Interview with Elaine Brown

the growth of the Chicago Panthers.


Fred was, um, of course, the most, probably one of the most dynamic human beings I had ever met. I met him first in Chicago, ah, when, ah, David Hilliard sort of took me there directly from the gravesite of another Panther. We were at a funeral, we got on a flight to Chicago, right, met Fred. And the first thing you remember about Fred is that Fred really--he was down in the trenches with everybody. And his house, that house in the West Side was, it was a horrible place to live. But he didn't live above, or elevate himself above, he lived like the rest of the comrades in the party, which was pretty poorly except for, by that time, this unique thing, which was that big bed that he and Deborah--and everybody laughed about the big bed that they had. And the other thing about Fred was that in the, during the day we got up with him in the morning, we had come in around two in the morning, he was up all night, which was apparently typical, and around six in the morning, we, we go out, we drive along to some schoolyard or something, and there were like 200, 300 people waiting there for Fred to show up. And the phenomenal part was that, I mean, these are all people from the streets, I mean, who are not going to get up and go to work, or anything else, and never had no discipline, and never would, but there they were. And it was six--six-thirty in the morning, freezing Chicago weather. And Fred would have them out there doing push ups and jumping jacks, and getting themselves energized for the, the, ah, the day's work. Which included making the breakfast, which included selling papers, which included working in the medical clinic, which included a bunch of stuff. It was a very day to day kind of a thing, the Black Panther party. And you have Fred out there rallying them. And he'd say, he'd say, he'd say, "All right, all right, all right, power to the people." Everybody'd say, "Power to the people." He'd say, he'd say, "Now, I, I'm not going to die on no airplane." Everybody'd say "No." "I'm not going to die slipping on no ice." They'd say "No." He'd say, "I'm going to die for the people, because I'm going to live for the people." They'd say, "Right on." He'd say, "I'm going to live for the people because I love the people." They'd say, "Right on." He'd say, "I love the people, why?" They say, "Because we're high on the people, because we're high on the people." And that was Fred Hampton, when you saw this, this was 21 years old, it was unbelievable. You could not not be moved by Fred Hampton. It was, he was, ah, like Martin Luther King, you just had to see Fred Hampton mobilize people who wouldn't have moved for anything else that I could imagine on the planet, and much less to get up and cook breakfast, some big old strong guy out there doing push ups, talking about I'm going to die for the people. And that was Fred Hampton, that was the spirit that I saw in him, only two months before he was assassinated.