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"Revolution is as Old as Humanity" - An Interview with Bobby Seale
Interview with Bobby Seale, cofounder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and one of the most provocative and substantial icons of the 1960's Civil Rights Movement.
When folks look back on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, many images come to mind. There’s the flower freaks rolling around in the mud at Woodstock; there’s that wicked swine Richard Nixon; there’s Vietnam; there’s Joni Mitchell; there’s a fist raised in the air, declaring "All Power To The People," a mantra immortalized by the Black Panther Party.
One of the most prominent facets of the Civil Rights Movement was the struggle by black Americans to be treated as equal humans, not discriminated against as a matter of official policy, which was the case up to that point. At the fore of this front were gallant warriors such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Seale.
Seale, along with Huey P. Newton, founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in Oakland, California, during October 1966. They set out to take care of their community, which was not only impoverished, but also under constant harassment and attack by racist law enforcement. While the Panther’s programs included such important and widely cherished things as the Free Breakfast for Children program, the memory of the Panthers is also synonymous with their willingness to fight back against their oppressors. Granted, the press is strongly to blame for this, being that a man holding a rifle may be a more "sensational" of a picture than the same man working the breakfast line.
The Black Panthers set an example for all Americans: that if you don’t like the way things are going in your community, you should do something about it to make things better. Furthermore, with the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., people began to realize that things wouldn’t get any better just by hoping it so.
Many of the programs established by Seale and the Black Panthers are still in motion today, the most renowned being the Free Breakfast for Children Program. The 60’s may be over, but those ideals that were so passionately and righteously fought for are still just as relevant.
Below is an interview with the legendary Bobby Seale, where he talks about many of the things found in his first book, Seize the Time, which was written while he was in jail for several bogus charges. It’s a recount of how the Black Panther Party was formed, but, more than that, it’s the raw tale of how a person grew disgusted with the way he and his community were being subjugated, and what he did to make things better. This book is considered by many to be one of the most important books of the era.
He’s since written several more books, as well as continued his earnest involvement in a myriad of community endeavors. He is as dynamic of a person as there ever was; he’s a brilliant philosopher, revolutionary, hero, and chef, among other things.
Would you say the government has grown better or worse at serving the basic desires and needs of the people in the past 40 years?
Bobby Seale: [laughs] The government. You look at the 1960’s era, and there’s a lot of things that changed. But more recently, we have the Patriot Act, and I see the Patriot Act as an extension, a continuation on another level of the counterintelligence program that was going on in the 1960’s.
The counterintelligence program of the 1960’s was aimed at all protest movement organizations, including the Black Panther Party, my organization.
Do you have any faith in the judicial system, and the rest of the government?
BS: I have faith in people who have a sense of progressiveness about them, who have a sense of the need for a peaceful world- of cooperational humanism- about them. If we could man the offices, if we could change the political seat to people who are progressive in their heart, mind, and soul, who are concerned about human liberation. I mean, when you talk about the government in such general, bland terms, or ask the question, "Do you have any faith in the governmental system?" the system has people. The content of the character of the people, and the content of where they’re coming from...I mean, Ashcroft and others are more fascism-minded, so the content of their character is negative. You see what I’m getting at?
Things have to be changed. So, how do you change things? I can define the phenomena, but how do I make the phenomena act in a desired manner? How do I get a bunch of right-wing conservatives who support a bunch of avaricious exploiters in our society, to perpetuate various levels of racism, imperialism... I mean, this war in Iraq is just an imperialist activity. So, you have to change the people, and I have to have faith in people who really wanna do that change.
What do you say to people who have given up hope for the government system?
BS: Well, they shouldn’t be giving up hope. They should themselves look at their whole living entities, their bodies, their forms, their methods, look inside themselves, and take time to investigate, and find out who is what, and work on some specific program, some small project, to change things for the better. You have to do that.
