Subversive Book Club: Black Panthers Speak

Title: Black Panthers Speak
Author(s): Phillip S. Foner. Includes writings by all your favorite Panthers: Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, and Stokely Carmichael, amongst others.
Year: 1995
Pages: 328
Good Guys: Black Panthers and some of their vanilla comrades who fought beside them in the black struggle
Bad Guys: Oppressive, White AmeriKKKA: Police, businesses, the entire U.S. Government (particularly the most rotten pigs, the FBI), and average, apathetic, ignorant citizens
My Rating: A-

Why Subversive?:
I suppose it is “strange” for a white, suburban kid to walk around, clutching a book of militant black politics demonizing the wahhitte man and all his evils. But, then again I am a “strange” guy. So, why did I read this gem of incendiary material? Well, two main reasons: 1) I’m chiefly a propagandist, if anything. Without a doubt the Panthers are accountable for some truly outstanding propaganda. They are completely biased, unabashedly, may I add and write for their side/interests. The point of their works is not to offer you a fair look at how our society works or how certain events went down. Ohh no, they share their perspective of what it is like to be a free-thinking black revolutinary in an extremely racist and violent country that does not value them as human beings. If one were to read “objective” newspapers of the day they would not have the same reaction. The media was never fair to the Panthers, because they served and still serve the government. So, the Panthers fought the mainstream propaganda with their own propaganda and successfully did so. Crucial events such as the Chicago Conspiracy trial, Huey P. Newton’s manslaughter charge, the brutal murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark at the hands of Chicago Police with connection to the FBI are discussed extensively. 2) This book has helped me better understand how fucked up our nation was and still is and how ignorant, we white Americans are. Of course, by reading this or anything else, it does not immediately make me an expert on race relations and I certainly can not say I understand what it was or still is like to be a minority in the US of A. But, it does offer me an awareness of the American Nightmare for blacks, minorities, revolutionaries, and especially black revolutionaries (longer sentences than white revolutionaries). If the Weathermen were black they would all have been imprisoned. For those that doubt the sinister nature of our government, please look through the lens of the black experience in America. If you are privileged and white, then you will not be able to relate to it, but you will have a better understanding of how our vicious, racist system works.
I’m not saying I agree with all the Panthers’ tactics, but this subversive book at least demonstrates how positive and successful the Panthers were in their individual communities. They were a national organization and in each of their many chapters, they had schools, free breakfast for children programs, free medical clinics, and drug rehabilitation for poverty-stricken blacks. Unfortunately, history textbooks and other media outlets place too much emphasis on the violent conflicts and militancy of the Party and not as much focus on their positive, survival programs. Don’t get me wrong, the militancy was an important factor, after all their name was the “Black Panther Party for Self-Defense” and these were clearly violent times with extreme Police Brutality. In the following video, Co-founder, Bobby Seale details the Party’s Ten Point Program/Platform:

If you like this subversive book and/or want to learn more about the Black Panthers, the Black Struggle, or racist white scumfucks, then I recommend the following:

Soul On Ice
By: Eldridge Cleaver
Seize the Time By: Bobby Seale
The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Healy
Malcolm X Speaks
Live From Death Row By: Mumia Abu-Jamal

Seen above are Co-Founders, Bobby Seale, Chairman (left) and Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense (right). Very badass.


Book Club Review: Catcher

Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Year: 1951
Pages: 214

Review:”If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” Arguably the greatest opening line to any novel. Well, Holden, if you do want to know the truth, we DO want to hear about it! In fact, for nearly 60 years our grandparents, parents, older siblings, and us have adored it. Why? What makes this novel so special? Well, Salinger masterfully captures an adolescent’s concern, fears, desires and instead of coming off as an adult attempting to represent this mentality of a teenager, he literally writes in the damn lingo of a buzzcock. Goddamit! As far as I’m concerned Salinger ain’t telling the story, it’s Holden who’s’ running the show. It’s his book entirely. Holden has become the Pied Piper for a whole slew of lonesome cowboys: Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Charlie, and that cute radical nerd fellow from Kids Like You & Me. In short, he’s a middle finger to the establishment or a haphazard, misanthropic messiah, trying to save everyone only if he can save himself… and all.

