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Seize the Time

Seize the Time

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Black Panther Bobby Seale's book on the organisation and most well-known activist, Huey Newton. We do not agree with all the politics but reproduce it here for reference.

Seize the Time was first published more than twenty years ago. I [Bobby Seale] tape-recorded and wrote most of this book under the strain of being a political prisoner in the San Francisco County Jail in 1969 and 1970. At that time, most protest organizations, particularly anti-war and civil rights groups, were targeted for attacks by all levels of government. Seize The Time was published while I was incarcerated and a defendant in two major political trials-consecutive, racist, political trials that I eventually won.

I am often told that Seize The Time is a 1960's protest-era classic. Whether it is indeed a classic or not, I am uncertain. However, I am certain that the Black Panther Party For Self-Defense, as it was originally called, founded during that era and depicted in this book, remains a classic example of African and African American people's age-old resistance to racism and class oppression

Black Panther Bobby Seale's book on the organisation and most well-known activist, Huey Newton. We do not agree with all the politics but reproduce it here for reference.

Seize the Time was first published more than twenty years ago. I [Bobby Seale] tape-recorded and wrote most of this book under the strain of being a political prisoner in the San Francisco County Jail in 1969 and 1970. At that time, most protest organizations, particularly anti-war and civil rights groups, were targeted for attacks by all levels of government. Seize The Time was published while I was incarcerated and a defendant in two major political trials-consecutive, racist, political trials that I eventually won.

I am often told that Seize The Time is a 1960's protest-era classic. Whether it is indeed a classic or not, I am uncertain. However, I am certain that the Black Panther Party For Self-Defense, as it was originally called, founded during that era and depicted in this book, remains a classic example of African and African American people's age-old resistance to racism and class oppression

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Published by: Mosi Ngozi (fka) james harris on Jan 02, 2013
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Our best experience in dealing with the power structure in that program came when

somebody in the Department of Human Resources downtown set up a tour of police

headquarters for our center. Mr. Allen, the head of the program, said, "Mr. Seale, the young

ladies and fellows on the whole crew here will be going down to police headquarters

tomorrow." That was Friday.

I said, "Police headquarters?"

He said, "Yeah, they have a tour down there, and they want them to come down and tour the

police station so they can understand the city government better, and so the police

department can establish better human relations with the community."

"Well," I said, "OK. I'll see to it that they all get down there tomorrow." I thought to myself,

"If those brothers and sisters get down there and get to talking with too many of those

policemen, those cats are going to get themselves busted." I knew they were always in and

out of jive, petty crimes. A lot of times, I put them on jobs somewhere in town, a crew of ten

or twelve, and they might try to shoplift from a corner store or something like that. One time

I had to go in and talk the man into not having them arrested because they had been in there

stealing, stealing the man's stuff, when they had money in their pockets. I had to show them

that it wasn't necessary to be ripping things off, when they had money in their pockets.

"Petty crimes can jack you up," I told them. "Not that I'm on the side of the system," I said,

"but when you've got something going for yourself, you should use that as a functional thing

as much as you possibly can." The next day I thought I'd drop back by there because I knew

these brothers. They'd go down there and steal even if they had $50 in their pockets. So I

drove by there, and sure enough there were two of them in the store. No sooner do I walk in

than I saw somebody sticking a bag of cookies up under his belt. The cat came outside.

I say, "Hey, man, come here. I thought I told you, man, not to be jiving around here, jiving

and stealing. This old man wants nothing more than to arrest you cats on a bullshit tip." Then

I asked him, "Now how much money have you got on you? I'll buy you a beer. Tell me how

much you've got on you."

"Oh man. What's wrong with you, man? You out of your mind?"

"No, I'm not out of my mind, man. You ain't got sense enough to see that this old stupid man

here is going to get some cop." I pulled on his coat and took the cookies back to the man.

Then I said to the cat, "Now come over here. Walk back there and apologize to the man."

"Man, you out of your mind? " He turned around and walked out. I thought to myself, "Well

maybe I shouldn't have done that." So I went out there and said to him, "Look, man, maybe I

was wrong in telling you to apologize, but what I'm trying to do is to keep the man from

calling up. He's mad, man. He wants to call up and bust nine or ten of you cats who are

working down here.