People who walk around and say, "I’ve given up," oh you have? Excuse me, given up on what, you know what I mean? What are you trying to do, commit suicide? Is that what you mean by given up [laughs]?
We had the same thing in the 60’s. Guys used to sit up and tell me, "We’re dropping out of the system, we don’t wanna have nothin’ to do with it, we ain’t got nothin’ to do with it." And I used to tell them that you do have something to do with it, because it’s oppressing you. And if it’s oppressing you, and exploiting you, you have to change that. "Well, we’ve dropped out." You can’t drop out. What are you gonna do, drop out of the solar system? I asked them.
I said, "Look, you take all your friends who also said they dropped out, and I want you guys to go down to Cape Kennedy, hijack you one of those rockets, and take off and go to the moon, and try to set up living conditions. I’m willing to bet you a racist-ass, right-wing conservative tricky Dick Nixon- the President of the United States of America- will send some troops up there to the moon and bring your ass back here. So there’s no such thing as ‘dropping out of the system.’"
My point becomes, in another bland, trite kind of sense, get a life, man. Give up what? You still gotta live out here, know what I mean? You have to be part and parcel of something. I’m just saying there are things to get involved with. There are a lot of protest movement-style organizations all over this country. There are even some progressives inside the political parties. I know that to be true- I’m one of them [laughs].
I don’t like taking one whole lump of one whole group, and ignoring the possibility that there’s some people who are exceptions to the rule. There’s some politicians who are exceptions to the rule...very little exception to the rule. But this grouping of, "Oh, I don’t see any difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party," well, there’s some differences in various people in various locations. ‘Cause I could go around the country, and I could identify quite a few different progressive people, and different legislative efforts. I mean, the state of Massachusetts allows for gay marriages, you know what I mean? And I consider that progressive.
So I’m just saying there’s other kinds of laws and rules and legislation, and you have to pick at it and look at it, to see who’s doing what and why they’re doing it, what their ulterior motives are, etc.
Now, in terms of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party as one large group depending on corporate-rich money to get reelected, well generally they do do that. Both of them do it. Even some of the progressives do the damn shit. But then you have some who are choosey and picky, in terms of who they will and will not accept money from.
I’m a programmatic person. You have to understand where I come from. I come from the grassroots of the African-American community, largely. A lot of the programs I talk about in the African-American community are applicable in other communities. The Hispanic-speaking community, even the poor white people community.
I’m a programmatic person. I mean, I’ve written a cookbook back in 1988, and now I’m rewriting that book, I’m doubling the amount of recipes and rewriting most of the recipes. I’m gonna put the old cookbook into a DVD television show. I’m also trying to get a series. I’ve produced one television show for a local public education television station here in Philadelphia, back a year-and-a-half or so ago, and that program was aired. Now, I’ve taken the program (since I own it as one of the producers), and I’m trying to get it turned into a series.
The cooking show was a half-hour show edited down. But we did all the other takes, and put them in there too, outside of the show, and you can click those up separately, and we separated each recipe with some extra film footage. And you can click up a specific recipe on ribs, a specific recipe on pit-smoked turkey, etc., and some of the side dishes.
It’s already close to an hour, 50-some minutes, I think. I’m gonna take my original cookbook, and put that on the DVD too, where you can have a menu, and you can actually go to a specific recipe and click it, and you can read it, and if you want to you can print it out, and go back to the back yard to the pit with it. So that’s the kind of thing we’re gonna do with the original cookbook. Now, it’s about 100 or so recipes, the original recipes as they were originally written. But the new cookbook is gonna have over 100 new recipes added to it. I have a whole category of veggie-grilled recipes- we’re talking about 30 and some odd recipes- that’s veggie-grill alone. Then there’s another category- since I had a heart attack three and a half, four years ago. I bounced back after they opened up a blockage, it’s been opened pretty good. I’m back in the gym, I exercise. My point is that I wrote another category of 30 or 40 recipes so far, and I’m calling them low fat, low salt, heart-smart barbeque recipes. So this is being added, and I’m changing all of those recipes, because I’m cutting down the salt, I’m adding more juice blends, etc.
