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2014-05-06

Danny Glover & Kathleen Cleaver on "Black Power Mixtape," Rare Footage Capturing Movement’s Rise

Guests

Danny Glover, actor, film director and political activist. He co-produced the film, The Black Power Mixtape, and wrote the preface for the book with the same name.

Kathleen Cleaver, teaches at Emory Law School. She was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and also served as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party. She is featured in the documentary, The Black Power Mixtape.

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Based on the film with the same name, the extraordinary new book "The Black Power Mixtape" chronicles the black freedom movement in the United States using found footage of top African-American leaders between 1967 and 1975. Shot by Swedish journalists and discovered in the basement of Swedish public television 30 years later, the film features some of the leading figures of the black power movement in the United States, including Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver. We discuss the project with two guests: renowned American actor, film director and political activist, Danny Glover, and Kathleen Cleaver, professor at Emory Law School, who is featured in the film during her stint as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: We spend the rest of the hour on a new book chronicling the black freedom movement in the United States. The Black Power Mixtape is based on the film of the same name. It features rare archival footage shot between 1967 and 1975, including some of the leading figures of the black power movement in the U.S., like Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Huey Newton, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver. The footage was shot by Swedish journalists and discovered in the basement of Swedish public television 30 years later. Göran Olsson is the book’s editor and the director of the film. This is the trailer.

ANGELA DAVIS: When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible, because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through, what black people have experienced in this country.

VOICEOVER: In the 1960s and ’70s, Swedish filmmakers arrived in America to explore the black power movement, which the U.S. media saw as a violent threat.

UNIDENTIFIED: We’re making a revolution by educating the people to the fact that they should arm themselves in self-defense.

BOBBY SEALE: If any racist policemen attack us, we will defend ourselves, because we are bent on surviving.

VOICEOVER: Thirty years later, in the cellar of a Swedish television station, an amazing collection of unseen interviews was discovered with some of the greatest revolutionary minds in modern history.

ABIODUN OYEWOLE: There wouldn’t be an America if it wasn’t for black people. We hold America to our bosom.

ERYKAH BADU: When you get tired enough is when you want to sacrifice everything.

UNIDENTIFIED: Get ridiculed and discriminated and be less than a man.

UNIDENTIFIED: It’s a question of dignity and decency.

MABEL CARMICHAEL: My husband didn’t make enough money, because he was Negro.

UNIDENTIFIED: We were moved and motivated and charged up by people who had already made a commitment to bring about change.

STOKELY CARMICHAEL: Dr. King is a great man, and he is very patient. Unfortunately, I am from a younger generation. I’m not as patient, nor am I as merciful.

LEWIS MICHAUX: Black is beautiful, but black isn’t power. Knowledge is power.

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER: In this bankrupt country, there is a point where caution ends and cowardice begins.

UNIDENTIFIED: The community was flooded with drugs. Hoover and the FBI, they made sure that the drugs were an influence.

MELVIN VAN PEEBLES: Anybody can die nobly for a cause. A sign of maturity is to live day by day for that cause.

ERYKAH BADU: We have to document our history. If we’re going to tell the story, let’s tell the story right.

VOICEOVER: The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975, featuring Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Talib Kweli, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and Ahmir Questlove Thompson.

AMY GOODMAN: The trailer of Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975.

Well, to talk more about the book and the film, we’re joined by two guests: the renowned American actor, film director, political activist, Danny Glover, who co-produced The Black Power Mixtape, and Kathleen Cleaver, featured in the book and film, teaches at Emory Law School. She served as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

DANNY GLOVER: Thanks you, Amy.

KATHLEEN CLEAVER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: The relevance of the Black Panther movement, the black power movement in the United States to today, Kathleen Cleaver? You just had a session of hundreds of people last night at the New School. Why do you think it still reverberates?

KATHLEEN CLEAVER: It reverberates because it was about conditions. It’s not an ideological situation where you believe something, but about the social and political and economic conditions that black people were facing at the time and how to go about improving that. Civil rights were guaranteed under law, but that was not sufficient for our community that was so excluded and so oppressed. And so, it challenges directly racism on many different levels. If racism had been resolved, then maybe people wouldn’t be so interested in black power.

AARON MATÉ: You were with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, but you chose to leave for the Panthers. How did you go from SNCC to the Panthers?

KATHLEEN CLEAVER: It wasn’t like I chose to leave. The SNCC organization was based in Atlanta. I was working in Atlanta. We planned a black student conference. One of the—the only speaker, actually, was Eldridge Cleaver. We met, fell in love, and he wanted me to come out and help him after Huey Newton got shot and was charged with murdering a policeman and was facing the gas chamber. He said, "You’ve got to come out here. You’ve got to help me." We were in the same movement. We were in the black power movement, but different organizations. The Black Panther Party took on black power. In fact, it was one of the first organizations based on the concept of black power. So, I moved to California and continued the black power struggle.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Danny Glover, how were you involved then?

DANNY GLOVER: Well, I was a student at San Francisco State college in 1967. And San Francisco State, as well as the Bay Area, has always had—had been a beacon for radical thinking and radical thought. And it so happens that you found at San Francisco State a number of young men and women who had been a part of SNCC, part of the movement, Freedom Summer, etc., etc., in the South, were coming back and migrating to San Francisco. You had the free speech movement at Berkeley with Mario Savio. You had what was happening in communities there, and also the emergence of the Black Panther Party, as well. So I’m born and raised in San Francisco, a native of San Francisco, and I happened to be at San Francisco State and a member of the Black Student Union at that time in 1967 and on the central committee at that time.