"I've got another job up the street from this place," I said. "Nine or ten more cats are going to

be working in this general area. You all are going to come to this jive store, and the next

thing I know, you all are going to get busted on a bullshit tip, because you don't have sense

enough to see that you've got money in your pocket and cookies don't cost that much."

"Yeah, I guess you right, Bobby. You right, man. Shit. I'm a fool."

I said, "You sure are, if you keep that up, brother."

"Right," they said and split.

We had to go down to the police station on Friday, so I got everybody together Thursday

evening. I went around to all the jobs and picked up half the cats. "Look, tomorrow you cats

are going down to the police station for a tour," I said. The cats say, "Police station?" They

said that really turned-offish.

"Yeah, man," I said.

"Bobby, what you doing, man?"

"Man, it ain't me," I said. "I don't want to go down to no jive police station." Some of the

sisters said, "Shoot, I don't want to be going way down there to see old fools." But one little

girl said, "I want to go down there. I want to see what it's like." Half of them wanted to go

and half of them didn't. The half that did want to go, wanted to go just out of curiosity.

"Well we're going anyway," I said. "This is one of the tours, and you cats have got to go, so

we'll go. But when you get down there, don't be talking to no policemen. They are going to

try to ask you questions. I know the cops. They're going to try to ask you questions in some

kind of way, about yourself, gangs, and people in the community, so they can focus in on

you cats. That's trying to use you like Germany used little kids," I told them, "although it's

not that heavily organized. But I know them. Don't answer any questions. Just observe things

there and whatever the tour is about. I don't know what it's about, but I'll be with you."

"All right, man."

"Right," I said.

"Right. OK, man. Beautiful."

We bussed down to the police station the next day. We went inside, and they took us into a

big room, a kind of police room. It had a lot of chairs in it. Some lieutenant who was the

head of the juvenile division was sitting up there, along with the chief of police. This

lieutenant jumped up and said, "Well, it's good to have all of you here. Come down and see

the police station. We've got a lot of things you're going to see today. You'll be able to go up

to the crime museum, and you'll see the firing range, and go around and see the

communications operations here." His voice was real coppish-like. "And the

communications section upstairs, and generally look over the police department, because this

is all related to establishing, er a . . ." It wasn't in a human tone at all. "And uh, establishing

community relations with the people in the communities and uh, and uh, and . . . and . . . so

that we can better get along in our society."

Then this cop went right off into it. "I know a heck of a lot of you guys out there are in

gangs." Now he sounded real toughish-like. He went on, "And a lot of you are in different

organizations and groups. And uh, I want to ask a few of you some questions." I noticed the

other three or four cops in the room, they've got pads out, sitting up there. They've got pads

out. There was another one sitting over off to the side and he had a note pad sitting on his


I said to myself, "These motherfuckers!"

"And uh, a lot of rioting. Things been going on, and uh, some of you guys are good guys,

and you know we've got some good jobs down there for you guys this summer, and uh, if

you know any guys who've been running around here looting and things like that we want

you to, uh, give us their names, and, uh, the names of the different organizations and groups

out there, and uh, and uh, let us know where they're staying, and . . ."

I jumped up and I said, "Hold it! Hold it! Hold it right there!" I said, "Not one more word!

Don't you brothers say a word! Don't anybody say nothing!"

This cop looked at me and I looked at him and I said, "No sirree!"

"Well," he said, "this is just a part of the tour."

"No, uh-uh. You ain't gonna jack these cats up here like that," I said. "You've got them

informing on other people in the community and half of the cats are getting shot and

brutalized when you cops go pick 'em up.

"No sirree!" I said. "You're not going to turn us into no operation where the police

department makes us inform on ourselves. You're talking about community relations. This

ain't no community relations operation. This is a jive criminal investigation, and you're not

going to use them to do it!

"We know how to start encouraging these brothers to stop committing crimes and things like

that, and how to organize them to teach themselves, but we're not going to have this!"

They didn't like that, man. So Mr. Allen came in and said, "Seale, I think you should let the

officer continue."

I said, "Yeah, OK."

