Loved this book, and was not put off by it's being in the vernacular of the time as some reviewers were. It was written down from audio tapes made by Bobby Seale in the fall of 1968 and the fall and winter of 1969-1970, and if you pay attention you witness the personal and political growth of Mr. Seale over those years.
I was especially riveted by Bobby Seale's play by play of being gagged and bound with chains in an United States of America federal courtroom in the Chicago 8 grand jury investigation in 1969. God what youtube and Facebook could have done with that!
Not only is this an excellent record of the African-American experience in the 1950s-1970s, I think that the OccupyWallStreet movement will certainly recognize some of the points made by the Black Panther Party regarding the long and sad history of exploitation in America.
I would love to consume this book as an ebook narrated by Bobby Seale; I really feel this is how God intended it and would lend to the book greater cohesion and zeal. One of the remarkable facets of Seale's book is his capacity to sublimate personal ego and to admit gaps in knowledge. Bobby's book is a sergeant at arms story - a guy who wants to understand how all of this theory can actually have a practical impact and who rejects self-aggrandising stereotypes. I wonder what a movement would be like if its leadership consisted of far more Bobbys and far less Eldridges.
What I knew about the Black Panther Party before reading this could have fit onto a dry-cleaning ticket with room to spare, amounting pretty much to that one scene in Forrest Gump when Forrest goes to Washington, DC. I knew the names Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael and Eldridge Cleaver, but couldn’t have said much about who they were or what they did. And because the extent of my knowledge was limited to the stereotypes and caricatures offered up by popular culture, my impression of the Black Panthers was of a violent, radical political organization that met white-on-black racism with black-on-white racism while wearing berets. It’s not so surprising, then, that my culturally skewed impression was almost entirely wrong. Bobby Seale, the Party’s co-founder, offers in Seize the Time an oral history of the Party’s origins, which becomes a revisionary history of the Party’s distorted public perception, which is also a hagiography of Huey Newton, the Party’s other co-founder, which, at the same time, is an articulation of the Party’s principles. By trying to be so many things at once, the book often reads as unfocused, while it also often reads as the (near-verbatim) transcripts of audio recordings that it is. I found the narrative disorganization to be frustrating – Seale offers definitions for important terms four hundred pages too late, he provides context for events after describing the events themselves, he expounds on the Party’s political ideology at the very end instead of at the beginning – and the prose to be sophomoric. As an aesthetic object, this book is lousy. But then to judge this book solely on its aesthetic merits would to willfully ignore Seale’s plangent message: organize or die. It was this message that drove me to finish Seize the Time, because even though I think the book is terrible, I think it’s great. The reason we’re still reading and talking about the Black Panthers has less to do with the cool hats they wore, and more to do with their simple, but profoundly radical position, that black people were not required to remain obsequious and genuflect and show deference to the exponents of the system’s authority. At a time when conspiracy theories seemed reasonable, at a time when revolutionary change seemed possible, the Black Panthers recognized the “power structure” for what it was (and is): a culture of overlapping institutions of government and law-enforcement established to maintain the status quo. And since the status quo is invested in holding onto power, it’s inherently classist and racist and sexist. The Black Panthers were anathema to this power structure, and saw the police as their most immediate enemy since the police were the physical manifestation of the system’s power. As Seale describes it, blacks were coerced into obeying the whims of the pigs because the pigs had guns and didn’t hesitate to shoot them, so if blacks were to actually obtain their rights as citizens they too must carry guns and effectively become both their own power structure and enforcement all in one. Predictably, once the pigs saw black guys walking around the streets with shotguns and M-1 rifles in their hands, they freaked out. It’s this conflict that is the most important part of the book and of the Black Panther Party’s history, so important that I wish Seale was better equipped to express it. Calling cops “fascist pigs” to their faces wasn’t the problem, and openly carrying guns wasn’t the problem either. Those things got the Panthers a lot of attention and allowed the power structure to paint them as unhinged radicals. But the conflict between the Panthers and police represented something much larger: the confrontation of the people with established power. As Seale himself urges his readers to understand, the Panthers weren’t really combatting racism – it only looked that way – they were actually combatting the class oppression that make things like racism and poverty and crime prevalent. Even though the Panthers were suspicious of intellectuals and paper radicals and experimental art – because it “did nothing” – their Party’s ideology was deeply invested in leftist political theory and philosophy, which makes their ultimate failure that much more tragic. The story Seale tells ends in 1970 after a long description of a trial in Chicago where he was actually bound and gagged in court for demanding his right to representation, illustrating perfectly the Panthers’ blind spot as well as the significance of their principles. What Seale shows – in his retelling of the trial, in his description of his everyday experiences – is that alter subjects are inherently extra-legal subjects. The Black Panthers relied on the law to thwart the power structure they knew was corrupt and was perpetuated by the overt oppression of the populace. Yet once they entered (and re-entered (and re-re-entered)) the legal system after getting arrested for trumped-up charges, they found to be true what they knew all along, that the legal system worked to enforce the hegemony of the status quo, and so even though they followed the letter of the law they were still found guilty and imprisoned. Seize the Time is badly written, conveys the Party leadership in a suspiciously positive light, and contains a timely lesson. Be prepared to work for it.