Now the original book will be available on the DVD as a separate entity. The new book is gonna be bigger, larger, it’s gonna be healthier, etc. Hopefully, we’ll have over 200 recipes in the second edition.
Why do I, Bobby Seale, want a series of a barbecuing cooking show? Because I need to be able to raise money, so that I can invest some of that money into what I call the Environmental Renovation Youth Jobs Projects. What I wanna do is start in Philadelphia, and maybe some other cities that got bad problems. Philadelphia’s big problem here is abandoned houses. 125,000-130,000 of them. Because that exists, we could probably evolve, step by step, piece by piece, a lot of jobs.
If I could get one or two small examples off the ground- crews of 10, 20, or 30 youth under specific supervision from building construction people, designed in a program where they get no less than minimum wage and maybe more, with a union scale for the carpenters and builders who are going to be supervising. Renovating this old housing, and putting the old housing back on the market, that would in effect help these non-profit entities become self-sufficient. Not only in creating jobs, but also taking some of these renovated things and putting alternative energy in them.
Let’s say we have another Environmental Renovation Youth Jobs Project where we would renovate old cars. Well, there are electric automobile technologies, so how can we set up an operation for a Youth Jobs Project program where not only do we renovate the cars, we integrate some electric automobile technology into that, and then market it to the middle class for their second or third cars?
That helps those programs become financially self-sufficient where they’re not necessarily dependent upon government money. You have a non-profit entity framework that becomes a community-controlled economic development project, where the youth are the pinpoint.
So that’s my idea of one thing I’d like to do. I would like to talk to students and people all across the country, I’d like to put some conferences up, but it’s hard to raise money to do this. To show students what you can do, what kind of programs.
Back in the 60’s, we had the Free Breakfast for Children program that spread across the United States of America to a point that we were feeding 250,000 kids free breakfast every day. Finally, the government came in, and they start making legislation for free breakfast, all because we started free breakfast. And we had no government money to create the original Free Breakfast program.
Then later we created a Free Preventative Health Care Clinic. With that, we extended a free Sickle Cell Anemia testing program in the late ‘60s. Within a five-year period, with our free health clinics all across the country in all the chapters and branches of the Black Panther Party, we tested over one million black folks in the United States of America for Sickle Cell Anemia. And it became policy in medical institutions and hospitals that you test all black folks.
So that’s the kind of social change you have to get to the nitty-gritty and root of.
In terms of students and people working on programs, I like to get interconnected relationships between things. It’s one thing to work and argue about the government, and it’s necessary to do so, to deal with the need for a balanced ecology and the environment. But it’s another thing to set up a program, renovating old cars or renovating old houses and integrating alternative energy sources and electric automobile technology, for an example.
So that’s the kind of concept of saying, "Yes, I’m an environmentalist, but at the same time I understand that there are civil rights here, and economic rights of people, etc. that’s involved." In other words, we have to see how the environment and the ecology are interconnected and interrelated with all civil human rights issues.
If we do a barbeque cooking show, over the next year or two, those shows will probably go on the DVD at some point. I need to really get into some millions of dollars, so I can raise some money, so I can say, "OK, let’s take this $2 million here, and start setting up examples of the Environmental Renovations Youth Jobs Projects."
That’s what the cookbook is all about in the first damn place; that’s why I wrote it in the first place. Years ago, when I first wrote this book, or I announced that I was writing a book (I had my own radio show, a talk radio show, "The Bobby Seale Show"). Somebody called up and reminded me that they saw me in a documentary in jail, somebody had come from PBS to jail and interviewed me about my plight, but in the interview, I described a recipe. Anyway, with that, it caused me to announce, on my live radio show out in Denver, Colorado, where I was living at the time- this is after the Black Panther Party days- I announced I was gonna write a cookbook.
