Black Panthers Arrested For Reading Poetry

In Bobby Seale’s 1968 book Seize The Time he relates how in 1966 whilst at Merritt College he and fellow Black Panther Huey P Newton were arrested because Bobby Seale had read poems. This is prior to the formation of the Black Panther Party.

… Huey and I and Weasel, one of the brothers on the campus, were all sitting in the car one night. We decided we wanted to buy some records by T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Howlin’ Wolf, those downhome brothers. I suggested we go up the Cal campus because up around there they have more LP’s of T-Bone Walker, Howlin’ Wolf and all the brothers, than they have in the regular black record shop.
We started walking down the street on Telegraph toward the Forum, when the brothers asked me to recite one of them poems I always liked. One of them was named, “Burn, Baby, Burn.” The other was “Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer.” I was walking down the street reciting “Burn, Baby, Burn,” all the way down till we got to the next block, and then Huey and Weasel asked me to recite that other poem, “Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer.”
So I got to reciting that poem. I said two or three words when we got in front of the Forum, across the street, one of the brothers, Weasel, got over and picked a chair up. (It’s kind of a sidewalk restaurant.) He said, “Here, Bobby, stand on this”. So we set the chair up by the curb there, and I got on the chair and hollered, “Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer.” When I said that, I went on to recite the rest of the poem. Then someone said, “Do it again. Run it down again, man.” So I got to the part of the poem where it said, “You school my naïve heart to sing red-white-and-blue-stars-and=stripes-songs.” Some uniformed pig cop walked up. He stood around ten or twelve feet away. I said, “You school my naïve heart to sing red-white-and-blue-stars-and=stripes-songs and to pledge eternal allegiance to all things blue, true, blue-eyed blond, blond-haired, white chalk white skin with U.S.A. tattooed all over.”
Man, when I said that, this cop walks up and says, “You’re under arrest.” I got down off the chair, said “What are you talking about, ‘You’re under arrest?’ Under arrest for what? What reason do you have for saying I’m under arrest?” And he says, “You’re blocking the sidewalk.” And I say, “What do you mean I’m blocking the sidewalk? I’m standing over here.” I noticed Huey, standing to my left. Next thing I know, some people started grabbing on me. “You under arrest, you under arrest.” I started snatching away from them, man. Next thing I know, Huey was battling up there, and three paddies had me down, tied down onto the ground. One of them paddies that had hold of me, Huey knocked him in the head a couple of times, and a couple of brothers stomped on the paddies. I got loose. A big fight was going on. But boy, they say Huey whipped up some motherfuckers up there. They say Huey was throwing hands.


Bobby Seale and Huey P Newton

Both Seale and Newton were arrested and charged with assault on police officers. They were bailed out of jail by Seale’s wife Artie Seale and by mid October, 1966 the court put them on one year probation each, after their no-contest pleas.
Burn, Baby Burn is a poem by Marvin X (Marvin Jackmon, also known as Nazzam Al Fitnah) who was also at Merritt College.
Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer is an anti-draft poem by Ronald Stone.

Uncle Sammy don’t shuck and jive me,
I’m hip the popcorn jazz changes you blow,
You know damn well what I mean,
You school my naive heart to sing
red-white-and-blue-stars-and-stripes songs and to pledge eternal allegiance to all things blue, true, blue-eyed blond, blond-haired, white chalk white skin with U.S.A. tattooed all over,
When my soul trusted Uncle Sammy,
Loved Uncle Sammy,
I died in dreams for you Uncle Sammy,
Died in dreams playing war for you Uncle Sammy,
No, I don’t want to hear that crap,
You jam your emasculate manhood symbol, puff with Gonorrhea,
Gonorrhea of corrupt un-realty myths into my ungreased, nigger ghetto, black-ass, my Jewish-Cappy-Hindu-Islamic-Sioux-sure, free public health penicillin cured me,
But Uncle Sammy if you want to stay a freak-show strongman god,
Fuck your motherfucking self,
I will not serve.


One thought on “Black Panthers Arrested For Reading Poetry

  1. Pingback: Black Panthers – Right On! | standupandspit

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