LORE & LOSS
Power to the people’s writers. The 1960s have not returned but some of its political icons are vividly recalling their roles in the “liberation” movement. As a result, a notable collection of books about the Black Panther Party, and its challenge to American racism and intransigence, have recently arrived in bookstores. The authors of these books revisit the bold bid by a small band of “righteous” warriors to “off the pig” (for them the police were symbolic of relentless oppression), which too often ended in bloodshed, most of it from young Panthers.
There is more to the Panther legacy than just these one-sided battles. They left a record of service; several of the community programs they launched, such as breakfast for children, free health clinics and legal assistance, were adopted by city and governmental agencies. That selfless sacrifice of lives and the dedicated aims of the Panthers form the core of David Hilliard’s memoir, This Side Of Glory. The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party.
Between long, impressionistic chapters on coming of age in Oakland and his subsequent decline into a stupor of drugs, Hilliard, who was the party’s chief of staff, provides a graphic narrative of Panther lore, lust and loss. He also offers revealing portraits of party leaders Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown and Eldridge Cleaver. But the book weakens in its analysis of the party’s troubling ideological twists.
Unfortunately, Hilliard’s book spins narrowly into his war against personal demons. Too much time is spent recounting family problems and his own episodes with drugs and the merits of the 12-step recovery plan. We learn, though, that he has been drug-free for three years and is working as a representative of the United Public Employees union in Oakland.
With more Panther tales appearing, it won’t be long before a clearer picture of the party is available. To this end, Hilliard’s story is a significant piece of the party’s odyssey.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.