE: It was but also you look at the age group. People were turning over 35, some 40. And there was a backlash of Ronald Reagan after Reagan, Nixon, the war was over. It was a lot of confusion and also drugs-
SM: And that ended in (19)75.
BCE: Yeah, also drugs, they swept the country, you know. So you are looking at a lot of things that put a damper on fun.
SM: Do you feel I do not know if any in the Black Panther community? I think this came up. I know, Emory mentioned one person but how important were the Beats with respect to their influence on what transpired in the (19)60s and (19)70s? The Beats being Kerouacs the Ginsbergs, the Berlin Gettys the Waldmans the-
BCE: Oh, the Beat yeah, [inaudible]
SM: Gary Snyder, Leroy Jones, I mean all the beats.
BCE: All the Beats, oh you forgot Lenny. Well, Lenny was not a Beat, no he was not. Lenny was ju-, wait okay. But I think they set the stage for some cultural changes, social cultural changes because and they also yes, social cultural change. I think they set the stage for some progressive thought. No doubt. No-no.
SM: Did any of the Panthers read them?
BCE: Oh-oh, let me just think. I do not remember that being on the reading list. I do not remember that being on the student, Black Student Union list any of their works because, no, even−
SM: Not even Leroy Jones?
BCE: No, because he was Leroy Jones. Now on the East Coast, you had another kind of development because the East Coast and especially New York, see New York feeds out. But in California, Hollywood was not a place where people frequent. They, they just made movies, Walt Disney and crap. But no, Leroy Jones- and then if I am not mistaken, he was married to a white woman about then.
SM: Yeah, Hetty Jones.
SM: And Hetty was a Beat writer too, I have interviewed her.
BCE: But see, no−
SM: Who were, what were the folks that were on that reading list at San Francisco State what were the reading books that were on your list and maybe even the Black Panther list?
BCE: Wretched of the Earth, Black Skin White Masks, [inaudible]. Of course, Mao Zedong. Marx and Lenin's, Lenin's some of Lenin's books
SM: Saul Alinsky?
SM: Saul Alinsky with Rules for Radicals or?
BCE: It probably was to the-the white students who were also rebelling with the- so you did have a mixture of things. Oh, come on, you know that. Well Malcolm X always but uh, oh come on Barbara.
SM: There is Eldridge Cleaver's books, but they became−
BCE: Soul on Ice was the fast read and open for discussion and debate but I−
SM: What about James Baldwin, was he read?
BCE: Yes. Baldwin was read.
SM: Richard Wright?
BCE: Richard Wright, but come on, Don Ali out of Chicago.
SM: I am not sure.
BCE: Yeah, Don Ali, and then you had Sonya Sanchez, you had Don Ali- so it was like an [inaudible]
SM: Maya Angelou too? Was she just starting around then?
BCE: Yeah but Maya-
SM: Nikki Giovanni and her-?
BCE: Giovanni was yes. Maya Angelou so-so because she did come to the Panther school for kids and stuff. I know why the caged Bird Sings, I read that sitting on the toilet, but−
SM: I mean, how about Du Bois? Did you read Du Bois?
BCE: Well, you read Du Bois. [inaudible] you read Du Bois?
SM: And Malcolm?
BCE: Yeah, of course you had to read Malcolm. But everything was a fast learn now I think about it. And it was sort of narrow focus.
SM: And Harry Edward is writing them too.
BCE: No, but Harry [crosstalk] them later.
BCE: Because he came after the Olympic thing with thing with [inaudible] and that. But then you had The Black Scholar, you see, by Nathan Hare. He had people writing articles in his book, so that that was very popular, very popular in the academic setting.
SM: Glazer was another one. Nathan Glazer, Nathan Glazer, then there was so many of them, um.
BCE: Do not worry
SM: I know there was, I do not know if anybody in your group read the Making of a Count- Theodore Roszak's and The Making of a Counterculture, which was a very popular book back then too. And The Greening of America, Charles Wright.
BCE: Now I remember The Greening of America, did not read it. I remember that.
SM: Those are kind of classics. What did the Vietnam War mean to African Americans in the (19)60s and (19)70s? Where did the Panthers stand on the war? And secondly, when Dr. King gave his speech against the war in 1967, at Riverside Church in New York, where did the community in Oakland stand with respect to his views on the war?
BCE: Well, we were against the war, period, and also because it was the oppression of another people, and when King came out against the war, well, that was fine with us. Oh, yeah. Because that, but-but-but you know what was funny about that, when he came out against the war? I remember sitting around with a group of Panthers and saying, they going to get him now. They going to get him, because you cannot do that. Okay. I remember that very clearly.
SM: I had a person I interviewed who was at Michigan State, who saw him speak there in an auditorium and she said, she was close to the stage. This was in the morning. Sure, be given that speech yet. But she said she close to the stage. And she was a sophomore, and she said, "I looked up at him," and the first thing she said "He is too good.”
BCE: [laughs] Oh, yeah-yeah!
SM: He knows the truth too much, he cannot survive.
BCE: And that was the same when-when that, you took that antiwar position. That was our first thought. You are not, you are not going to- they are going get you.
SM: Because even the people, the even people in the administration from LBJ on down, I mean.
BCE: Oh, they were [inaudible]?
SM: An enemy.
BCE: Yeah. So, what was that, was the answer to the question?
SM: Yeah, I think that was the answer to that question. We were up to here, it was on the Vietnam War. Was there a concern within the Black Panther community to about the fact that so many African Americans were in large numbers were going to that war in Vietnam, based on the fact that many of them were coming from the inner city, and they had they could not get out of the war? Because like, so many of the people in college, they had deferments, whereas people in the community, in the cities−
BCE: Well, this was not- one thing. I do remember that we were aware that a large number of African Americans, but because we were working with other groups, Hispanic, Asian, white people we were working with, we were aware that nobody should be going over there. But we were also aware of the fact that deferments were being given to blah-blah-blah Now and that was when we started sending a newspaper overseas, yeah, we started sending.