Well, when I announced that, some of the news people picked up and printed that. And then somebody called me up and interviewed me a month or so later, and the next thing I know, there was a syndicated article all across the United States of America, "Bobby Seale is to barbeque what Jane Fonda is to aerobics." [laughs]
So, that’s how that all got started. After that, a couple years later, I was out in Philadelphia, and my wife and I finally did my first cookbook. And all because I was working at Temple University in the College of Arts & Sciences and the African-American Studies Department. I would have meetings there with former Black Panther Party members, "How can we raise funds?" etc. I said, "Well, I’m gonna write this cookbook, we’ll raise some funds that way."
I did run one Youth Jobs program, youth employment strategy here in Philadelphia for a year or so.
How’d that work out?
BS: Well it worked out great. I had 40 youths- half male, half female- renovating old houses. And I hired about seven or eight professional building and construction people. We paid them union scale, and we paid the youth minimum wage.
We mostly worked on non-profit entity housing at the time, but regardless, we had youth here renovating houses. Doing dry walling; one crew built a whole deck. A crew of a supervisor and five of the youth built a whole rear deck. They did dry walling inside for some of the rooms, they did interior and exterior painting.
Years ago, when I had one of the youth jobs programs- this is before the Black Panther Party was created. I used to work for the city government of Oakland, California, in the youth jobs project there. And I was telling the board we have to get these kids more skills. You can’t just have them cleaning up garages and cleaning up lots.
Then one of the board members says, "Well, what are you suggesting?" And I said we could repair stairs, we could repair fences, we could do some dry walling, we could do some painting, interior and exterior painting.
So one of the board members says, "Well, painting is not a skill."
"What do you mean it’s not a skill?" I said, "Look, do you know how many square feet a gallon of paint covers?" They didn’t, and I said, "400 square feet. If you measure the length and width of one wall, multiply it by two for the opposite wall, and do that for the other two walls, and get the square footage of the floor, etc., put it all together, and then divide it by 400, you know exactly how many gallons of paint you need to cover that room. So don’t sit up there and tell me that."
And when I got through with this guy, the whole board was saying, "Leave Mr. Seale alone." And I got it approved, with the board, and the War on Poverty program. Then I went out and got some of the landlords to agree that if we did renovation on these houses, 50% of the value of renovation, whether it was painting, etc., will be deducted from the poor and low-income people’s rent. Now that’s killing two or three birds with one stone.
So that’s the kind of programmatic kind of organizing I believe in. And today, when you live in an overdeveloped, high-tech, fast-paced, computerized, scientific, technological society that we live in today, I say you have to have a polylectic kind of view. A polylectic analytical view in the sense that, when you break all that terminology down, how many different problems with your program are you gonna be trying to help solve simultaneously?
A many-sided, polylectic kind of approach to dealing with solving problems in our community. So when I say the Environmental Renovation Youth Jobs Projects, you have to imagine that there’s gonna be a lot of things going on. Renovating old cars, that’s one thing. But what about salesmanship, do we use salesman? Yes, to sell the cars, so we’re gonna have to train some youth. Get them in their suits and ties and decent dress where they sell these renovated cars, renovated electric automobiles. A multi-sided, polylectic connection between things.
Things are interconnected and interrelated and interdependent. In other words, as a community organizer, for whatever reason- because I was an engineer, I guess, an engineer design major in college and I worked in the engineer department at Kaiser Aerospace Electronics in the Gemini Missile Program just before I really...this is after the Air Force. They had found out later that I had gotten a bad conduct discharge out of the Air Force. And this one white engineer said, "Seale, to hell with them, just do your work, man. You do damn good work." And he left me alone, and I worked there almost three years, until I quit and went to work in the grassroots community later on.
