- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

Bobby Seale has battled the FBI and the police in his years as a revolutionary, but he now has an even tougher conflict: the fight to save his legacy in America as co-founder of the Black Panthers.
His nemesis is the Washington, D.C.-based New Black Panther Party, a 12-year-old group that Mr. Seale says threatens to align his revolutionary '60s party with a movement that is "anti-white, anti-Semitic and a lot of rhetoric that my original party was never about."
The Black Panthers were known as virulent racial rebels in an era in which the nation's concept of racial differences was in a spotlight. They engaged in shootouts with the law; some members were imprisoned and some died.
"But we never got into hate speech like they do," says Mr. Seale, who is now a vigorous 66-year-old author and lecturer. "Our slogan was: 'All the power to all the people.' We meant black power, red power, white power, green power, whatever, it was all for the people."
The new group has hijacked "our legacy without any understanding of what we were about," said David Hilliard, another original Black Panther.
"These guys are getting instant validation by using our name, and that is misleading to an entire generation," he said.
A Texas judge in 1997 ruled that the new group, which was founded in Dallas in 1989, could not use the name.
But the New Black Panthers, led by Howard graduate and D.C. lawyer Malik Shabbaz, continue to appear at rallies, in the streets and, recently, at several sniper-killing locations, where they pumped gas for frightened patrons.
Now the Black Panthers, led by Mr. Seale and Mr. Hilliard, have retained Oakland lawyer Andrew Gold to enforce the Texas decision and, as they say, to clear the name.
"We are not a hate group, we are not a racist group and we are not anti-Semitic," said Mr. Shabbaz. "For a member of the old Black Panther Party to call us extremists is outrageous, when they were, in their day, known as the most extreme protest group.
"We see this as a manipulation of outside forces who are stopping the rise of the New Black Panther Party. It is a plot from the U.S. government and other pro-Israel forces."
At the August Millions for Reparations March, on the National Mall, a "Kill Whitey" T-shirt could be bought from the New Black Panther Party display table for $10.
Dozens of New Black Panthers, clad in paramilitary regalia, guarded the stage that day, cheering lustily for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan whose outspoken criticism of Israel and Jews has been widely noted.
When Bill Clinton moved his office to Harlem last year, 25 uniformed New Black Panthers showed up to protest while Mr. Shabazz called the former president a "cracker."
In an Aug. 20 letter sent to Mr. Shabbaz, Mr. Gold, on behalf of his clients, demanded the offshoot group stop using the names and images of Mr. Seale and co-founder Huey Newton, as well as drop the name of the group.
"The racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and other forms of inflammatory hate-mongering that the New Black Panther Party espouses is abhorrent to the surviving members of the Black Panther Party," the letter reads.
"Your efforts to appropriate the images, names and writings of the Black Panther Party and to suggest some connection between the Black Panther Party and the New Black Panther Party are an insult to those who committed themselves to the ideals and principles of the Black Panther Party."
The New Black Panther Party, founded by a Dallas radio personality and at one time operated by Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a former Nation of Islam spokesman, has been identified by several watchdog groups as an active hate group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in a report notes purported anti-white, anti-Semitic speeches, including a call for an "end to robbery by the white man," by leaders of the group. The Anti-Defamation League also lists the group as a practitioner of anti-Semitism.
Accusations aside, the issue of the Black Panther name is legally moot, Mr. Shabbaz said.
"Our general position is that no one owns the Panther," he said. "And we are making no money off the old Black Panthers."
Mr. Seale can still recite the Black Panther mission statement from memory, a plan that includes the call for "Land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology." And he despises these newcomers.
"We didn't play the racist game," he said. "The problem with this group is that they are confusing the youth of America with this anti-gay, anti-white rhetoric."

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