Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black History Month - Huey P. Newton

Today for me, tomorrow for you. (Trinidad & Tobago)

1942 – Huey P Newton was born.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos brought alive Black Power movement for me when I watched them receive their medals at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. In an unforgettable moment, they raised their fists in a Black Power salute.

Huey P. Newton (1942-1989) was an integral part of the movement promoting Black consciousness in the 1960s.

Newton was a co-founder of the Black Panther Party, serving as its minister of defense during much of the 1960s. He was the youngest of seven children, born to a poor family who suffered segregation and discrimination. School felt so irrelevant to Newton’s life, that he felt he learned nothing of value in school. Despite his teachers’ predictions, he earned an Arts degree and studied law. In 1980, he was awarded a PhD.

While in college, he studied Black history. He formed the Black Panther Party in 1966, following the assassination of Malcolm X. The goal of his organization was to provide a voice for poor Black communities, inform them of their rights, and help them defend itself against police harassment. This party also called for improved housing, schooling, and employment opportunities for Blacks. Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Fred Hampton, Eldridge Cleaver, and Angela Davis were among well-known Black Panthers.

The FBI denounced the Black Panther Party as subversives and communist outlaws; directed by J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI waged a campaign to eliminate the Black Panther Party.

Efforts to discredit and eliminate the Black Panther party bore fruit. In 1967, there were ten Panther deaths resulting from confrontations between the Black Panthers and the police. Also in 1967, Newton was accused with murdering a police officer. He was convicted and sentenced to prison, but was freed when the case was retried a second time. In 1969 alone, 348 Panthers were arrested for a variety of crimes. The party headquarters were also raided in 1969 and two members killed in an alleged shootout - ballistics evidence suggested otherwise.

In 1970, when Newton was released from prison, he shifted the focus of the Black Panther Party and concentrated on programmes to help poor communities survive. Despite the change in his activism, Newton continued to attract the attention of the authorities. In 1974, he was again accused of murder, and was ultimately acquitted. In 1985 he was charged with embezzling funds Black Panther community projects, and was convicted for this offense in 1989. By this time, the Black Panther Party was crumbling under external attack, and internal conflict.

Newton was murdered in 1989. His last words to his killer were reportedly, "You can kill my body, but you can't kill my soul. My soul will live forever!"

1963 – Michael Jordan born.

1997 - Virginia's House of Delegates votes unanimously to retire the state song, "Carry me back to old Virginia" which glorifies slavery.

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at