this book is poorly written. bobby seale was trying to make huey p. newton into some kind of fantastic revolutionary hero, and the book gets silly at times. nevertheless, the history of the party is good, and the best sections deal with bobby's personal experiences of being harassed and imprisoned by the police "pigs." a feeling of claustrophobia and suffocation overtakes you when he describes being bound and gagged in the Chicago 8 courtroom.
while Armstrong said "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," the black panthers took this sentiment and build a revolution. if you are into the civil rights struggle, end of the vietnam war, or community organizing... this book is a must.
Alkupuoli on erittäin kiinnostavaa katutason kerrontaa siitä, miten ja miksi Mustien panttereiden puolue perustettiin ja minkälaista toiminta oli ja minkä takia. Puolueen perustajiin kuuluva Seale kertoo niistä mustan yhteisön oloista ja ongelmista, joihin marxisti-leninistinen radikaalivallankumouksellinen ryhmä nousi ratkaisuksi. Paljon ns. hyvää pohdintaa. Loppupuolella kerrataan vähän turhan tarkasti oikeudenkäyntiä, jonka seurauksena Seale tuomitaan vankilaan, ja kerronnan voima & vauhti vähän katoavat.
Kuitenkin kokonaisuutena valaiseva kirja Yhdysvaltojen rasismista ja siitä, miten sitä on lähdetty haastamaan.
Reading the first third to half of this book, I was tempted to stop reading it. This part of the book had discussion after discussion on arming the Black Panther Party and what guns people had or needed.
I kept reading, however, and was glad I did. Some interesting things I learned from reading this book: Huey Newton loved to listen to Bob Dylan while preparing the Panther newsletter. Bobby Seale was very appreciative of his lawyer, Charles Garry. In fact, much of the drama surrounding his trial in Chicago had to do with Charles Garry not being available to defend Seale due to a surgery. Another interesting point in the book was Seale's discussion of the use of the word mother****er. Seale states that it is a reference to slavemaster's raping the slaves...makes sense to me. Another interesting part of the book was the Black Panther Party's rejection of black racists and cultural nationalists.
One thing that really affected me strongly in this book was Bobby Seale's graphic description of the judge ordering him to be bound and gagged in the Chicago trial. The action was not only horrific, it was counterproductive: the trial had to go into numerous recesses because of the reaction by Bobby Seale to the actions of the judge. I felt it was cruel and definitely unusual. Why didn't the judge just have him removed from the courtroom instead of creating such a horrific spectacle which delayed the trial?
I loved Bobby Seale's description of the Panther programs: free breakfast for students, free medicine and health care for the community, afterschool programs for children, free clothing for children in some locations, and voter registration drives. Bobby Seale pointed out one of the important reasons for enhanced voter registration that I had never thought about: jury pools are drawn from voter registration lists. How can a community have a jury of their peers if they are not registered to vote?
I remember this as an electrifying read at the time as a high school student. I remember nothing about what was written about Huey Newton here, only the story of Bobby Seale, which is a cultural document in and of itself. Bobby Seale could be heard on bay area radio often in the late sixties and he came across very well and for that I think was so often the media face of the Panthers. His inclusion in the Chicago 8 was weird-he simply didn't belong there, even considering how contrived and fantastical the case against these activists was and so his being bound and gagged by judge Julius Hoffman in that courtroom in Chicago made the whole thing beyond surreal.