SM: So, the Black Panther Paper was being sent overseas?
SM: The were, what part, where?
BCE: We- well, let us start with Sweden.
SM: London? Because−
BCE: London, Germany, wherever there were-
SM: France, Paris?
BCE: I am not su- well, I am sure of this. There were a big man, the Big Man, he traveled to these places, because they were what was called Solidarity Committees. And whoever wanted to get paper, we sent it to them, and they would take it to different spots where the GIs were. So that helps. But that war was bad for everybody, just like this one.
SM: Yeah, the antiwar protests were not only happening in London.
SM: They were happening in Paris. And I believe they were happening in Poland. There was some, there was a lot of stuff going on Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and I think even in Japan. There is a question here, can I use your bathroom, just real fast?
BCE: Real fast, [inaudible]
SM: [audio resumes] All right. So, the next question here is, this is a question as kind of a follow up to Vietnam. When John Kennedy gave that speech, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you-you can do for your country," what is an [inaudible] of speech, and the capital. A lot of people have this perception that the boomer generation is a generation of service. They think of a Peace Corps. They think of the volunteers and service to America, they think of giving back to others, you know, caring about others beyond yourself the whole concept of service. And in a book called The Wounded Generation, a book that came out in 1983, there is a panel discussion with Vietnam veterans that included Philip Caputo who wrote a Rumor of War. Bobby Muller, founder of Vietnam Veterans of America, Jack Wheeler the third who was actually murdered this past year in Delaware, who was one of the main founders or fundraisers for the Vietnam Memorial. He is a graduate of the class of (19)66 at West Point. And James Fallows, a writer for Atlantic Monthly and then this conversation, Jim Webb was also in that group who was who was now the United States Senator from Virginia, and he raised something that was very important in the discussion and that is that he felt that this discussion that the boomer generation is a- the generation of service, this- [audio cuts] These are good berries. The generation, what was I saying? The generation of service- he-he-he said that he felt that you cannot label this generation this way because many refused to go to the war. If you are a service-oriented generation then when your nation causes you to go to war, you go. So that that there is a real good discussion of this book on it and this transcribed and so I have been raising this question ever since I raised the book, not in the first half of people interviewed, but this question of, you know, what are your thoughts on that, that his commentary that we are the boomers are not [inaudible] the service oriented generation, yet many times are often labeled as a generation that was inspired by Kennedy's speech and all the Peace Corps and all the others.
BCE: But his comment is narrow. Because he acts like people who went to war, were the only people that count, or no, no, that is why I do not like all or most of- it does not apply. Because just because- you heard the call from Kennedy. Does not mean that others sitting here the same call, and wanted to do it differently. And many did. I mean, I, just-many did, no-no. I−
SM: You know that that could if you even go to the extreme here.
SM: That is even basically saying, then, if it is not, that the Black Panthers, even though some might consider them.
SM: A radical group, they do not understand it because they did not. But-but their service to the community of Oakland, which will spread to the service in New York, that was service, service to others. So, he is basic less another extension of the service mentality within the generation.
BCE: Well, you know, the military, any chance to work with, around the military in Germany. [laughs] And they scare me more than a policeman scare me.
SM: Then or now?
BCE: Both because there is- but I have worked. But it is a microcosm of society, I cannot get away from that.
BCE: No matter, when you are in organizations, institutions, they just reflect some of the bigger society, you know, but unfortunately, even with the party and the military, the police, the internal thing does not always come from the top to the bottom. And sometimes, if top is corrupt, the bottom is going to be violent. So, when we talk about service, everybody got a definition, do not they?
SM: I agree.
SM: Good point. Kind of a takeoff here, the question I have asked everyone from day one, when I interviewed former Senator McCarthy, when I started this way back in (19)96, when I was working full time.
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: The question is this, do you feel that the boomer generation, like the Civil War generation, will be going to its grave, not truly healed from the tremendous divisions that tore us apart during the (19)60s, (19)70s and early- maybe even in the (19)80s. And then, of course, it is the culture wars spreads it even more, for those who want to go back to the (19)50s, the way it was, as opposed to those who believe that we have made a lot of progress. So, the question is, is healing. Do you feel that a lot of the boomers Black, white, male, female, gay, straight are going to go there because they never healed from the divisions between black and white male and female, gay and straight those who were for the war and against the war? Just a question, do you think we are a nation that has is going to have a tremendous problem healing?
BCE: We will see. You are talking about a group; I can only think individually. And I believe that individually, there are many people who are at risk within their souls. That no, I did not accomplish everything I set out to, but some things were done, and that is all I can do. So, no, I do not want to honor- you know, it is like, the oldest profession in the world. It has been here before the Bible, do not worry about it. Just makes sure that everybody gets health checks. That is all, okay. So, it is like, I am not going to stop that. But look at this. My son married an Asian woman, and I fought the Japanese. I fought the Viet Cong. And now my grandchildren are Asian. You got to make peace.
SM: That is a really good point. Because I think the reason why this question came up originally, was because of the fact that I wondered how the antiwar people, when they visited the Vietnam Memorial for the first time, and they were bringing their children-
SM: -and they looked up to their mom and dad, who may have an antiwar and did not serve and got out any way they could, that that they felt guilty that they did not serve. So, I think that is where I was coming from. But it is also about the issue. We asked this, when I went to see took group of students to see Edmund Muskie, the former United−
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: -States Senator and we asked him that very same question, "Did you feel the divisions?" And he-he, the students came up with this question, because they had seen all the divisions of the riots of the cities, the 1968, when the murders of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy and the convention in Chicago and all that, I mean, those and they see and they said, "Man, that is, that is like a Civil War, how can you ever heal from this?" And they asked Senator Muskie who was the vice-presidential candidate at that convention, and he did not even respond in the way, he said, he said, "You know, we have not healed since the Civil War on the issue of race." And then he went and he said, and then he went on and said, "I just." He was in the hospital, he died six months later- and he said, "I was in the hospital, and I was watching Ken Burns Civil War series, and I said, Man.” He realizes 600,000 Americans died in that war, almost an entire generation taken away. And, and for what" and he talked about healing there, and he said, we have not healed in the area of race. And he said, so he did not even mention the (19)60s. And so that that was why I you know.
