|May 1, 1998 - Update 5/15/98
As our Information Minister in the early years of the Black Panther Party [BPP], Eldridge was a one-of-a-kind charismatic political revolutionary, a secular step beyond Malcolm X. Eldridge understood the broad "Power To The People!" politics of our BPP-sixties human liberation protest movement struggle. Party members called him "Papa" or "The Rage!" He forged our early BPP coalitions with our white left radical firends. Fresh out of prison in late 1966, he became a literary giant with his book Soul On Ice by 1968. With it he put his heart, mind and soul into the movement.
When Eldridge Cleaver returned to American in the early 80's from exile, I read an article in which he said the Black Panther Party should have never existed. I refused to speak with him for denouncing the Party. But that was the establishment media more than Eldridge. His former wife Kathleen called me one day and said Eldridge wanted to go on the lecture circuit with me and said he would not denounce our history. He needed the money, and I remembered in our BPP days when he had money after the sale of his best seller, Soul On Ice, he would always just hand money to me to organize things.
We became very close friends over the
last six years lecturing together. A lot of people who do not know Eldridge
say negative things about him in a myopic way about him being
a born again Christian and registered Republican, but I knew him beyond
that, they didn't. Still a registered Republican, he denounced the Contract
With America, slamming the book on the floor, kicked it several times
as he spoke and threw it across the stage. Blew my mind. Sent the crowd
wild. Like in the early years he would do and say wild things that would
make the movement people and the media jump up to note, like his call
for "P---y Power!" ...and like the time he challenged Ronald Reagan
to a duel in the streets. "Ronnie baby, you can choose the weapons.
A gun. A knife or a marsh mellow. I'll beat'em to death with a marsh
mellow." He knew how to grab the imagination of the people! And that's
just one of many reasons I truly respected him.
All Power To The People!