So he tried again, this cop. "Well, has anybody got anything to say out there?" Nobody said a

thing. "Well, does anybody have any questions about the police department?" Silence. "Does

anybody have any questions?" Nobody said nothing. "If anybody's got any questions about

the police department just raise your hand, just raise your hand, and we can talk and have

some general discussion here." Nobody would piss a drop. The brothers and I and the sisters,

we all had that together. They weren't saying a thing. Then the police walked out, and the

chief of police walked over and talked to Mr. Allen. They walked outside.

As I walked down the aisle, I spotted a brother over to my left. This cat had a big, big old

long switchblade. He had the blade down on his lap but he was cleaning his fingernails with

it, with this big, long switchblade, about four-and-a-half inches long. "Goddam," I said to

myself. "Sitting right up here in the middle of the police station!" I walked over and I bent

down and whispered to him. "Brother."

"Yeah, Bobby," he said, "what is it, man?" "Don't raise your hands up. Keep 'em down," I

said, "and close that knife, and put it in your pocket. Man, do you realize you're sitting right

in the police station and you've got an illegal knife on you? And when you get home, man," I

said, "leave that thing in your house. What's wrong with you?"

"Yeah, man. OK. I'm sorry. You right, man. You right." He got kind of shaky there. He

realized that he could get busted on a bullshit tip.

Some of the other brothers next to him heard us talking and they started giggling, "Ha, ha,

hee, ya damn fool." They ridiculed each other a lot. So I said, "You ain't got no business

calling him no fool, because you'd have probably done the same thing. Why don't you cats

stop laughing at each other."

Then they called me outside and the lieutenant said, "Well, Bobby, uh, it seems like you've

got things under control here. Uh, don't you want to let us ask any questions?" Mr. Allen

said, "Bobby, uh, I mean uh, you have to let them ask questions. You have to tell those kids

out there . . . I know they like you and everything, Bob - but uh, you have to uh, at least let

them ask questions, uh and let these officers here see if they have anything to investigate."

"Well I'm not going for the investigation, Mr. Allen," I said, "because the way police

departments work, half of the stuff that they get is trumped up. They're trumped up because

one kid will say, 'Joe might have done this, Jim might have done that.' Most kids don't know

what they're saying and they don't know anything about the law."

The police tried to say, "Well, we're trying to teach them about the law."

"No, you're not teaching them about the law," I said, and we got into a little argument right

there. "You're not teaching nothing about the law. Not one of them, probably, has ever

opened a penal code book. They don't generally know what a law is or what law is being

broken. Some of them are wrong, some of them do illegal things maybe, but I don't see any

reason for you railroading them.

"You police departments work erroneously anyway," I told them. "Because what you cats do

is get skimpy information here, and skimpy information there, and Joe said that, and Joe said

this, and Jim said this, and Jack said that, and the next thing you know, half the cats you have

arrested haven't even committed real crimes, or any specific crime that you're trying to

charge them with, because what's-his-name will mention such-and-such a person's name on

such-and-such a night. That's what you're trying to get those cats in there into, and I'm not

going to let them do it. We're together, we're going to stick together. Even if you fire me, Mr.

Allen, I know I'm right because I'm protecting them."

Then Mr. Allen said, "Well, I still think that the kids should ask some questions to go along

with the community relations program."

I said, "All right. We'll let them ask a few questions, but I'll go with you to tell them." So

what I did, instead of telling them, "Go ahead and ask questions," I said, "Do you guys want

to ask questions here or not?"

One of the brothers said, "Aw, man, I don't want to ask no questions here."

So I said, "Well, we'll see what we can do about setting up something because I still think

that you brothers have something to say about what the police do in our communities,

instead of always letting them dictate to us."

Somebody said, "That's right, because a whole lot of stuff has happened, man, that I know

about, that a whole lot of these police have done." All the brothers were saying, "Yeah,

yeah." They were carrying on, man. I said, "All right. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it." I raised my

hands up. They always got quiet when I said, "Hold it." I said, "All right. I'll talk to this

lieutenant some more and see what else we can set up in the future." I went over and said,

"Mr. Allen, why don't you just let them finish the tour, and if we just work it out together, we

could have them send some of the regular patrolmen off the streets to talk to the kids at one

of the Saturday morning lecture sessions." "All right, Seale," he said. "That makes sense." So

they finished taking them on the tour. I was running around the tour with them, looking at

different things all over the building.