BCE: I just, but it is like I said, like I said, make sure everyone gets a health check.
SM: How are we doing time wise? Are we okay here?
BCE: Oh, I am fine, you the one got time−
SM: I am going to I got the [inaudible]. The-the question of trust, too. One of the characteristics of the boomer generation is that the younger generation, that trusts very much, they saw their leaders lie. Boomers grew up, I think it did not matter what background they were from. They saw presidents on TV lie, they saw the President and the statistics of the Vietnam War, which we all knew were being, you know, escalated, we saw, you know, what they experienced Watergate, they experienced the lies about Vietnam, you know.
SM: But see what happened, you know, during that whole period, is that the boomer generation, oftentimes, many of them that were involved in activism, did not trust anyone in a position of leadership, whether it be a president of the United States, president of a university, a head of a corporation, even the head of a church. I mean, they did not trust anybody in leadership roles.
BCE: Well, what was that [inaudible] nobody over 35.
SM: See that, that was from Jerry, Jerry Rubin. And then when they realized they were going to be 30, they upped it to 40.
BCE: But, uh−
SM: Is that a good not to trust people, or is it?
BCE: Well, you know, something? We grew up with that. We bathed in it, we slept with it, we know it. And what is very interesting to me is because of Steve Jobs, okay. The last two generations know it too. And they know it. It is they; I mean, it is unbelievable when you turn that computer on. Like, I usually turn it on in the morning, check all my emails, and I turn it [inaudible] and turn it on at night. You know, I delete a lot because you have to, but no, we really- see, and I am going to use that "we" interesting because for some Chinese Americans, Asians, Japanese Americans on the West Coast, during the (19)40s, the war. They closed their communities when they got out of them damn encampments, okay. Because they saw, what was happening, okay. Like I tell people, Japan on the [inaudible] look at them. Then, you look at Latinos. And even the Black farmers in the south, you know. So, the bombers got a lot of information from their parents. So, but we were more sophisticated in terms of certain things, and now the children, instant. And then they will run your heads out of town based on the fact- I mean, how do you get a satellite to show you my house, from space? You go on your computer, and you go. [tapping noises]
SM: Yeah, you can see your house.
BCE: Come on, you know, come on. So.
SM: Nothing is private anymore.
SM: You talk about trusting then, well God who can you trust now?
BCE: Why do you have to trust anybody?
SM: You know, it is interesting, it is the first thing you will learn in political science 101 in college is that the govern- if you, that not trusting your government is healthy. Because, it is healthy in the long run, because that means you are keeping them on their toes.
BCE: Get the movie, V for Vendetta.
SM: Oh, I seen it. Yeah. [crosstalk]
BCE: [in sarcastic tone] People should not be afraid of their government. Government should be afraid of their people.
SM: I noticed that mask was on the occupied people.
BCE: Yes, and when I was in Oakland, I went right down there and joined them. I had big fun, until I realized that somebody thought I was the homeless. [laughter]
SM: The movements, like I am done to my last three questions here. The movements, from the late (19)60s and early (19)70s, there were so many of them, of course, the ongoing Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the American Indian movement, the women's movement, the gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender movement and the Chicano movement. You get the environmental movement from Earth Day in 1970. And you had the Puerto Rican, and the Asian Americans were also involved in their own movement and so forth. They seem there, seemed to be a unity back then you could see the groups kind of supporting each other and there would be a protest and they would be, you can see banners from all of them. Now, they seem to be- there does not seem to be any unity anymore, that the women's movement has their banners, the, they are not kind of working together, they become more isolated. They are, they are out there, but they are not working together. And what does that say? Is it, they- in other words, the causes, people care about the causes and other movements but when you have a protest, it does not seem, they do not seem to be there? Am I wrong? They seem to be more divided and isolated than they are working together like they did in the late (19)60s and (19)70s.
BCE: Was not that a most unusual time? See, that was the most unusual time, and its so many factors that enter into why not? As I got older, everybody got jobs. Everybody got families. And I think we spoiled some of our children. [laughs] You know, I think some of the children got spoiled. And I do not mean like after the Korean War or World War Two, no-no-no, I mean, some of these little buggers got spoiled. And also- that is the students you hear next door, the "thump-thump."
SM: Oh, there is students living next door?
BCE: All around me.
SM: Oh, these are all student housing?
BCE: Well, this is my house but all up, all up and down the block.
SM: This is all student housing, this whole structure?
BCE: Except for one other [inaudible]
SM: And your sister lives upstairs?
BCE: Every day they want to buy it though. I am not selling.
SM: Oh, for student housing, right? [laughs]
BCE: Yeah, I am not going to sell it.
BCE: But I do not know, the answer could be placed on one or two things. But sometimes I hear other boomers saying, we stopped working. You know, we stopped working as hard as we used to certain degrees of achievement, because from the (19)70s. The, for me, I looked at the number of Black politicians who were elected across this country. Okay, I mean, locally, city council. And not senators, but representatives, all kind of things, appointments to colleges. Doing (19)70s I think everybody wanted to get as much Black shit in the college as they could. And I saw that as a turnaround for a lot of the Black movement, okay. And then it was a question of acceptability. I mean, when I went to a ceremony for the unveiling of the Malcolm X stamp, you know, when I said, "Oh shit, he is, he is pasteurized. They pasteurized him." So−
SM: Oh, like, Dr. King's.
