There, amid the politicans and protesters in Lafayette Park yesterday, was Bobby Seale, former Black Panther Party leader, former Oakland mayoral candidate, and currently author, self-described "humanist" and, he said, lobbyist for a $200 billion economic development program.
Seale was there to address the crowd of about 200 persons who demonstrated in behalf of the "Wilmington Ten."
"I've been a political prisoner, so to speak, and I understand that," Seale said, explaining his presence here in an interview after the demonstration.
Seale was joined at yesterday's rally by D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy, D.C. City Councilwoman Hilda Mason, two school board members, and a crowd carrying signs saying, "Human Rights Begins at Home, Free the Wilmington Ten, and "Don't Point to Amin, point to North Carolina."
The Wilmington Ten are a group of nine young blacks and one white woman who were imprisoned, many believe falsely, in Wilmington, N.C., following racial disorders seven years ago. Last month, North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. reduced the sentences of the group, making some of them eligible for parole later this year, and their leader, the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis, eligible for parole in two years. The angry crowd yesterday shouted that they wanted the ten freed and pardoned now.
The rally was sponsored by the D.C. Wilmington Ten Coalition, a new group comprised of several local organizations united, they said, to fight racism and political oppression.
"We want their feet out here on the bricks," Seale said of the Wilmington Ten, to the applause of the crowd.
Seale and Huey P. Newton founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. Since that time, Seale's life has changed dramatically from the days when he seemed intent on bringing down the establishment.
It's now almost four years since Seale ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Oakland, Calif., and 3 1/2 years since he resigned from the Black Panther Party.
The book be began to write three weeks after resigning from the Panthers is finished now and in bookstores. It is titled "A Lonely Rage." Seale, now 41 with gray flecks in his hair, said in a brief interview that it is about "my personal and psychological development. It's not about political causes at all . . . I've written it the way I love Richard Wright's writing. It's fiction techniques integrated into a nonfiction work."
The chapters have titles like "Naaasty Niggers and Jesus Christ," "The self-righteous Sinner," "Nigger" "Tarzan," "They Tried to Kick Me out of Heaven," and "A Grain of Sand."
Seale carries business cards now, noting that he is national development director for the Homicide Prevention Educational Research Project Inc., and the "coordinator/spokesman" for Advocates Scene, a lobbyist group Seale said he plans to organize to help root the poor into the economic growth of America.
"I will work in the home districts of conservative Congressmen," Seale said. He said the organization will push for $200 billion in subsidies over the next 10 years for a long-range stimulus program to foster community-controlled economic development projects.
One of the former Black Panther Party leaders, Eldridge Cleaver, is now back in the United States, proclaiming himself a born-again Christian. Seale has harsh words for Cleaver.
"At first, I said I have no right to question his salvation," Seale said yesterday, "but now I feel this way: The man came back here and united with conservative white Christians, the same people who were working to preministers to put down their Bibles and pick up a gun (in the late 1960s). Now, he's abandoned us. The man't out in left field somewhere, but that's his game."
Seale said he now plans to organize his lobbyists' organization, sell 1 million copies of "A Lonely Rage," and will speak on many college campuses throughout the country before May. He already has appeared on the Phil Donahue talk show, he said.