Along the way, I saw one of the regular sergeants, a cop that we knew, a black cat Huey and

I had known for a time, and he complimented me. "Bobby," he said, "you did right, because

these cats really will trump up a lot of shit on a lot of brothers." Huey and I dug him because

he had told us that the only time he'd shoot a cat was if his own life was really in danger, if

he saw somebody else's life in danger, or where the cat was actually committing a criminal

act. "But like in riots and stuff like that," he told us, "cats breaking windows. I'm not going to

shoot nobody over nobody's property, but I will arrest them." He and Huey had definitely

respected that fact about him; the fact that he said that if he was ordered out on a riot, he'd

quit his job before he'd go out there shooting and killing.

This particular cop always felt that he could do a lot from the inside, but he was isolated,

isolated from that whole department. He gave us a lot of statistics, and a lot of information

about the entire Oakland police department and how 75 to 85 percent of them were racists.

This black cop came up to me during the tour, and told me that they wanted to talk to me

upstairs. I said, "OK, I can talk to them." So I went upstairs and Mr. Allen was up there, the

woman foreman was up there, and another member of the Department of Human Resources

was up there. They didn't like me because I had stopped it. The police chief and Assistant

Chief Gain (he's the chief now) were sitting there, and they'd filled up their heads with

certain attitudes they were trying to get off.

"Well, Bob, uh, I think that was, uh, not a good thing, you know, uh, that, uh, the officers

weren't able to talk to the kids."

"Well, I think that the officers should come to the community. Come down to the park where

we meet on Saturdays. If you want to establish some community relations come down and

listen to the kids. They've got grievances too. They want to ask the police some questions

instead of the police bringing us here and asking us questions. They're always trying to ask

us questions," I said. "Now we want the community and the youth to ask them questions.

That's a better way to establish relations.

"Both of them can ask each other questions, but we want to stand on our own ground. So you

send four or five regular officers off the beat, young ones and old ones, and we'll go from

there. I'm pretty sure they'll go for that, the Saturday lecture class right before the baseball


They came down the next day. That next morning they were there, man. That same

lieutenant came. They had some pamphlets stacked up with three policemen standing at

attention in a very dramatic photo. They took the picture from a ground angle, with the

modern police headquarters building and the American flag in the background, and these

policemen in the pictures were smiling, and on top in big letters they put "POLICE-

COMMUNITY RELATIONS." Then you flip the book over and you see all nicey, nicey things.

You see pictures of a policeman helping a little white girl across the street. She's nice and

neat and clean. There were no black people in the whole motherfucking pamphlet. I was

checking that out, man.

"Oh goddam," I said to myself, "Isn't this a front and a phony situation. The police chief is

saying all kinds of nicey, nicey things, and he doesn't say a word about the police brutality

going on in the communities, and he doesn't say a word about racists and bigots." They had

pamphlets and passed them all out. Then the lieutenant said, "Well, uh, Bob, do you want to

set the tone here?" He was trying to be friends with me in front of the kids.

"Yeah, I'll set the tone," I said. "Hey, you cats. All the questions we talked about yesterday

after we left the police department. I just want the true facts, things that you remember, or

that you heard people talk about that sound pretty true to you. Not exaggerated things. You

can ask these policemen about those cases of police brutality and injustice that some of you

have witnessed. You can go ahead and ask them about that. They say they want to start this

community relations program and I know you can document a heck of a lot."

I hate the day that I didn't tape that session. I hate the day. Man, those kids tore into the cops.

They just tore into them. They talked about cops. They really talked about the police

brutality that half of them had actually witnessed. Then they talked about stories they'd

heard. I always made the point of asking, "Is this something you witnessed, or is this

something you just heard? Now be honest and say if you saw it or just heard about it." I was

trying to get them to be as objective as possible, although the things they had heard were

very significant, too. Man, it made the cops mad, and they looked mad.