BCE: Well, no, see, not Dr. King, Dr. King is separate. Malcolm, and I was like "Woa"
SM: Where that statue, where was that put up?
BCE: No, a stamp.
SM: Oh, a stamp.
BCE: Yeah, it should be Malcolm X stamp.
SM: Oh, that is right.
BCE: The post office- and I was like "What the fuck." And his daughter and Dr. King's daughter were both there and nicey cutie booty. Look, who knows. Everybody has some examples that they could give, but I know some things that I saw and during the 80s, the explosion of "Me, my give me" for 10 years or more. And−
SM: Yeah, Christopher Lash when he wrote that book, The Culture of Narcissism which was the 1979 book, he was basically complaining it was boomers, it was not really Generation X because they were too young. He said it was that the-the generation that was supposed to be all into helping others is really only into helping themselves, and that was the culture of narcissism.
BCE: Well, I am just going to−
SM: Yeah. Let me stop this?
BCE: I am coming right back, I am going to see if these are hot enough to eat.
SM: With the culture of narcissism, so.
BCE: It is, it is−
SM: When you look at the- can I get this on here? When you look at the new Black Panther Party today, how do they how are they different from the-the old Black Panthers? I know the criticisms, read all the news about it and they are, some people say they are a racist organization whereas the original, the original group is not. How do their tactics and beliefs differ from the original Black Panthers and how our-man I tell you- how do people like the-the leadership from the past that are still alive, what do they think of these people? I mean, here is- because they are taking the logo and the name, and their-could-should not they have just picked another name? I am just wondering.
BCE: Well, they are.
SM: [inaudible] they have a right to it but.
BCE: It is, you know, they are nothing like us. Okay. They are nothing like us. They are very much so anti-white, anti-Jewish, they make no bones about it. They were paramilitary in their dress. Where even though we bought blue and black, basically we were some of the girls always trying to be cute. And they do a few things that we do, rather we did like maybe a clothing drive, or I have seen a few things. But they offend more than they bring it, okay. And their circle is very small.
SM: How many? How many people are in it?
BCE: Oh, no, I do not know what I am saying the circle of friends.
SM: Not like it was back-
BCE: Oh, no-no-no, nothing is like it was back then even the cultural communities of today are nothing like they were then. So, I think people are able to separate then and now. You know, people can, I have never worried too much about them.
SM: I do not know where they stand on the area of guns. And the do they carry guns or−
BCE: No, please.
SM: I saw the leader that was on TV, he looks well, I do not know a whole lot about him, but supposed to be fairly highly educated. I want to get back here for−
BCE: Re-read it.
SM: Yeah, the-the individuals here, we have gone over them. But in terms of leadership, and when we think of leaders, there are certain qualities people have.
SM: And I am back to these names again, from the original. Just a few things about the leadership style of Huey Newton. Just-just a couple things.
BCE: Okay. I will be right there with your answer. [audio cuts] Oh, what was it about Huey you wanted to know?
SM: Leadership, his leadership style?
BCE: Well, you must understand that he was not out of jail long enough for it to really develop. Okay, because the Party was formed in (19)66. The latter part of October. So, you figure in (19)67, he was doing a little a little organizing, but it was small groups. And the then the shootout [inaudible] jail. So, I mean, he left a lot on Bobby. And at that time, Bobby was very-
SM: He is the next person, what-what made him a leader?
Bobby? I think people liked him. And he moved very fast. He did not sit still you know that type of thing? He could give some hell of speeches.
SM: Oh, no.
BCE: He could talk about the devil. So- I saw him at Ohio State too. But also, Bobby had a love that came across for whatever he was talking about, how he felt. Yeah, that was the one thing about him is his love for people [inaudible]. And he was a gentle person in a way. But you know, sometimes when you are in a leadership position, so many pressures coming to bear. You tried to escape.
SM: How about Eldridge Cleaver?
SM: What-what made him, what made him kind of special.
BCE: Outside of the fact that he was a tall man? He would be talking to you, because he had great green eyes. And he would always lean back and sort of go [gestures] like the hand was moving, talking. He appealed to the street man because of all his [inaudible] in terms of being in the jailhouse or jail, but he never changed. If he had a position with me, it was the same position he had with you.
SM: He was consistent.
BCE: Yeah, and yeah, that that was the one thing I noticed. But he was really funny, too. He was funny, because he would be sitting there talking and the next thing you know he was cussing [laughs].
SM: What about Kathleen, what made her special?
BCE: Fiery-fierce. I mean, I used to- do not you repeat this, please- but one thing I noticed in the whole time I was in the struggle. The whiter your skin, the more fierce you were. [laughs]
BCE: No. But I noticed that about a lot of people because it is a defense, you understand? But Kathleen was very intelligent, real sincere. I mean, I think she was more sincere than Eldridge ever was. So, I mean, she was really−
SM: She was a fiery speaker.
SM: I wish they had taped it. Because I do not know how many of our speakers, but there is a lot of Bobby's out there but I wish they had one of hers, when she was young.
BCE: She is still goo now.
SM: How about Emory? Emory Douglas, what made him special?
BCE: Sweetness. Kindness. Jovial. Emory's, everything came out in Emory's heart, Emory was just a nice man. And still is, you know, he is, he is a vegan.
SM: When I go out to Calif- I will not go this year, I think I will go next year, I am going to visit him. Because I like to, and I want to take a picture. He has already sent me a picture but, what made I guess, Stokely Carmichael special?
BCE: Well, I guess we have to look at what-what time period in his life are we talking about?
SM: I think probably the periods of the (19)60s and (19)70s.