This is hands down the best history on the creation and evolution of the Black Panther Party that has been written. Anyone interested in a straight-forward history of the movement, this is the book to read.
Bobby tells us who is righteous and who is phony, who is jive and punk, how the "fascist, avaricious, demagogic ruling class and their low-life, sadistic pigs" trap Americans into cycles of oppression, and what the Black Panther Party did about it. This hot first-person narrative, written in the vernacular of the time, lays down the truth.
Bobby describes Huey P. Newton's understanding of the black community in America as a colony seeking liberation from imperialist forces. By linking the struggle of black Americans to anticolonial struggles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Huey's political ideology (inspired from the Revolutionary Action Movement who were inspired, in turn, by the black anti-colonialism of W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Alphaeus Hunton), unifies "the brothers on the block" into a global struggle against the American empire. What sets Huey and Bobby apart from the theory-based revolutionaries who initially inspired them is that Huey and Bobby actually get on the street with guns and DO something about it.
"We look around the world today, and we look around at home right now, and we see that oppression exists. We know that the workers are exploited, and that most of the people in this country are exploited, in one way or another. We know that as a people, we must seize our time." -Bobby Seale March 5, 1970
Finished this book Friday. Bobby Seale certainly seized the time to fight for his Constitutional rights, not just for him but for his community. The Black Panther Party was the first group to really fight for modern day gun rights, particularly for African Americans in the era of Civil Rights. They fought for having community control over their lives and over the government, things Conservatives pretend to want but seem to forget when they get in office. The Black Panther Party, despite being fans of Marxism who wrongly attributed Capitalism to their suffering, must be admired for what they did, and for what they suffered from the government repression. Seize the Time reveals how tyrannical government and fake news will punish and go after you for doing what is right and calling out those in charge, the police and the government and the media, for their failure to stand up for the interests of the people rather than their own. Bobby Seale is an American fighter, and I admire his courage. We must Seize the Time and fight for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and our human dignity.
Alkupuoli Mustien panttereiden perustamisesta ja varhaisesta puoluetyöstä oli erittäin terävää tavaraa. Loppupuolen yksityiskohtainen jaarittelu Sealen oikeudenkäynnistä maistui puolustuspuheelta. Ajoittain toisti itseään. Joitain asioita ei taas vaivauduttu selittämään (mutta miksi ne vaivauduttiin sitten edes mainitsemaan?).
Rasismi ja etniset erot tarjoavat vallanpitäjille mahdollisuuden riistää tämän maan työläisiä, sillä se on se nimenomainen keino, jolla he pitävät valtaansa yllä. Vallanpitäjien päämääränä on hajottaa ja hallita kansaa. Korostettakoon siis vielä kerran - me katsomme että meidän taistelumme on luokkataistelua, ei rotutaistelua.
I read this book as a 14 or 15 year old. I felt it taught me a lot about the basics of organizing & the importance of community outreach. It also taught me a painful (yet powerful) chunk of history we’re not taught in school. I remember it breaking down what I thought were simple concepts at the time, making me realize there was much more to them. Something about this book had me very engaged. This is just going off my memory, I do want to reread it. & I do recommend reading some books by the women in the BPP (ie. Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, etc.) to get a full understanding.
Seize the Time is a book that gets to know how Black Panthers started and what their ideologies are, and how the government did everything in their power to stop them. The media was always portraying a false picture of what was really going to shine a negative image towards the black panthers and communities. Black panthers were adamant about being peaceful and law abiding citizens-just trying to defend themselves and their families against police terrorizing and brutalizing their communities. They fought for land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace!!!
I became really interested in Bobby Seales story after watching the Trial of the Chicago 7, so I picked up his book from the library. While it took a second for me to get used to the “writing” which is a transcript of recordings during his time in jail, I have to rate this 5/5 due to how much I learned from this book. The 10 part platform is still, sadly, so relevant today. To learn about the BPP from the exact opposite view of how I was taught in school was eye opening and necessary.
I’ve been extremely interested in the Black Panther Party since I graduated from high school in 2013, but this book written by Bobby Seale has led me to fall in love all over again with the Black Panther Party. EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!
Seale paints a pretty compelling picture. Sure, he may be a zealot but in that day and age (maybe still in the US) you pretty much had to be to get anywhere at all. Dictated from audiotapes the book reads like he's in the room.