But my point is that’s where I come from. I have a lot of respect for high technology. It’s just the misuse of it [laughs]. You see what I’m getting at? You got to love technology on the one hand, living in a polylectic world. But, when you get down to organizing the people, you have to educate the people to understand and realize that they can evolve community-controlled economic frameworks, and you can have these Environmental Renovation Youth Jobs type programs.
So here I am, wrote a cookbook. People say, "What are you doing writing a cookbook? You supposed to be a political revolutionary." I say I am a political revolutionary, and I’m writing a cookbook. What if I produced a jazz album next week? I’m a jazz drummer, by the way [laughs]. You can’t pigeonhole me in one category. I was a hunter and a fisherman growing up. I mean, my father bought me my first high-powered rifle when I was 12 years of age. My dad and his hunting buddies- these nine or ten guys that always went hunting- these guys taught me how to shoot that rifle at age 12 with three shots.
So I’m just saying I’m lucky, to have all the trades and skills. I’m lucky to have had a mother and a father that stuck together to their dying day, and raised us. I’m happy that this happened.
So, there I was, working at Kaiser Aerospace Electronics on the Gemini Missile Program, and after reading all this history for the last two, three years, I got to the point that I wanted to do more. So I went into the grassroots community, and I started working in grassroots programs in the real community. Not only with the skills, but all the research I had done in my African-American history, teaching African-American history to the youth in the community- Northridge Tutorial Program; me and six other college students put that program together out there in Northridge. We had 85 youth working full-time in the summer and part-time in the winter. It was a year-round job, and we got granted and funded for that program. And we had most of the money going back into the households of the people living in the poor and low-income community via the youth. So we could hire a 16-year-old or a 15-year-old in the 9th grade, to tutor a 1st grader. Then we had some guys from community college and high school, tutoring 7th and 8th graders.
You have to see programs being interconnected and interrelated, and solving two and three and four different problems, all at one time in a polylectic kind of way. That’s why I say, "polylectic reality: the non-linear analytical view." How to organize in an overdeveloped, high-tech, fast-paced, computerized, scientific, technological social order.
Do you feel the sense of revolution that was prevalent during the 60’s has kind of waned, or do you feel that sense of revolution is getting stronger again?
BS: Well, first of all, let’s clarify what "revolution" is. Some people hear the word "revolution," and they only think of some concept of violence. Left radical progressive people mention the word "revolution," right-wing conservatives put out disinformation. So it’s not about a need for violence.
Revolution is about re-evolving. Re-evolving more political, economic, social justice, power, back into the hands of the people. That’s what revolution is about. Now, the revolution has high tides and low tides. Revolution is as old as humanity, in terms of the human rights, civil rights, constitutional and democratic rights, etc.
We’re on a low tide now, since 1999 when there were a lot of protests going on, through using the Internet to help organize them too, against the WTO, against the IMF, against the G-8 meetings and so on. These protests were necessary protests, and the government does everything it can to squelch, to minimize what these protests are about. We have to keep doing that.
We were on a high tide in the 1960’s protest movement, and we’ll probably evolve into some other high tide protest movement era, which is going to affect politics, it’s going to affect legislative frameworks, from the local areas to the federal levels, and hopefully, we’re gonna evolve some things that are positive and progressive, as it relates to what I love to call the Human Liberations Struggle.
Do you still feel any kind of pressure from the F.B.I., as far as surveillance or anything like that?
BS: Not direct, they probably do it indirect. They probably watch me or whatever the hell they do. I don’t know what the hell they do, know what I mean [laughs]? I’m really not that worried about them. I’m a 68-year-old man, and I know I’m not doing anything dumb. If they’re trying to set me up, then I’ll probably wind up getting set up. So I don’t feel any pressure, no.
What tactics did they use in the past that you found the most absurd?
BS: Well, the big time, generalized, overall tactics was the dissemination of disinformation. The F.B.I. used to literally, minimally once a month, send out press releases. Not only to the press, but they send out those same press releases to politicians in any area or city where my organization, the Black Panther Party, was operating out of.
