The University Record, January 23, 1996

Former Black Panther draws crowd of more than 600

By Kahli Randall
News and Information Services 

With the Union Ballroom packed beyond its 600-person capacity and late-comers hoping to gain entrance, Bobby Seale helped celebrate Martin Luther King's 67th birthday last Monday.

Seale said that King was one of the first to influence him before he became "political." He described how the assassination of King provided a boost to the Black Panther Party's recruitment drive. According to Seale, "the Black community was enraged" at the murder of one of its most prized leaders, and out of this rage the Black Panther Party grew rapidly in many states.

"The Black Panther Party," he continued, "grew out of research of the law and knowing what our rights were." These laws and rights ranged from the right to bear arms to freedom of speech. Seale went on to imitate his late friend and fellow Panther Huey P. Newton as he described how the law school graduate could recite the text of legislation applicable to a situation "at the drop of a hat."

Seale explained that those who disagree with the majority always are persecuted. He said that when the Black Panther Party members disputed the view that whites are inherently superior to non-whites, they were persecuted in the same way. He argued the reason the "racist power structure" had attacked the Panthers was that the panthers understood "the need for Black unity in the Black community to help humanize the world," hence the Party's slogan, "Power to the People."

The goals of the Black Panther Party included an attempt to "get to the root of the people, to capture their imagination and help them realize that Blacks were being misused and that it needed to be stopped," Seale added.

In an address laced with profanity and jokes about his many encounters with racism, a witty and passionate Seale dedicated a large portion of his speech to explaining away rumors and dissatisfaction with critiques and accounts of his involvement in the Black Panther Party, including his evident dislike of the Panther movie by father-and-son team Marvin and Mario van Peebles. Seale said that the public must liberate itself from "mythological misconceptions," such as those portrayed in the 1994 film. He said that he and Newton were portrayed as "street gang types," when they were actually college graduates.

As the founding chairman of the party, Seale accused the makers of the film of concocting a fabrication and attempting to "pass it off as authentic." He added that 90 percent of what was portrayed on the screen never happened.

Seale also expressed his contempt for the memoir of former Panther Elaine Brown that reported Newton had Seale "beaten up and sodomized." He denied any accusations suggesting that he and Newton were ever less than friends.

In closing his speech, Seale spoke of his present efforts to raise money for a new "environmental youth jobs program" in Philadelphia, a project that would cost $10 million. His attempts to raise this large sum include selling a cookbook, a history of the Black Panther Party available on CD-ROM, and copies of his book, Seize the Time. He announced that a movie also titled Seize the Time is in the works that would present his account of the history of the Black Panther Party.