Two leaders of civil rights groups the Black Panther Party and Young Lords roused a large crowd of college students into applause.
“Liberation,” said Bobby Seale, organizer of the Black Panthers, is about learning “what it means to be a progressive human being.”
It could have been the 1960s, in the heat of the civil rights movement, but no, it was 2012 at The College of New Jersey.
Seale, co-founder of the Black Panthers, and Felipe Luciano, co-founder of the Lords — a group famous among the Latino community for its advocacy for Puerto Rican rights — were speaking about “Social Movements in the 21st Century.”
Throughout the night, there were many such bursts of applause for Seale and Luciano, when the pair of long-time friends came to the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall on Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. as part of a college speaking tour.
The event, co-sponsored by Unión Latina and the campus chapters of Lambda Sigma Upsilon National Latino Fraternity and Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, drew in a large, diverse crowd of students and professors, as well as a few Ewing residents, who packed the hall to capacity.
The event began with Luciano’s speech about Latino identity, the inception of the Young Lords and the tactics of the group, which is most famous for collecting trash that had built up in Spanish Harlem and dumping it on 3rd Avenue in New York City, stopping traffic.
Following Luciano, Seale discussed his history in the U.S. Air force and his education at Merritt College in Oakland, Calif., as well as the strategies of his organization, known for its militant tactics and socialist leanings, including its Ten-Point Program for “Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace.”
The event ended with a question-and-answer session in which Seale discussed his high-profile run-ins with the FBI, and both men described how education should be used to foster awareness in the minority community.
Seale also plugged his book “Seize the Time,” which he wrote during the two years he spent in jail for his politics, and sold after the show.
While both men advocated for minorities, they spoke about other causes during the talk as well including the need for interracial unity.
“One percent of the people control 90 percent of all the world’s wealth,” said Seale, who has taken up the Occupy cause.
Luciano, a self-described “ex-con” and “gang banger,” promoted prison advocacy and told the audience not to write off “active drug addicts,” who, he said, greatly helped his movement. He also questioned why there was no Latino movement today.
“Cut this racism bullshit out,” Luciano told the audience, to wide applause. He said a former Klansmen in Tennessee had helped him in the Marine Corps.
Seale, whose cool and calm demeanor lent contrast to Luciano’s more fiery speaking style, said he didn’t care if someone was “black, white, red, brown, yellow, polka-dotted.”
Luciano advocated particularly for union among blacks and Latinos.
According to Luciano, the Latino community is known as being non-confrontational, because many Latinos consider confrontation to be a “black” trait.
“If Latinos continue to run away from their blackness, they will never be whole
psychologically,” Luciano declared loudly, leading to applause from many Latinos and others in the audience. Saying that he had been inspired by Seale in the 1960s, Luciano roused the room to give Seale a standing ovation.
According to Seale, today’s New Black Panther Party got “two thumbs down” from him and had nothing to do with the old Black Panther Party.
He said he openly accused the members — whose controversial sound bites about supporting the al-Qaeda were repeatedly aired on Fox News, according to Seale — of a being part of a conspiracy to delegitimize what the Panthers stood for.
“I don’t fucking support no al-Qaeda,” he said in one of the only moments during the talk when he became visibly heated.
He condemned the “indiscriminate killing of human beings” and gave a speech that led to a round of audience applause.
According to senior international studies Katherine Avila, a member of Unión Latina, the event was first proposed during the summer by herself, senior electrical engineering major Anthony Grullon of LSU and senior political science major Rana Shariatdoust of CUS. The Union Latino e-board and the Black Student Union contributed publicity as well, Avila said.
At one point during the talk, Luciano said he had been surprised that the College had invited him to talk, due to its relatively small African American and Latino population.
“Coño!” he said — a Spanish exclamation — before asking the room to applaud the organizations’ collaboration.
Avila said that after the show her organization spoke about being inspired by Luciano’s call to unite the campus’ African American and Latino communities and stress the importance of education to Latino and African American youth.
“All these small organizations should come together and to make a bigger impact on campus. Unity is really important, especially on a small campus,” she said.