The Everyday Heroism of Bobby Seale

Black Panther Party co-founders, Chairman Bobby Seale (left) and Minister of Defense Huey Newton (right) standing in front of the first office for the Black Panther Party, The Oakland Poverty Center in Oakland, California, 1966.

As a child, I was always fascinated with fiction – I loved stories about ordinary people faced with challenges that forced them to rise to the occasion and become superhuman to achieve the impossible. As I grew older my fascination with heroes did not waver, but I was able to find inspiration outside of comic books and in real life  heroes like Bobby Seale.

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Stop Shootin’

A few days ago, an old friend from London came to New York for a visit.  Cora’s trip was brief, but we managed to sneak in a dinner and catch up since our last lunch date 4 years ago.  After chatting about the usual things–school, family, love–I asked her to fill me in on her experiences with the London Riots that swept the country for 4 days last August.  She had much to say, but one thing stood out:

It was a really beautiful thing.  This guy was shot by the police, and I mean, I know here in the US that type of thing happens all the time, it’s common.  But in London, it started something.

I sat there quietly listening to the rest of her description of the riots, but I couldn’t move past her statement that state-sanctioned violence toward a person of color “is common” in the United States.  Unfortunately she was right, and the past year has done nothing to suggest that this is changing.

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