And these press releases did everything from saying we hate all white folks- how can we hate all white folks, if we’re running up and down the streets protesting, our arms locked together with our white radical buddies and friends? You see what I’m getting at? That’s just total disinformation. Politicians who got press releases, like Mayor Daley of Chicago in 1968, who was up on the national media saying the only reason the Black Panthers have guns is to come into the white communities and shoot and kill white people. It was a bold-faced lie, and what happened was the F.B.I., with their counterintelligence program and everything, were working in concert with the politicians.
So that’s one tactic. The other tactic that they got down to after a while there was the literal murder- complicity and committing murder. I mean, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered on December 4, 1969, in Chicago in a pre-dawn raid, where the police busted in at 5 in the morning. They busted simultaneously in through the front and the rear door, and they came in shooting. They killed Mark Clark sleeping in the front bedroom, shot and wounded several other people in different rooms, but they went specifically to one room, and littered the walls at bed-level where Fred Hampton slept. Both walls, with over a thousand rounds going through the walls, at bed level. Now that’s an assassination tactic.
And then, once the shooting stopped, a black cop on this special force walks in, and fires two or three shots into the head of Fred Hampton, and he states to the other white cops, "The nigger is good and dead now."
Now, we come to find out that O’Neal- some guy who’d been arrested- had been sent in as a provocateur agent and infiltrated into the Party, and he was the one who gave the plans to State’s Attorney Hanrahan, and the special police squad who raided the place. The layout of the house, and identified the bed where Fred Hampton slept at.
The family ultimately won several million dollars- I forget the exact amount. But my point is the F.B.I. was complicit here in the murder of Fred Hampton, literally. They were complicit in the murder of John Huggins and Bunchy Carter at UCLA, where they were shot and killed. One of the shooters identified by Wesley Swearingen- a former F.B.I. agent- in his book, he identified one of the shooters as working in concert with the F.B.I. So the F.B.I. is here again complicit in the murder, according to Wesley Swearingen, of Black Panther Party members in the 1960’s.
They went from everything from trying to discredit me, because once I separated from my wife, in a six-month period, I had relations with six different females. And they put a press release out, going to politicians and the press. It was on the front pages of the newspaper that "Bobby Seale fornicates with six different women in the Black Panther Party," blah blah blah. You know, this kind of crap.
They did that stuff, poisoning food at conferences so that everybody would have diarrhea, all the way down to literally being complicit in the murders of Black Panther Party members. These are the tactics they did. They were killers; they were fascists. They were unadulterated, cheap, lowlife, scurvy fascists.
How do you feel about folks like Ted Kaczynski?
BS: Ahh, he’s a nut, he’s an asshole. He stepped outside of the civility; he’s no better than Al Qaida. He stepped outside the civility of what the human liberation struggle is about. So I don’t have no time for them. Don’t have no time for a Ku Kluk Klanner lynching people, historically, and threatening to kill, murder, etc. They stepped outside the civility of what any protest can be about. These guys, they don’t know what’s happening, and they’re recluse and pathological and a whole lot of other problems. They need real help, you know?
Do you keep in touch with folks like Mumia Abu-Jamal?
BS: Well, I mean, they don’t communicate directly with me. What I did for Mumia Abu-Jamal was walk all over this country for several years, speaking in colleges and on radio shows. Three-hour shows that they put me on.
I haven’t had a chance to be in communication with them. The last time I tried to get in communication with some of my former Black Panther Party members in prison, they blocked me from even coming to the prison. They made some dumb excuse that Bobby Seale was gonna encourage violence amongst the inmates and some old bullshit, you know...
Do you think we’ll ever have free or universal health care?
BS: I would hope so; we gotta keep working on that. Maybe we have to make the issue come up again. Let’s elect Hillary Clinton President or something. That’s progressive, to have a woman like her. We need to have it...
Do you think reparations will ever be granted?
