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review 2017-02-18 00:00
Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party - Joshua Bloom,Waldo E. Martin Jr.,Ron Butler Coming from the standpoint of knowing basically zero about any of this, I thought this book was a really good place to start. It laid out the social and political background, how the movement formed and why, the main players and their backgrounds and what happened from there.

It was a little bit repetitive, and the timeline zigzagged a bit, but mostly it read very well.

I would like to read some individual stories by Panthers, as this book was meant to be more academic, and I feel like there's a lot of voice and emotion left out.
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quote 2016-06-24 12:41
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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review 2016-05-31 08:30
"We believe that Black People will not be free until we are able to determine our own destiny."
Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party - Joshua Bloom,Waldo E. Martin Jr.

Black Against Empire


by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E Martin, Jr.


I don't say this type of thing much, but here goes: I believe that if you live in the US, this is one of those books you should read.

"The issues are not complex. The objective is seizure of power. Until we seize power, not visible power where a black man looks like he's running things--but real, actual power; everything else is bullshit [...] Peace and order are bullshit; they are meaningless without justice."
--Leroy Goodwin

I believe we have entered another Civil Rights era, and I have a perhaps naive hope that this one will finally complete the mission that was left incomplete during the time of MLK and Malcom X and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense: full, meaningful equality. Equality that is reflected in housing, in the police force, in education, in integration of society, in self-determination for all.

The Black Panthers believed that such a world could only come through true revolution.

I believe that we must share a common context for what hashappened before we can shape what should happen. We must understand the past in order to shape the future.

And here's the problem: mainstream America still has a woefully inaccurate view of the BPP, even though at this point, it's widely acknowledged that the Black Panther Party was the target of an insidious, targeted, widespread, often illegal onslaught by the U.S. government, including a concerted policy of propaganda and isolation and infiltration and misinformation. And yet despite continuing revelations about the extent of COINTELPRO-BLACK-HATE, Operation CHAOS, and all the rest, the Black Panther Party remains an uncomfortable and often misunderstood political movement. Independent of whether you agree with the stances taken by the BPP in its many iterations, it's crucial to understand their contexts.

It's easy to laud a nonviolent movement, at least once the movement is over. It's safe. Putting nonviolent figures on a pedestal is comfortable. It's probably why my childhood education repeatedly ignored all other aspects of the Civil Rights movement to focus on MLK. Maybe that's why we remember, say, Harriet Tubman as a kindly figure of the Underground Railroad rather than an active supporter of John Brown's raid and a vocal supporter of war against the South. It's even harder to go back and look at revolutions where violence was a relevant factor, particularly when those revolutions were lost. But this battle will be fought again and again until it is won, and I believe that a crucial aspect is for all Americans to try to understand the history and context of the unrest of today.

Black Against Empire is a fact-driven, unemotional examination of the social history and context of the Black Panther Party. Although a little dry at times, the sense of impartiality is one of the most impressive aspects of the book. It's a massive tome because the BPP has a long and fascinating history.

Often, as the rhetoric on each side mounts, it's difficult to read. But it illuminates on aspect that I, at least, was missing before reading this book: the BPP saw itself as a revolutionary force representing a disenfranchised nation occupied by a hostile invading force. The BPP's Ten Point Program even paraphrased the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, and that all men are created equal that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [...] But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, and their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards of their future security.

This aspect alone goes far in explaining the rationale behind armed defense. As George Mason Murray put it in 1968:

The Black Panther Party recognizes the critical position of black people in the United States. We recognize that we are a colony within the imperialist domains of North America and that it is the historic duty of black people in the United States to bring about the complete, absolute and unconditional end of racism and neocolonialism by smashing, shattering, and destroying the imperialist domains of North America.

Wondering if this book is relevant? As the news is awash with warnings of another "Bloody Summer" in Chicago and elsewhere, consider Bobby Seale's words in 1967:

“If one would look closely, and check this three year history, he will find that in damn near every rebellion a racist cop was involved in the starting of that rebellion [...] by inflicting brutality or murdering some black person within the confines of one of our black communities. Black people will defend themselves at all costs. They will learn the correct tactics to use in dealing with the racist cops […] The racist military police force occupies our community just like the foreign American troops in Vietnam. But to inform you dog racists controlling this rotten government and for you to let your pig cops know you ain’t just causing a ‘long hot summer,’ you’re causing a Black Revolution."