SM: When he was young.
BCE: Yeah-yeah well fierceness again and in your face, attitude towards the systems, you know, in your face attitude, but he knew, Stokely knew what he was talking about. No, I mean he would not say nothing that- see they were all college educated and most of them were college educated and very, oh just thinking about it now, you know, all those things that make leadership- what is the word when you are attracted to something- cares, charismatic? Yeah. So, sort of like preachers today. [laughs]
SM: How about H Rap Brown, what made him special? He is in jail now for the rest of his life but−
BCE: Yeah, sunglasses.
SM: That made him special?
SM: His brother just died, Heath Charles Brown, did you know him?
BCE: No. But I remember his name. I think Rap-
SM: He gave a great interview.
BCE: Okay, what was it that Rap used to say? Off Whitey, remember those two three phrases?
SM: Oh yeah.
BCE: And then Emmy drew that picture of him. And I was like, "What in the world." But seeing George Foreman was the man.
SM: The Boxer?
BCE: George Foreman. Come on.
SM: He was the, the one from the Civil Rights Movement?
SM: James Foreman.
BCE: James, did I call him George?
SM: He is from, he is in California, isn't he?
BCE: No, he is dead, isn't he?
SM: I thought he was still alive.
BCE: No, why do I think he is dead but my brain is not working today.
SM: But he was with Snick too, did not he?
BCE: Yeah, but the Master, you ever get a chance to read his book?
SM: I know James Babble was a fiery guy too.
BCE: Crazy motherfucker. [laughs]
SM: He was from Philadelphia here for a long time, he had an [inaudible]
SM: What made, I guess the other one who I also have here, what made the gentleman from Fred Hampton special?
BCE: The usual. Charismatic, intelligent, always knew what he was talking about. No doubt, no doubt. Yeah, that boy was he was definitely a threat to the system.
SM: Because Bobby Rush ended up becoming a congressman. Did you know, Bobby?
BCE: Yeah, yeah, I know Bobby.
SM: How does a guy become a Black Panther, and then become part of the establishment?
BCE: Well, no, no, he is still very, Bobby is, well, he has just finished. He was here in October, I saw him in October, recovering from cancer.
SM: Oh, I did not know that.
BCE: Recovering. He is, he is doing pretty good. Doing pretty good. Cause he gave a real nice little talk at this dinner party I went to.
SM: Did he come here for treatment or−
BCE: I do not know, did this little group of Panthers that had something, I went to the dinner party.
SM: And how about the, the other people that were the that were on the shirt?
BCE: The Forte?
SM: The Forte brothers [inaudible]
BCE: They could survive in any culture because they were like to Tupac, Biggie Smalls straight out of Brooklyn or Oakland hills. I mean, Oakland is a very−
SM: You want to survive and−
BCE: Oh yeah. And so Forte Brothers had that.
SM: And how bout Bobby Hutton?
BCE: So young, so young.
SM: And was killed, he was killed by a police or?
SM: Hold on, let me see here. This is A yeah, and now we go to B, very good. This one is going to end probably.
BCE: Well Martin Luther King was killed April the fourth. And a little Bobby was killed April the sixth.
SM: The same year, (19)68?
BCE: Yeah, was in the same day. I mean, two days.
BCE: That was I think, you remember when Martin Luther King was killed how to cities erupted and same in Oakland and Eldridge and, was it [inaudible]
SM: What were the circumstances of Bobby's death, was he−
BCE: Well, the cops surrounded the house and they said, "Come out." Eldridge took his clothes off. The other boy took his clothes off. Bobby did not take his clothes off.
SM: He just came out with his clothes on, and they shot him?
BCE: Well, I mean, you know? He told me to hold my hands up and [inaudible] drop one. I mean, there was so many bullets [inaudible] that−
SM: Some of the other people here, just your overall thoughts on these people. What were your thoughts on George Jackson? Because we all know he was prison there and died? Who was he and why is he important?
BCE: You have to go to−
SM: And Angela Davis−
BCE: Wait, wait, wait stop, stop. Okay, I just realized. George was in prison. So [inaudible] and there was in the prisons in California, there were Panther chapters. [phone rings] Or affiliate.
BCE: I think, so. I know he was one of these in one of them some, some branch or chapter because he was the Field Marshal of some, something that- I do not remember the title. But he had the ability to write. And he had been in jail long enough. And he had read most of the books on the reading list. So, he, he had the ability. And he was a person of note, not because of Angela Davis but because of himself. But when his brother Jonathan, that was 1970, August of 1970 went up in a courtroom shooting and killing and popping and oh god. That brought attention to him, and it was also the time that they were looking for her.
BCE: But before that, I did not know him because I was already overseas. And I cannot remember if he had written something in the paper.
SM: I remember reading someplace and they were just waiting to get him or something like that. And then there is one other person was killed, or two of them I think and they were coming out together and he was one of them.
BCE: Well, the boy was, I think he died. I do not remember how he died. I do not think anybody was with him. They blamed it on his lawyer bringing a gun, which makes no sense.
SM: Yeah, and Angela was not a Black Panther, but she was certainly
BCE: She was a great supporter in the beginning.
SM: Why should people know about Angela Davis? What was about her that made her special?
BCE: Well, for me it would be the story of Georgia Jackson and her part in that. And that would always lead them back to her younger life before she became a seen that little bit of time in jail. And I mean Russia, every communist in the world wanted this girl out, okay. I mean, it was unbelievable. And I think everybody has a history. But some people have pertinent time zone history. And Angela is definitely one of them. But I like her because of her position on the indu-, military-military industrial complex. And when she talks about history, she is very clear about things. And I think she is safe now. Okay. Very safe. Not like Kathleen. I think that time in jail, and I have never been to jail, so I cannot testify. But some people come out, they straighten up and fly right. And they get a job at the University of California San Bernardino professor of [laughs] Ph. D. of that, this bullshit.