BS: They need to be. Since Bush came into office about five years ago, this guy went all out for a multi-billion dollar tax break, of which 80% (off the top of my head) went to the corporate-money rich. Billions of dollars; I think it got into the trillions. I think the first was 1.6 trillion. My point becomes: reparations right there. And their justification for the tax break, "Oh, this is going to stimulate the economy," bullshit. You could’ve gave $1.6 trillion in reparations to black folks in America through a specialized funding operation, where 50% of this money is really directed, under the supervision of a council of various organizational representatives of this country. It’s about rehabilitating our community. Then the other 50% goes to the most poorest low-income family groups, but under a certain level of supervision in terms of education, in terms of housing, etc.
And think, when that kind of money is released, just like it’s released to the corporate-money rich who took it and stuck it in their goddamn pockets, here we’re talking about stimulating the American economy. So you can’t tell me the average, small or medium business, and large businesses, are not going to be trying to market something to all these black folks who have received $1.6 trillion in reparations [laughs]. That’s the way we need to stimulate the economy, with a reparations program.
When the Black Panther Party evolved, we made mention of the need for reparations in the founding documentation of the Party...
Yeah, it was in the "Ten Point Program," wasn’t it?
BS: Yeah, in the "Ten Point Program," I made reference to it. So I’m just saying, yeah, it has to come about, as part of the progressive move.
What are your thoughts on cannabis prohibition? Do you think legalization/regulation would help society?
BS: It would help it more than anything. I just seen this documentary on one of these cable channels where Woody Harrelson is the narrator, called Grass. I think that was a great program to show. The extremes they went to to bolster up political fear against marijuana. It should have been long ago legalized as far as I’m concerned. Of course, I don’t smoke the stuff...
Are their any films that gave the best representation of the Black Panther story?
BS: Mine, Public Enemy. It’s a documentary; it’s an hour and a half film, you can order it through my website. I helped produce it- my company is Reach Cinema Productions- and I’m the Associate Producer. It features me, Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph (who came out of the New York chapter of the Black Panther Party; he’s a big-time screenplay writer now), and Nile Rodgers. He’s a musician who wrote "We Are Family," and he wrote the complete music score to Eddie Murphy’s Coming To America movie years ago. Nile Rodgers was a Black Panther Party member out of the New York chapter of the Black Panther Party.
So, this film features a Then & Now kind of situation. You take a look back with Bobby Seale, Kathleen Cleaver (who is the wife of Eldridge Cleaver, and Kathleen herself was a member of the Black Panther Party, and she was on the Central Committee, the decision-making body of the Black Panther Party). It’s like a Then & Now, with four of us, and including my wife, Leslie, she’s in this documentary. We got a lot of old film footage, and we try to get away from, as much as possible, "talking heads," so I would take the film crew to the actual location where we stood off some police, and the actual location where I recited "Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer" for the first time, and so on.
Is the film version of Seize the Time finished yet?
BS: No. I’m still trying to see what I can do to get that produced. I’m working with some decent people so far, so we’ll see.
Was there also one of A Lonely Rage?
BS: No. What happens is a deal works with both A Lonely Rage and Seize the Time; they have to work together. A Lonely Rage is my other book, and that book is really out of print. I gotta put that book back in print, hopefully I’ll get it back in print.
Can people buy all your books through your website?
BS: Right now, all we can get is Seize the Time, and Public Enemy. Even Black Panther Party: Reconsidered, we’ve run out of the hardcover copies of that. So I gotta go to my site and change things. We’ll see what’s gonna happen with that book.
Did you ever end up paying for the drums you had in the Air Force, or were they taken away?
BS: They were taken away. They were taken away, and I was put in the stockade, and then kicked out of the United States Air Force. After three years, 11 months and 11 days [laughs]. I only enlisted for four years. I was kicked out of the United States Air Force, after being an honor student in both tech schools, I was the top-flight honor student. Then I was cross-trained for high-performance aircraft structural repair, and so on.