TL;DR: if you live in the US, and maybe even if you don't, this is a book worth reading.

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review 2015-12-30 20:11
Freedom on My Mind, Volume 1: A History of African Americans, with Documents - Deborah Gray White,Waldo E. Martin Jr.,Mia Bay

Freedom on my Mind (Part 1) is the first textbook I've ever read almost entirely cover to cover. African American History is something that's been skimmed over in many of our history classes, and for the first time in a long time I felt a new world of history open up to me. Freedom touches on every aspect of the early African American experience, much of which was too horrifying to even imagine. Though it's written in textbook format, it doesn't read quite so dry- the authors are really good at summing up the information you need while not letting the language get boring. They also don't attempt to skirt around the more difficult subjects, like the treatment endured on the Middle Passage, the rape of countless African American women, and the ugly racial stereotypes which continued to be perpetuated throughout the early 20th century. 
The best thing about this textbook are the documents that are included with each chapter. By connecting the historical figures and events they're writing about to physical evidence of the laws and customs of the time, the glossy film we as a nation have put over slavery and the institution of racism is peeled back. Although no one in America denies that slavery existed or is unaware of how terrible it was, by and large we sort of pretend that the horrors of slavery were isolated. Films like Gone With the Wind are evidence of Americans' denial of the true face of the Antebellum era.
The textbook ends just after the Civil War, when black men were struggling to exercise their new right to vote and a half-assed effort toward reconstructing the South had begun. As someone who's always had an interest in The Underground Railroad (it was the first non-fiction thing I read about as a kid) and the early history of the United States, a lot of what we went over in class and in the textbook I already knew, or at least had a base understanding. However, I learned a lot of new things as well and got into a lot more detail about things I was already aware of.
Something that was completely new to me was that not all abolitionists were fighting for true equality between the races. There was "radical" abolitionism and "conservative" abolitionism- radicals believed in true equality, and they were few and far between, even in the North. Many more Northern whites were conservative abolitionists, who were appalled by slavery but still saw blacks as inferior people who should be sent "back" (by the mid-late 1800s most of the slaves were born in America, so they were more American than African) to Africa or who needed guidance from whites. They believed in a slow movement away from slavery and compensation for the slave owners. Radicals were people who believed blacks, whites, women, and men should all be treated with equal respect, that slaves should be freed immediately and that they should be compensated for their suffering, and the former slave owners should get nothing or be punished. While it was disheartening to learn that even some of the abolitionists were racists, learning about how free-thinking the radicals were was very inspiring. 

Honestly, I'd recommend this to anyone who is interested in American history, or history in general. It's kind of crazy that I'm recommending a school textbook right now- that should speak to its' awesomeness! It's not even too pricey because it's not from one of those corrupt big textbook companies. I think I got it new for about $40, and it was totally worth it. 


Never stop learning! 


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text 2015-09-12 20:55
School Books
First Fieldwork: The Misadventures of an Anthropologist - Barbara Gallatin Anderson
In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio (Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences) - Philippe Bourgois
The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol 1: The Middle Ages through the Restoration & the Eighteenth Century - Stephen Greenblatt,M.H. Abrams,Stephen Greenblatt,M.H. Abrams
Freedom on My Mind, Volume 1: A History of African Americans, with Documents - Deborah Gray White,Waldo E. Martin Jr.,Mia Bay

Picked up my books for Cultural Anthropology at the school bookstore yesterday. I usually try to avoid buying from the school- they rob me enough as it is, and new books are usually half the price online. But I was desperate- I needed these for today, and it was only about a $10 difference, so eh. Coulda been worse. 

Started First Fieldwork today (different cover), so far it's semi-interesting. I'll be starting In Search of Respect this evening after work- I'm looking forward to that one a lot.
I love old books, but new books just feel and smell amazing. I just want to carry around In Search of Respect all day because it feels so good in my hands. 

Coolest news- they had my English book at the public library! This is one I may want for my collection, but since I'm short on money as always I'm going to keep this checked out for as long as I can. Hopefully I can get the full 9 weeks out of it!

Still have to order my book for my African Americans in History class, which I suppose I'll do right now. 

I also found these beautiful fancy post-its at work for a couple bucks- so looking forward to using them to decorate my planner this week! Need some fall-colored washi desperately, but that'll have to wait a while. 

It's been a very hectic few days getting used to going to school while working, but through caffeine all is possible. 



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