SM: I know Angela is at Santa Cruz, I think was not she- she taught Santa Cruz?
BCE: She is all over the place talking, whatever.
SM: She retired though; I think.
BCE: uh-uh [disagreement] No, she is still working.
SM: No? What did you think of the Tommy Smith and John Carlos and their stand there with the- you know we had, we had Tommy on our campus, but he made it a point, he said, "Do not ever put me with a Black Panthers. I am not a Black Panther. But I believe in Black power." He was emphatic about that.
BCE: Yeah, well I do not blame him, shit. [laughs]
SM: And of course, John Carlos has a book out now, finally.
BCE: Oh, yeah.
SM: They, just your thoughts on their courage in (19)68? I mean, they got, they got hell.
BCE: See, I watched one of the-the one they put a book out in last seven months ago?
SM: That is John.
BCE: And like he said, he said, "We were upset about some things that were happening to them. There. And in Mexico. And when we came out, we put our fists up thinking like, we want to bring some attention to the bullshit, but not to the shit-shit" okay. So, you, you became a symbol, a whatever they became that everybody was, like all Black athletes around the world. And not just Black, see, this is why it is important.
BCE: Because the man who helped him with the book is, was a young white man who was there at the time. And he watched them go through so much shit. And he is Jewish, this, see I found all this interesting. He said that "I was there. I saw how they were treated; I saw how the Jews were treated, some of the Jewish athletes." He said, "You cannot tell-" And the head of the Olympics−
SM: Yeah, I know.
BCE: -was a German, this German [inaudible] or something, right? He said, "Man, look here. You would not believe the stuff that happened to them, me and everybody," but like, a lot of the things, accidentally you get put in history. Because when he was talking, his wife committed suicide. No, you know, he said it was not- I mean, the hardships some people go through, because I volunteered for struggle. He just happened to. [laughs]
SM: Yeah, and what is interesting is a lot of other athletes at that Olympics were doing it too and I remember Lee Evans there was another athlete, the long-distance runner and-and then a lot of female athletes were doing the same thing. But those, but that particular season, George Foreman the boxer refused to do it remember?
BCE: Oh, well.
SM: Yeah, he refused to do it.
BCE: George Foremen, and that is why I [inaudible] kick his ass. [laughs]
SM: Yeah. You know, when you think of the two athletes that stand out betw- is you think of two athletes, when you think of Black power, you think of Muhammad Ali, and you think of Kareem Abdul Jabbar who changed his name.
BCE: And what is his face? Joe Frazier, see−
SM: Well, there is a big difference between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier though in terms of−
BCE: Yeah. [inaudible] eat a cookie.
SM: And then Kareem Abdul Jabbar I remember coming here into Philadelphia.
BCE: Oh yeah.
SM: Changed his name and he had the big, of course he is [inaudible] well, jeez thanks. I did not expect to be eating, I really want to thank you for this, by [inaudible]
BCE: Well, I saw you with the water bottle, so I said well, "he is not going to be here long, but if he did, I am going to throw them little cakes in there." [sings, laughs]
SM: But, uh.
BCE: Go ahead.
SM: They kind of stood out, Muhammad Ali.
SM: I know that [inaudible] taking, the even when George Frazier passed away people were really empathetic more toward George Frazier, and who he was as a person and, and some of the things that Muhammad Ali did to him. But what in the community in the Black Panther community, what did they think of the, of Muhammad Ali and like Kareem Abdul Jabbar? Because they stood out as athletes who really were symbolic of Black Power.
BCE: [Inaudible] Of course, they were heroes. But I do not think we made a real big deal of them, you know, in terms of newspaper, because they had enough publicity. And the other thing is, Muhammad Ali was a Muslim under the Nation of Islam. And we had issues because Malcolm was gone. Okay.
BCE: So, it was like, okay, acknowledge, leave it alone.
SM: The same thing with Kareem. He was because he, he had links to with the [inaudible]
BCE: No, no, Kareem was more Eastern. But Black Muslims came after him, [inaudible].
SM: Harry Edwards was an important person too, because he was on Berkeley campus in the early (19)70s. And of course, he was involved in not only the, what happened in the 1968 Olympics, because he was the advisor there, but at Cornell University in 1969, when the students took over the union with guns. Okay. Was there any inspiration to the Black Panthers from that incident at Cornell? Was there any kind of linking- I know (19)66 is when the Panthers started?
SM: But that scene in (19)69, they were not Panthers, they were−
SM & BCE: Students.
BCE: But see, the student movement was still exploding everywhere. Remember, back then, the news was coming from the west to the east, instead of vice versa. And now, there was a lot of support for that. The newspapers gave support. You see, articles were written. But there was an article in The New Yorker. It was about two years ago; I think I got rid of it. And it was the- some anniversary of the Cornell blah-blah-blah 09. And I forget who wrote it, whether it was a student or a faculty member, but I found it interesting, because they said the Black Panthers came up to support the students.
SM: That is right, they did.
BCE: Yeah. And I was like, oh, I guess I do not even know [crosstalk]
SM: Yeah, I lived in that area, I was in Binghamton and-and I read about it, and you have no idea.
BCE: Mm hmm. Yep.
SM: The fear that-that area of New York State there is a lot of wackos. And so, there was a fear that these wackos these hunters were coming, to come out of nowhere and murder the students. And some of the professors that were there were, obviously they were upset with the administration for not coming down harder on them at the time, and in fact, several professors knew, the conservative professors knew that they were going to leave the university at that time, and one of them was Thomas Sol. African American, who's now has written a lot of books, was at Stanford. He was one of the professors who left, I do not know if that was exact incident, but he left and there were a couple other professors who left. I think Alan Bloom might have been one, who took his, when he got in a car took his family, I have done so much reading, and he had to leave Cornell he was really upset with the administration for not coming down harder on this. [Inaudible] that one of those students who led that protest is on the board of trustees right now, who has been very successful person in life. And−
BCE: What is his name?
