Speaking of the Black Panthers ...... Beyoncé Ain't No Angela Davis
For Black History Month, why not read a Black Panther autobiography?
Segue alert ..... I will admit I watched Super Bowl 50 mainly for Lady Gaga's singing and the half time show. In the United States about 112 million people watched the game and 72% of U.S. homes with televisions in use were tuned into the Super Bowl 50 telecast.
During the half time show when Beyoncé et al came out in black berets I had a momentary Monica Lewinsky flashback. Later in social media, when Black Panther allusions started, I thought she's not really anything like the Black Panthers. She hasn't been to jail, she hasn't had to go underground, she's a very wealthy and powerful entertainment figure who is not personally oppressed and not involved in revolutionary socialism. And while I'm sorry to be glib, Beyoncé's hair is certainly not natural and both hairstyle and fashion were important visual, political and symbolic elements to the Black Panther Party and Black Power movements. Simply wearing a beret, having backup dancers with afros, and wearing crossed bands of bullets (more like Michael Jackson than a revolutionary) does not make a Black Panther. I will say though, some folks did feel Beyoncé's performance and song spoke to the Black Lives Matter protests and the condition of black Americans today.
If you want to know about the real Black Panthers please read on.
If you're interested in more online information about the Black Panthers, the more militant side of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, you may enjoy the following sites:
- The Black Panthers at the Historylearning site.
- The Black Panthers at the Marxistorg site.
- The Black Panther Party in Seattle.
- The Black Panthers at the Socialist Alternative site.
- The Black Panther Party at Wikipedia
- The Black Panther: newspaper of the Black Panther Party full text pdfs 1968-1973
I think it's respectful to let the Black Panthers speak for themselves as much as possible. We're fortunate they've written extensively in their own voices. And, in an interesting intersection of Black Civil Rights and the Women's Movement of the 1960s/70s, there were many women who played leading roles and had powerful voices.
In terms of women's voices I would direct you to Angela Y. Davis:
Davis had an exceptional life on the run, on trial and in jail and settled into academia but Assata Shakur has an equally lively life experience ultimately ending up living in exile in Cuba. You may also be interested in the autobiographies of Elaine Brown and Safiya Bukhari who were also involved in the Black Panther Party.
In terms of the male leadership's autobiographical writings, sample this:
Huey P. Newton was one of the founders, key leadership figures and prolific author:
Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael are other well known figures associated with the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement:
And aesthetics weren't just aesthetics in the Black Panther Party:
Noted music producer and scholar Pat Thomas spent five years in Oakland, California, researching Listen, Whitey! While befriending members of the Black Panther Party, Thomas discovered rare recordings of speeches, interviews and music by noted activists Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Elaine Brown, The Lumpen and many others that form the framework of this definitive retrospective. Listen, Whitey! also chronicles the forgotten history of Motown Records. Contents: Musicians as revolutionaries, revolutionaries as pop culture icons -- Iconic images; The Black power salute, berets and a wicker chair -- The movement, Motown and popular music.
For more general coverage of the Black Panthers these may be interesting:
The Black Panther Party even had their own recommended reading book list: