On a whirlwind tour of local media stations, Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale firmly clashed with some local black activists on the role of armed resistance in current affairs.
Houston, home of an active New Black Panther chapter, hosted Seale this weekend for the revolutionary anti-police brutality organization's alumni reunion. Although the original Black Panther Party for Self Defense disbanded in 1982, a number of successor organizations around the country have adopted its iconic logo and its key practice of citizen armed resistance.
Houston's New Black Panther Party, led by high-profile activist Quanell X, is one, though Seale gave the organization a "two thumbs down" for hijacking the Black Panther name to incite violence against non-black people.
"Straight up, it's a bunch of racist rhetoric that's hijacked our name. What they do and what they say is totally antithetical to what the organizers of the Black Panther Party were about," Seale said, citing the leader of the national New Black Panther Party's endorsement of Al Qaeda. "I don't trust them. I can't care for them."
Quanell X has also stirred controversy throughout his career working as what the Houston Chronicle calls "an activist for hire," and for statements he made in the past justifying the mugging of white people in River Oaks. Quanell X has since apologized for that and for some anti-Semitic remarks he made as a younger, angrier activist.
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Though Seale touched on the specific conditions in the 1960s that called for the formation of a paramilitary organization to follow and watch the police, he said there's no place for that today, even in Ferguson. Young protesters these days have camera phones, he said -- to advance change, black Americans need to take over political seats.
Beside the New Black Panther Party, Houston is also home to a chapter of the National Black United Front, led by Kofi Taharka. Taharka, who guided Seale through his many engagements this weekend, was recently honored by the City of Houston for his work to save the historic Southmore Station Post Office from closure earlier this year.
Regarding the difference of opinions among the Black Panther Party's original founders and local black organizations, Taharka said, "Absolutely, there is always a place for any human being, African-Americans in particular, to have a place for self-defense against external forces." Still, he deferred to Seale's right to his own opinion, saying any disagreement he would have with the veteran activist is something they would work out between themselves.
"I try to create unity among different groups," Taharka said. "We work with the original Black Panthers, the New Black Panthers, any group that is doing things that are aggressive. But I find [the New Black Panthers] do good work, particularly around the issue of police brutality in the city of Houston."