Kathleen Cleaver leads Black Panther Party lecture

Kerong Kelly and Madeline Diamond, News Editor and Assistant News Editor

Kathleen Cleaver, former Black Panther Party member, said “Black Power” grew out of a movement for self determination during a lecture on April 16 in Bucknell Hall.

Cleaver emphasized the cost of what it means to fight for social, economic, and political rights and power. She expanded on these broader topics by sharing anecdotes about her experiences as an active member of the Black Panther Party. She discussed equal access to education, civil rights, legislative success, and the destruction of the shame of being black.

One particular anecdote illustrated trends of horrific violence during Civil Rights Era, including the untimely death of Black Panther Party member Bobby Hutton who was killed at the age of 17 in Oakland, Calif. after a police shootout.

“[Black power] is the call to institute a collective power not as means for individual advancement,” Cleaver said.

Cleaver began her work with Civil Rights when she left Barnard College in 1966 to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She had been interested in joining the Civil Rights Movement since high school, and living in New York made this goal more accessible.

After meeting a leader of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver, whom she later married, she moved to San Francisco in 1967 to join the Party.

“Black Power rose out of a radical context,” Cleaver said.

Cleaver noted how the Black Panther Party reacted to racial violence in the late 1960s, including the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965. In response to the police brutality during the riots, the Party created the Community Action Control to protect themselves.

As a young member of the Party herself, Cleaver explained that the Black Power Movement attracted so many young people because people began to move away from the non-violent ideals of the Civil Rights Movement.

Cleaver later earned a B.A. and law degree from Yale University in 1983 and 1989, respectively. As a lawyer, she worked for a law firm and as a clerk in the United States Court of Appeals. Cleaver now works as a senior lecturer at the Emory University School of Law.

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