Interview with Elaine Brown
QUESTION 5
LOUIS MASSIAH:

You had talked before how, about how Huey borrowed from different, ah, different people in putting together the Panther, ah, the Panther policies, and also some of the Panther style. Could you talk about that? What were some of the influences on Huey Newton and talk a little bit about Huey P. Newton.

ELAINE BROWN:

Well, the influences as I, as I, as I know them, um, were that, for one, our uniform of course was clearly right out of, ah, Che Guevara, and that whole, ah, guerrilla movement, um, in, um, in, ah, South America and in Cuba, what have you. Um, our, ah, our name came from a, an organization in, ah, in ah, Mississippi, a Lowndes County freedom organization, which was a voter rights organization, or our symbol, the panther, because Black people couldn't vote. And ah, when they, they would give, ah, literacy tests so that they began to say, OK, look for this symbol, the Black panther at the polling place, and you'll know who to vote for. So we used the Black panther symbol. And we used the, um, the, ah, borrowed a lot from the, um, Nation of Islam ten point program and platform for our ten point program and platform. Um, but what differentiated us was Huey's, ah, thrust toward the use of arms. Ah, in other words, the Black Panther Party's real, the difference between us and say everyone else in the United States, in terms of, ah, other than, you know, the Che Guevara, was that we really believed in that, that, that struggle would, would require armed violence, and armed force. And so we were prepared and we were armed to do that. And so that was all pieced together, um, but it wasn't pieced together, I mean, it can't be seen that way, it has to be seen as part of a process. It was a time and, and, and we used, these were symbolic things, these were not the substantive issues. The substantive issues came from, from the mind, in many cases, especially at the beginning of the party, ah, of Huey Newton. And um, when you ask me about Huey, of course, the first thing that comes to mind, to my mind, was that, ah, I always thought of Huey as a genius. I always thought of him as a brilliant theoretician who really understood, um, concepts, and the concepts that we had to, that we had to engage in, in order to win. And so um, in brief, I would say that Huey Newton was the guiding force behind the party because he was, ah, talking about arms, talking about socialist revolution, and putting that out there. And then, of course, doing certain acts, um, going to Sacramento, although Huey personally didn't go to Sacramento, um, defending Betty Shabazz or protecting Betty Shabazz, and this sort of thing. And getting the attention of everyone, ultimately, of course, ah, the, being the center of the Free Huey movement, ah, having been involved in that shootout with the police in Oakland in 1967. So I think that Huey became not only in form but in substance, um, the real spirit of the Black Panther Party, the drama, the dynamic, the energy that the Black Panther Party had that, that made it unique as far as I'm concerned.