SM: I cannot remember.
BCE: Did he write a book too? [laughs]
SM: No-no book. He is on a board of trustees, very successful.
BCE: Wait a minute, [inaudible]
SM: I do not know what posi- I just remember knowing that that person had gotten into some sort of position of responsibility with the university. I am not sure if I am correct. I am not sure if it was a trustee position, but in some capacity [crosstalk]
BCE: No, you got you got Cornell West, you got. The other guy, what is the other guy? The one went to the White House to have beer with the−
SM: Oh, Gates, Henry Louis Gates.
BCE: And I look at these leaders and whatever they are, and I go "Mhm," I am take it with a grain of salt.
SM: Well Cornell West and Gates and Dyson, they are um−
BCE: Oh, let us continue. Let us go on, I do not want to− [laughs]
SM: See, the last thing in this particular area is just what did the Black Panthers yourself and Bobby and Healy and not necessarily Stokely because we know what he felt. We have talked about it. What did they feel, what were their thoughts on Martin Luther King and Roy Wilkins and, and James Farmer and Whitney Young, because those are the four, big four? Remember the big four? There they are.
SM: And I have read, and I have read so much about them since, of course Philip Randolph was the was the old timer, who was still there, he had Byard Rustin helping. So, but that particular group, Jesse Jackson was an up and comer. But−
SM: And Whitney and Whitney Young, but the key thing is the big four were King, Wilkins, Young and Farmer.
SM: They had been the leadership and and-and I know other people followed in their footsteps. But yeah, but just what did they think of them?
BCE: Well, it is sort of like where you started with Stokely, "Your time is coming on." But we are moving on. So, you keep doing what you are doing, do what you want to do. But we are going to go and we are going to move on. I do not think it was a, well you remember, you have not even brought this up. But the-the antagonism between the Panthers and other organizations, Maulana Karenga. See, that was an outright disrespect that two organizations had for each other.
SM: I do not know too much about−
BCE: Do not worry, do not worry. But it was a question of cultural nationalism, which means from changing your name to the garb, that clothing that you wear and certain African centered activities. Well, the Panthers were not really a cultural organization, they were more intellect, action. So, there was some friction and people got killed, okay. But if you asked about the us organization, they were in Los Angeles. I would say, "Oh them all bald headed no good and motherbaba duba da." But if you asked about Martin Luther King, and big four as you said, well, they have had their day and I am going to do this that and the other. It was not, put put-put-put down. Now occasionally. We did call you Uncle Tom.
BCE: We put you in the newspaper as a bootlicker, okay. No doubt, no doubt. But I always thought of that period of time as the breaking away, you know, the breaking because you were asked by the establishment press and newspapers, "Well, what do you think of the Black Panthers, oh them ruffians, those-" so you are looking at this and you are saying, "Wait a minute, you do not even know who I am." You know, you know things that, so if-if you diss me I am going to diss you back because you were there to soothe the fears of white America and some Black Americans, but you did not represent everybody. So, there you go.
SM: Music, I made a reference to it earlier, was the African American community-community linked to or inspired by the music of the (19)60s and (19)70s? Or mostly the Motown sound? Who were the entertainers, the artists, the musicians that most inspired the Panthers and the African American community as a whole? And secondly, because we are talking about the bay area here, and you know, when he talked about the Bay Area, you are talking about the Summer of Love and (19)67, which was a big thing when people came from all over the country to San Francisco. And that by (19)68, we knew the drugs took over the town, everybody was leaving. And then of course, 1969, Woodstock was a cultural event.
BCE: New York!
SM: So, you got the Summer of Love and (19)67 and the Woodstock and (19)69. How important were the Summer of Love and Woodstock? Do you see an identity in the African American community, particularly the Black Panther community, to those two particular events? Because there is so-
BCE: We sold more newspapers than ever. Woodstock literally was unbelievable. Unbelievable. Okay. But it was mind boggling at the same time, because of the amount of marijuana you [inaudible] oh shit gas masks [laughs]. But it was also, we sold a lot of papers. So, I mean, 1000s, you know, whatever was that.
SM: What was the- what was the publication every week [crosstalk]? 100,000 or?
BCE: Oh, I cannot be sure it depends on the year, the month.
BCE: But the summer of love. Okay, that was interesting, because it was not, it was not just about alliances, because we went there. Because you said "Hey, I need a little support why do not you sell some papers people." But it was like, what the hell is going on here? Because you had all these for lack- basically, these white young kids. Flower−
SM: Yeah, we are at [inaudible] African American kids.
BCE: [Inaudible] Do not make me feel guilty−
SM: The key thing, it is important because when I talk about I want to make sure that when I talk about the boomer generation, someone told me once when they think of the boomer generation, they think of white kids, ah no-no-no-no-no. Boomer generation is 75 million people from all ethnic backgrounds, I want to make sure, what were, was there a connection between the Summer of Love and the African American community besides just selling newspapers? And being a part of it?