"What about the time," one little girl asked, "down on Fourteenth Street in front of the dance

hall down there on the other side of Cypress, when a black woman was snatched by three

cops and knocked down to the ground with a billy club?" She was angry, too, when she said

it. She made one cop just turn red. "Now do you think it's right for a big six-foot cop to

throw a five-foot woman down to the ground, and hit her on the head with a billy club?" One

of the officers, kind of half nervously and trying to be serious and objective, said, "Well,

maybe she had a weapon in her hand."

"Yeah, she had a weapon, and they took it away from her. But after they took the weapon

away from her, that's when they beat on her and that ain't right. I don't think no cop got no

right to be beatin' on no woman." That sister was mad, and she put that over with every piece

of emotion she had, and she sat down, man. Ooh, that tore those cops up.

Some of the guys were articulate, and some were very serious about what they had to say.

Some were mad, and some weren't. Some just presented cases they'd heard, and argued their

cases as to what was right and what was wrong. There were a few points of law that the

policemen were citing wrong. One cop actually stood up and said, "No, you don't have a

right to defend yourself." I said, "Wait a minute. Are you telling me, are you telling us, are

you telling all these young people here, that if a policeman unjustly, criminally attacks and

brutalizes them, they don't have a right to defend themselves?"

"No, you don't have a right to defend yourself," the officer said. "What you should do is take

it, and come down and file a complaint."

"Well, what about some of the ones who are dead?" I asked him. Man, that upset the whole

place! "They can't come down and put in a complaint," I said.

"Well, uh, you know, uh, that, that those cases are exaggerated."

"Exaggerated, my ass!" I said. "Fifty percent of them, 50 percent of them, man, are outright

cases of police brutality and police murder! Maybe the other 50 percent of them are related

to some kind of criminal activity because we know that the brothers do commit crimes.

We're not trying to hide that fact. But 50 percent of those cases are outright police brutality!"

Man, that upset that whole place.

Then this little girl got up and she said, "Say you!" She was about sixteen, and she pointed at

this one policeman.

"You don't have to treat him like that," I said.

"Bobby, I'll treat him like I want to, because they done treated me so bad."

"Well, excuse me, sister," I said, and I sat back.

This cop she had pointed to, he was red. He was shaking. She said, "Have you ever been to

see a psychiatrist?"

That's what she said to this cop. This cop just looked at her and the lieutenant got ready to

say something, but she started speaking again.

"I heard that policemen are supposed to go see a psychiatrist to see if they are

psychologically capable of being a policeman. Have you ever been to a psychiatrist?" He

really got to shaking then, man.

"The way you're shaking now," she said, "the way you're shaking now and carrying on, you

must be guilty of a whole lot! And I haven't got no weapon, or nothin'. This is just an

ordinary meeting between police and people in the community, the youth here on this

program, and you're shaking. Not only do you need to see a psychiatrist, you need to be off

the police force!"

Man, that cat was mad. That was a hell of a scene. I have never witnessed anything so

beautiful. Those kids knew cases. They know, man. They know. That was so beautiful. And

that was when I knew I became an enemy of the Oakland Police Department. This was about

three or four months before the Black Panther Party got started.

Most of the brothers really dug the poverty program, and the way I ran it. I'm pretty sure that

most of those kids learned a lot. I even found brothers who knew drafting. Since I dug

drafting myself, I began to advocate to the advisory committee that the brothers should learn

more skills in these programs, and that we should set up more programs in the community so

brothers who wished they had skills like brother Huey P. Newton, could learn them.

"They should be taught by people who are really concerned with the brothers and not by

those old-time white racists who are trying to control them and misguide them away from

unifying black people and serving black people." That was that scene, and it was something

else, man.

1 Malcolm's Muslim name was El Hajj Malik Shabazz.

2 Cultural nationalists and Black Panthers are in conflict in many areas. Basically, cultural nationalism sees the

white man as the oppressor and makes no distinction between racist whites and non-racist whites, as the

Panthers do. The cultural nationalists say that a black man cannot be an enemy of the black people, while the

Panthers believe that black capitalists are exploiters and oppressors. Although the Black Panther Party believes

in black nationalism and black culture, it does not believe that either will lead to black liberation or the

overthrow of the capitalist system, and are therefore ineffective. - Ed.


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