And—but something—you asked a question about the resonance of the black power movement today. Too much of black political—black radical political thought has been marginalized in this country historically. We go back around the beginning of the century with the Pan-Africa movement. We go back with the Communist Party and the Socialist Party’s involvement of key African Americans both here domestically and internationally. And what the black power movement did, not to say that the civil rights movement—also gave voice to it, but not to the same context—gave voice to the struggle of Africans around the world. So, the Black Panther Party had relationships to liberation movements in Africa, places like Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, South Africa, Namibia, which were still fighting for liberation, and also had relationships with the Vietnamese and other liberation movements, as well. There was a strong kind of internationalism that was different than was—existed in the civil rights movement. And that kind of black radical political thought is something that we hadn’t seen since the McCarthy hearings. So we have this kind of emergence. The civil rights movement opens up another space. You know, it brings—you know, brings people to the table Jack O’Dell, a socialist, you know, who works with Martin Luther King, brings that, and then the extension of that in there, it’s important because we know that the conditions that we have and which exist today, whether they’re political, whether they’re environmental, are going to have to have some imaginative, radical thinking to change the paradigm.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip, another clip from Black Power Mixtape. We hear from the renowned singer-songwriter Erykah Badu, but first Black Panther and political activist Eldridge Cleaver speaking in 1968.

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER: I believe that a time has come, a point has been reached, where a line just has to be drawn. There is a favorite line that I know about, and it says that there is a point where caution ends and cowardice begins. All three of these pigs that we have a choice of—Oink Nixon, Oink Humphrey and Oink Wallace—they’re not for us. They do not represent—they do not represent the best interest of this country. They definitely don’t represent the best thinking in this country. In fact, they represent the very worst tradition which was ever to crawl from beneath the rocks in this—this bankrupt country.

ERYKAH BADU: It’s right to defend yourself against anything and anyone. No, we don’t believe in violence. We don’t believe in killing. We don’t believe in harming or hurting. We weren’t the ones who inflicted pain and harm on people. We weren’t the ones who kidnapped a whole culture of people and brought them to do service for us. And because we stand and fight back and want peace, we want to work with pride, love and live and grow with pride. That’s all we want. And to say that we’re wrong to defend ourselves is idiotic, seriously twisted. Shame on America for that.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Erykah Badu, the singer-songwriter; before that, Eldridge Cleaver. Kathleen Cleaver, how did you go from being a Black Panther or black power activist to a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta today?

KATHLEEN CLEAVER: Well, that’s kind of a long period. When I was a Black Panther, I was married in San Francisco and left the country to join my husband in Algeria, and we spent about seven years away. And I came back. I had dropped out of college twice. So I had to—in the '80s, I went back to college, and then I went to law school, and then I went and practiced law and clerked for a judge. And I was hired by a law school. I was recommended by my judge. And that has a lot to do with it, the prestige of the judge and the prestige of the law school. It was the Yale Law School I graduated from; it was Judge Higginbotham that I clerked for. So, now I'm appropriate to teach in a law school.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Danny Glover, you—

DANNY GLOVER: How did I go from—

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, how do you go from being a black power activist at San Francisco State to Lethal Weapon? No, to—and before we end, to your assessment of where we are with the Obama administration today. That’s a big one.

DANNY GLOVER: Well, I think one of the—I was just talking about this to someone just earlier. I think one of the issues that we have to really focus on is the kind of movement building, which we talk about in—and we all know that Obama’s election was not that. It wasn’t the initiation of a movement or the culmination of anything, particularly outside of the kind of—kind of liberal thinking about having a black president. There’s so much that we have to do, so much work that has to be done. Essentially, the politics of the situation internationally, domestically, I mean, they’ve created some space. You know, they’ve created some space for us to talk about inequity. You know, of course, that space was created by the, you know, Wall Street, created by the Occupy movement and other movements that continue to go on. We have to take that space right now at this particular moment. We have the difficult choice of what comes after Obama, you know? And I don’t think it’s anything, whether it’s from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, that we can think about supporting, especially from the Democratic Party, what comes after Obama. But we have just this period. They had a period of eight years where I think we were indulged, disillusioned about what was happening and what we were supposed to do, and we have work to do.

AMY GOODMAN: But on that issue of going from black power movement to Lethal Weapon? I mean, you’re a famous star around the world for these films.

DANNY GLOVER: Well, I think—I think what’s characteristic in my career, at the beginning in my career, because you begin on stage, it was the work of movements, you know? I was very much involved, after my—the time I spent at San Francisco State, with the African Liberation Support Committee, all in the early '70s. I became particularly involved in the issue around ending apartheid, as early as 1974, ’75, because we had a dynamic congressman named Ron Dellums, who was always—every year would bring up the whole idea of a boycott or a—a boycott on South Africa and everything. So all those things were a part of that, which led me—allowed me to maintain a relationship with movements, whether it was the end of Portuguese colonialism, whether it was the end of the annexation of Namibia by South Africa, and its independence in South Africa itself. So, in a sense, the fortuitous turn of events from doing Fugard's work on Broadway—off-Broadway in 1979 and 1980, to doing "Master Harold"...and the Boys in 1982, all those things led to that. And then, the fortune I’ve had to run into, meet someone like Joslyn Barnes and to be able to kind of form this company, starting out with a film about the Haitian revolution, and then have it evolve and materialize into the kind of company that does the work we do now.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it here. We’re going to do part two in a moment, and we’re going to post it online at democracynow.org. Our guest, Danny Glover, American actor, film director, political activist, co-produced and wrote the preface for the book, Black Power Mixtape, and the film by the same title. Kathleen Cleaver, a law professor at Emory Law School, member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also served as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party. Part two coming online at democracynow.org.

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