Monday, April 26, 2010

book review -- The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison, & Fighting for Those Left Behind


The late Safiya Bukhari (1950-2003) is not the most famous veteran of the Black Panther Party (BPP), but the compilation of her writings, The War Before, edited by former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn at the request of Bukhari's daughter, Wonda Jones, should be required reading alongside the memoirs of BPP cofounders Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.

The War Before makes many significant contributions to scholarship, including its examination of women in the BPP. Bukhari recognizes serious problems of sexism and misogyny, but argues that this was symptomatic of the Left in general and, relative to other leftist groups, the Panthers had gone much further to address the problem. Women were involved in the party at every level and, in 1970, Huey Newton issued an important public statement of support for the women's and gay liberation movements. Bukhari writes that the Panthers "may not have completed the task of eradicating sexist attitudes within the Party and in the community. But we did bring the problem out in the open and put the question on the floor."

This book review was published in the April issue of Z Magazine. Read the full article here.