Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring.Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college. But this was the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties. When exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter.He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling. He is now chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division—the very school he exhorted students to burn down during one of his most famous speeches as a Panther.In raw, powerful prose, Jamal Joseph helps us understand what it meant to be a soldier inside the militant Black Panther movement. He recounts a harrowing, sometimes deadly imprisonment as he charts his path to manhood in a book filled with equal parts rage, despair, and hope.
for donations and giving away the food and clothing that we collected. I learned how to find the energy, even when I was dead tired, to help a senior citizen across the street and up the stairs with her groceries. Guns were around, but in a drawer or a closet, and not as constant companions to Panthers on duty. Once a week or so there would be weapons safety training and military drill with the purpose of giving young Panthers the skills needed to protect the Panther office or home in the event
Detention, commonly known as Branch Queens. I was processed and taken to the segregation floor. All my Panther comrades were there. Our lawyers had finally secured a court order directing the Department of Corrections to house us together so we could prepare for trial. Corrections had previously resisted these requests, saying that we were high security risks. We had all been organizing in our various prisons. The authorities now realized it was a greater risk to their security to have Panthers
the criminal misjustice system and their conscience, days before there is to be a lottery to decide which one of them will die. In addition to being an actress, my wife, Joyce, was a playwright whose work had been produced by Joseph Papp and Woodie King Jr. She sent me copies of her plays and other scripts so I could understand more about dramatic structure and format. Joyce would send me the plays to study, as would my good friend and attorney Bill Mogulescu. They would make sure the plays came
building helplessly watching the women cry over the murder of young Andre. Another senseless, violent death. Maybe there was more I could have said or done for Tupac, I thought, just as maybe there was more I could have done for Andre. I was helping to run a youth program in downtown Manhattan. What about in Harlem where I live? I thought. If Andre, or perhaps even the boy who shot him, were in a creative arts workshop instead of out partying or doing drugs on the street, then maybe Andre would
myself? Would I be blindfolded and taken to some secret chamber to be initiated? Maybe I’d get put on a small airplane and be parachuted into a hidden training camp somewhere in Africa. “Boy, you better get up. Do you know what time it is?” I opened my eyes and saw Noonie standing over me. Somewhere between my visions of the Panther initiation chamber and the parachute jump into Africa I had conked out and overslept. I glanced at my alarm clock. It was already seven fifteen. “Sorry, ma’am,” I