I look back on that history, and I just couldn’t deal with that racism inside the United States Air Force. When I was a young man, I didn’t have the politics I have now. You can walk up to me and call me a nigger, well, you’ll probably get a debate out of me. No cowering, nothing like that. As long as you’re not trying to attack my body and physically harm me, you’re more likely to get a lecture and a debate, you know what I mean [laughs]?
Back in the day a guy called me a black nigger, I didn’t know what to do. One time in the Air Force, I started beating the shit out of this guy, Hayes. But he had this thick parka, and all these padding of clothing on. It was wintertime, and we padded ourselves down. And so when he called me that, he was tricking me. And I ran and grabbed this long piece (four or five feet long) of metal extrusion, and I’m beating this guy, and he’s just bending over. The padded parka, and all the other clothing under the parka, is cushioning the blows. And all this guy wants is my Master Sergeant Lawson and Sergeant Perrin- who was getting ready to promote me to Buck Sergeant, because of my skill levels- to bust me, so that his friend could get the promotion. He didn’t want me to get the promotion, he wanted his friend to get the promotion.
So that guy Hayes called me a little black nigger [laughs]. I’m up their beating the shit out of him. Well, they came back there and broke it up. And Perrin- who’s a really good friend of mine, Italian guy, loved him- he says, "Bobby, you’re fuckin’ this stripe up, man! What in the hell is going wrong with you, man?!"
I said, "This guy called me a black nigger. I’ll fuck his ass up!" blah blah blah [laughs]. And so, next thing I know, I’m in the stockade for 30 days. Busted [laughs]. I am not a Corporal anymore, they took those two stripes away. And Hayes’ buddy gets the Buck Sergeant stripe.
That was the first time I went to the stockade. Second time I went for six months, and then they just kicked me out of the United States Air Force.
What’s the best way to make pork chops?
BS: Well, I mean there’s different kinds of ways. If you want pit smoke some pork chops...depending on how thick they are, and what you wanna do with them. Me, whatever rub I have, or if I have any dry, staple-style seasoning, I rub it into the pork chop.
Then I have a baste marinade, various kinds. My cookbook, my god, I must have 20 different flavored and juice-flavored and blend-flavored. I blend hickory-liquid smoke, or a mesquite-liquid smoke, with red wine vinegar, with a little Worcestershire, with a little lemon juice, etc. and so on.
And, you know, for turkeys and so on, I have a whole baste marinade, a cranberry juice hickory smoke marinade that I literally marinade a whole turkey under. But pork chops, I mean God, what can I do? I can take some apple juice, with a little bit of hickory smoke, little bit of Worcestershire, etc., maybe a little lemon juice if you wanted it. Then I take an alternative salt, because my revision is really cutting down on the salt, it’s going more for herbs, herbal seasoning and stuff. Some staple seasoning, but the staple seasoning is cut down.
But I could rub some pork chops, and quick-grill ‘em. Sear season, so to speak, on a grill, on a medium kind of fire. Pork chops are anywhere from a half-inch to an inch thick. Once you quick-grill them, you baste marinade with apple juice, that you constantly spray- pit spray- to keep the moisture in. Then after you really got ‘em smoked and stuff, place them in a chaffing pan, a half chaffing pan, and set them on top of the grill and put on some of that baste marinade. Just let them stay on the grill there for a minute, with a little bit of that apple hickory or apple mesquite red wine vinegar baste marinade. And you take those pork chops, and I love to eat good rice, I have rice recipes. I go overboard. I’m a rice eater more than a potato eater; my wife is a potato eater.
But anyway, good pork chops. If you want to, after you grill those pork chops, you can take a piece of aluminum foil and cover that chaffing pan with a little baste marinade, and let it sit on the pit there for 30-40 minutes. Let them sit inside, in a little baste marinade, and they will quietly do a pit-smoke smothered down in that pan. And they will be nice and tender and moist.
Cooking is creative.
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