Why Subversive?: Catcher has the unfortunate privilege (how’s that for an oxymoron?!) of already being subversive before you even read one word. It’s subversive simply for it’s reputation of consistently being a victim of Banned Books Lists and Censorship Nazis. Apparently heavy drinking and cussing some naughty words is worse than trying to commit suicide, murder your father, and fuck your mother as we witness with Shakespeare. Also, since some weirdos decide to assassinate (or attempt) public figures (John Lennon and Ronald Reagan) after or while reading the book, doesn’t mean shit! Look at the millions that didn’t grab their guns! Why focus on the select few? Not that Reagan would have been a great loss, but Hinckley’s motives were hardly in the vein of Leon Czolgosz: impressing Jodie Foster. Really?! haha. And you can calm down I’m not advocating political assassination, I just think Leon had much better, humane reasons. Anyway, I’ve digressed into this tornado of off topic subjects. Simply, Catcher challenges the reader to question authority and reject social norms.

Questions to Ponder (or leave a comment to!): What will become of Holden Caulfield? or What became of him?
What ever happened to Jane Gallagher? Is she in any way related to the awful comedian of the same name?
Why was Holden placed in a mental institution? How did this ALL transpire?
Any others?

Grade: A+ My all time favorite!


The Oprah Book Club Minus Oprah!

This is a new set of weekly posts inspired by some facebook chat with our very own Ben “The BBT” Tan. Every week we’ll discuss one subversive book, from the obvious to the obscure, doesn’t matter. Don’t panic there will be dick jokes!!! and Hicks jokes and Chomsky and all sorts of incendiary material just waiting to explode!!! This week we will begin with a book I have already reviewed from nearly two years ago on the Etudiant. Next week, it will be Catcher in the Rye or A People’s History, I haven’t decided yet. Enjoy!

Musicians, Read this Book!

: Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991
Author: Michael Azerrad
Year: 2001
Pages: 522

Review: OBCBYL is a study of 13 independent, underground rock bands that stampeded the music industry during the Reagan Conservative decade we call the 80’s. These are the bands that grew right under the nose of mainstream America; these self- made musicians took the musical influence of their punk predecessors and said “Fuck It! I’m not playing New Wave, Who cares if we never make any money or appear on MTV, let’s just Jam!” And so they hopped in the van with their companions and toured the nation non stop, founded their own independent labels, and began issuing fanzines. This was music run by kids (teens- early twenties), played by kids, and for kids; existing entirely outside the music industry. DIY (Do It Yourself) at its finest!
First off, this book details some of the greatest artists in the history of music. Despite the fact that few of these bands broke into the mainstream, their influence is immense. Without Sonic Youth there’s no Nirvana, without Black Flag there’s no hardcore, and so on. Okay, here’s the bands:

Black Flag
Mission of Burma
Minor Threat
Husker DU
The Replacements
Sonic Youth
Butthole Surfers
Big Black
Dinosaur Jr
Beat Happening

Of these bands, Sonic Youth is definitely my favorite, with Fugazi being a close second. If I were you I would go out and buy a SY album immediately! I highly recommend Goo (1990). If you don’t feel like spending dough, then download their shit, they have a huge, plethora of works. For those of you Étudiant Radio listeners, which should be all of you! you will hear at some point or another all of these artists, in fact Glen and I already played Fugazi and Beat Happening.

: If you plan to read this book (Do It Now, it’s at Newbury Comics, Barnes and Noble, hell you can order it online, you won’t even have to get off your ass!) please do not read this criticism section and rather go into the novel with an open mind, you will discover an insightful analysis of underground culture and possibly the greatest chronicle of music in history.

Though this book is amazing, it is not 100% free of foibles. My main criticism is its lack of numerous, other, troubadours from that era, chief amongst these artists are: The Pixies, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Daniel Johnston, Descendants, Melvins, Meat Puppets, Bad Religion, Social Distortion, and who could forget The Smiths? Now of course the biggest flaw in my complaint is the fact that if Azerrad had included all these artists it would have been over a thousand pages (I would read em’!) and also it’s most likely he tried to contact these artists, but they wanted nothing to do with the novel. Who Knows? Maybe we’ll see a Volume 2, hopefully! Another criticism is the author’s gratuitous use of the word “indie.” I showed one chapter to Glen and he pointed this out, without even my mention of it. A final criticism is the way the author leaves out certain info or uses his opinion as if it is fact to build a story, for example in the Mudhoney chapter, he makes it sound like “Touch Me I’m Sick” was the only great song the band recorded… my favorite album of theirs is My Brother The Cow (1995) , where the song does not appear, and in fact there is no mention of this album or any other album by them on Reprise (major label) records. Sorry Azerrad.
My Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 stars. A must for those who think punk stopped in 1978 and then resurfaced with Nirvana in 1991.

Here are some (but certainly not all) other works I recommend you check out if you like this novel:

American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush
Get In The Van by Henry Rollins
American Hardcore
(film, 2006)
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen (film, 2005)

P.S. that was not a knock at Nirvana above.

Comment it up and let’s start the discussion now!