Interview with Elaine Brown

Could you talk a little bit about Malcolm X and his influence on your feelings and your thoughts and also on, on the party, how, how Malcolm influenced the party?


Well, ah, as for me, um, I, I didn't think about Malcolm X when Malcolm X was, ah, was in his prime, so to speak. Because, um, I, like a lot of other Black people, but I can speak for myself, I was totally unconscious or uncaring about what happened in any meaningful way in terms of Black people. I just wanted to get out of the ghetto that I lived in, which was North Philadelphia. And um, Malcolm didn't have anything to do with that. I saw myself as getting out because I would become a part of, ah, a White, ah, you know, thing, or something like this, I would be different, a different kind of negro, you know. So, I didn't hear Malcolm when Malcolm was, was, ah, alive. Malcolm was assassinated in 1965, and ah, up until that point I remember hearing him. I thought he had more to say than the civil rights people in that sense, because I knew that he was not saying let's be non-violent. Um, but I didn't see him as significant one way or the other to my life at that time. Ah, as for the party itself, however, we borrowed almost everything we had in terms of our style and our substance from Malcolm. Our style at least, um, the, the idea for example of saying that, um, by any means necessary. That was Malcolm's phrase, and we used that, that Machiavellian reference, and said, yes, we would accomplish the freedom of Black people, we would accomplish the revolution by any means necessary. Of course, the implication was by violence, including by violence if necessary. And ah, there was a presumption always that it was. The other thing that Malcolm did is that he was an influence on the urban Black. I mean, Martin Luther King basically was a Southern Black. And you had brothers and sisters especially, but brothers, I mean, brothers more particularly, right on the streets of, ah, Harlem and North Philly and Detroit and, you know, um, L.A., and Oakland and what have you, who, Malcolm--ah, Martin Luther King did not reach, ah, but Malcolm did. The voice of Malcolm reached them and in many ways reached them through our, our effort. Because that was the, those were the people that we appealed to, the Northern urban Black, from the streets, and that was Malcolm's constituency too. So in that sense, we had a similar constituency. And then thirdly, we did a lot of other things that Malcolm would--Malcolm had certain tenets and principles that he believed in. Um, beyond just protection of women, and what have you. But there were things like, we never spoke independently. When we were in the Black Panther party, if there were ten of us, only one spoke, and only one voice was heard, so we couldn't be divided, because Malcolm was very clear about how the White man would try to divide our, our, our ranks. And so we were very clear about not being divided. And that was a very important part of the Black Panther party. And so I think he, his vision and his spirit were, were pervasive in, in our activities daily, on a day-to-day basis.