BCE: I know that I was there this last summer. No, it was so new. It was so new. You, I think that- so you have to look at how Black people do drugs back then. They smoked marijuana in the house, in the house. If they shot up, they shot up in the house or in certain little spots. But most African Americans back then were drinkers. Social beings, a beer with a little wine, whiskey. Okay. Now Woodstock, the summer of love both of them in the Haight Ashbury itself. Okay, because I was living there. I moved in at night. I woke up the next morning, I said, "where the fuck is [inaudible]". I had no idea that I had moved at Haight and Trager, the jiggers were- yeah, and the jiggers were my neighbors right. I had no idea where I had moved, because it was [inaudible]. It was like a mind-blowing experience. So, if we were strange to our peers and parents as Panthers and radical Black Student Union children, because a lot of them students got in trouble with the parents, right? The summer of love and Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury, it was like, no clue. You were in the state of shock. Now granted, there were a few Black people in the movement there. Love Power, Haight-Ashbury. The whole hippie movement. But the thing about it was, were they in it for the drugs? Were they in it for free love? Were they already married to a person of another racial group? You never saw a lot of Black people, okay in any of those things. But because I was always like this. But after living in the Haight, I was there about a month. And like I said, the jiggers were upstairs, they were the people that−
SM: Hippies. That is Peter Coyote, did you know Peter?
BCE: I do not know, I got to see.
BCE: But no, but here, what was interesting. I never felt so safe in my life. Walk down the Haight Ashbury. I would walk six, seven blocks down the Fillmore Divisadero, come home late at night walk up the street, because people were always on the streets. But then it was very beautiful in the beginning, but then LSD really turned it around.
SM: Yeah, (19)68 was a different year they called it the summer of- I forget, there is another term they used for it. But it is, it is not a good term.
SM: People were getting out of there like crazy.
SM: Yeah, so when you talk about the music overall, then, you know, I guess what I am getting at here is.
BCE: Oh, music.
SM: So, you know, because the culture we are talking about Woodstock, of course, Jimi Hendrix [inaudible] Woodstock. [crosstalk] Carlos Santana, there was [inaudible] there, but what, the music and I look at the music, too. We know music was part of the generation and of the course, white kids loved Motown. And they love rock music. The question is, did African Americans during that timeframe also like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, the folk musicians, the rock bands, you know, because, because it is not just, you know, that there is the Chamber's brothers. There is the Isley Brothers, there is the Motown groups. There is Jimi Hendrix. There is Bob Marley. There is Richie Havens.
BCE: No Bob Marley. Too early.
SM: Yeah, you are right on that. But there were, of course, all the Motown groups and the jazz, but just-just thinking about this.
SM: Did the community like all this music?
BCE: Well, we all liked Janis Joplin. I was not that hip to what is his face, Jimi? Because I went to the Haight theater to see Janis. I cannot remember whether I saw Jimi Hendrix there, or what it was but Janis because she was so earthy, little crazy, I guess, but earthy. And she came across sort of like Tina Marie in later years. But it depends on your cultural, spiritual, educational upbringing, what you liked, but everybody liked Motown because they were safe. And then you got the Philly sound. But then they started recording music to meet the needs of the struggle. You know, Marvin K, what is going on? These boys here in Philly, Gamble and Huff produced a lot of good music. The one I really liked was that wild man, James Brown.
SM: Oh, yeah.
BCE: I am black and I am Brown.
BCE: So, you had, between (19)65 and (19)68, everything. It was like trying to keep up with it. Trying to keep up with it. I think.
SM: What is amazing is when I think about it, the music, no matter what ethnic background you were from, there seemed to be something for everyone with a message−
BCE: But it was.
SM: You know, the-the white the white bands had messages. You know, Country Joe and the Fish talked about Vietnam. It is amazing.
BCE: No what was that, Bob Dylan.
BCE: Bob Dylan, strange creature that he is. I do not remember the song. And Joan Baez. See, we could play some of their songs, not just Black music.
SM: Peter Paul and Mary.
BCE: You could play the songs because there was that cross connection of, hey, do you know the truth about this? And see, it was a form of intelligence giving, I think now, and that is some stuff I picked up in rap. I mean, I had to listen to rap because my son and his friends rolled around.
SM: And you can get messages in rap.
BCE: And I was like, and then some of the stories were too true, horrifying stories, but no, it was a lot of things cross cultural back then.
SM: Even the (19)70s in John Lennon's music as a- before he was murdered in 1980. Everybody was listening, Give Peace a Chance. I mean, Bruce Springsteen's music, well, he has got a lot of messages in his music. I, it is like everything you listen to. Pete Seeger crosses three different generations
SM: With his music and Arlo Guthrie and Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell. They are all I mean, there is all messages I-I have listened to everything even I could not believe this the other day the Beach Boys have an album that I did not even realize the Beach Boys. Yeah, it is called Demonstration. I said I got to go find this. And because I never knew there is a song if you go into the web, hit the Beach Boys go all through their material and then come to this one song talks about Kent State, Jackson State, the Beach Boys! Because is there you know, everybody seemed to be making sure that there was messages that were.
BCE: You know, it is funny you should mention the Beach Boys because−
SM: This is going to this one is going to run out, this is ok.
BCE: There was something on TV about a month or so ago, one of them had−
SM: Will we tape this or just?
BCE: No, this is just conversation.
SM: I think we have gone over the fact that you are a little bit more about your life after the Panthers. They broke up in the (19)80s overall. Two questions right here.
BCE: Go ahead, go ahead.
(End of Interview)
Date of Interview
Barbara Cox Easley
Barbara Easley-Cox is a civil rights activist most known for her involvement with the Black Panther Party while attending San Francisco State University. She worked in the Oakland, C.A., Philadelphia, P.A., New York, N.Y., and international chapters for the Party. She also participated in several survival programs hosted by the Party. Easley continues her dedication to social work and political activism today.
Binghamton University Libraries
Civil rights workers;
Black Panther Party;
Easley, Barbara Cox--Interviews
Black Panther Party;
Easley, Barbara Cox--Interviews
This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: McKiernan Interviews, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.
March on Washington; Nineteen sixties; Nineteen seventies; Civil Rights Movement; The Black Panthers; Weatherwomen; Baby boom generation; Vietnam War; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Stokely Carmichael; Music.
“Barbara Cox Easley,” Digital Collections, accessed July 6, 2022, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/1191.