Interview with Elaine Brown

How did you see the Panthers transforming men and women who joined the party and you were talking before how it gave them a sense of strength to stand up to the faces, those forces of oppression.


Well, I think that the Black Panther Party appealed ah, primarily to ah, brothers on the street because we, we wanted to. Um, the party did not reach out and say well, we want to have men and women. The party reached out mostly to men, ah, to young, Black, urban um, men who were on the streets who knew that there were no options somewhere in the lives, who were gang members because that was all you could be in order to find some sense of dignity of your, about yourself ah, from, you know, as I mentioned to you, the Slausons, which Bunchy Carter was a part of, to the Peace Town Nation in Chicago, to, you know, Norris Street and, and Avenue in, in, in North Philadelphia. We reached out to these people because we had something for them to do with the rest of their lives. So that was, that they were, in most, in most cases they were used to violence, they were used to, ah, struggle, ah, they were used to just fighting just to keep alive. And so we were, we, we offered them the opportunity to make their lives meaningful. You know, we, ah, Huey used to always quote Mao in saying, you know, to die for the people is heavier than Mao-Tai[SIC], meaning to, to die for, for nothing is lighter than a feather. So we used to always say that if you're going to die on the streets, to die for nothing, ah, but to die for the people is something heavy. And so, something heavy in the sense of meaningful, weighty. And, and a lot of brothers did make their commitment with that conscious understanding that coming away from the gang was, was, was something that they were ultimately building something for, ah, for themselves and for their, their community, and they, they just did. I knew people, for example, ah, little Tommy Lewis in L.A., who was just, was killed by the police, 17 years old. And he couldn't read when he came into the party. But he wanted to be in the party so bad, he learned to memorize, and he would say he could read stuff, even though he couldn't. So he, we had an impact on that element, on that so-called lumpen proletariat, on that totally alienated element in the Black community, the young Black male.