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Being woman and gay-positive before it was cool

May 29, 2009

This is a link to Huey Newton’s wonderful speech from 1970 about incorporating the budding feminist and gay liberation movements into the Black Panthers’ black power movement.  He recognizes his own personal prejudice and proceeds to describe why it is wrong and how it compares to the way blacks were/are treated.  Part of it is trying to find strategic allies, but part of it is also recognizing that they are not the only ones who are oppressed, and that those who are and who seek to change that should be welcomed and encouraged, not demeaned and silenced.  It’s pretty great, especially considering the frequent assumption that black men are rarely feminists and usually homophobic.  It’s not super long, so it makes a nice study break.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Becky permalink
    May 29, 2009 2:01 AM

    I feel really conflicted about celebrating Huey Newton as woman and gay positive. While the Black Panther Party took a turn towards the more open in the 1970’s; at the onset, and in it’s peak it was a highly and explicitly male dominated organization. A lot of their ideology is very misogynistic, and I have a hard time believing that gay black men would have been especially welcomed into the organization in its prime. Eldridge Cleaver, one of the party’s early leaders, used to advocate raping white women as a revolutionary act (although he “practiced” on black women). Huey Newton welcomed this man into the organization and gave him the very powerful position of Minister of Information for the party. Also, female panthers often reported sexual harrassment and abuse from the male members, an issue, as I remember, that generally fell on deaf ears.

    I do not know as much about the Panther’s in the 70s and how much Huey Newton acted on his words. I would also point you to Elaine Brown, the only female chair of the party, active in the mid-70s. I know she had a lot of interesting things to say about how women could be panthers, and some great quote about how she was just as much of a man as them because of the size of her gun. (or maybe that was Angela Davis?)

    Sorry for the long response, I’ve been researching the BPP.

    • cellardoor10 permalink
      May 29, 2009 9:13 AM

      I think the point of Huey Newton’s comment was to combat a lot of those ideas running around about how women and gays could not be revolutionaries and should be silenced. I’m not sure exactly how much he did beyond make this speech to effect change. As I do some research, it does appear that the BPP had more women in high positions than a lot of other civil rights groups at the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should celebrate the least of many evils. I honestly hadn’t done a lot of research, I just thought it sounded like a pretty revolutionary speech for a black man (or anyone, really) to make in 1970, considering the treatment that people like Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker received in the 1960s civil rights movement.

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