Eldridge Cleaver

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Eldridge Cleaver was an activist and author.

Vietnam survey

Wallace Terry, author of "Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans" visited Vietnam in 1967 as a correspondent for Time magazine.

"While there he observed that the majority of African-Americans in Vietnam were of the school of thought that it was better to fight for civil rights at home by proving their patriotism in Vietnam, rather than engaging in violence."

Three years later in 1970, Wallace Terry returned to Vietnam to conduct a survey among 392 African-American and white soldiers from all branches of the military and from both enlisted and officer ranks.

The results of his survey dramatically show a change in African-American attitudes only after three years. In 1967 Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and Stokely Carmichael were not very popular with African-American soldiers because of their stance against the Vietnam War. But in 1970 they were regarded as heroes for the same reason.

Some of the other results of Terry's 1970 survey:

  • 50% of African-Americans said that they would use their weapons in the struggle for civil rights in the United States.
  • 30% said they would join black power organizations.
  • 83% believed that additional American race riots were inevitable and 45% of those said that they would participate in such riots.
  • 45% would refuse orders to put down riots involving African-Americans.
  • 65% believed that race relations in Vietnam would deteriorate.
  • 76% rejected the term "Negro" for "Black" or "Afro-American."
  • 72% approved of Eldridge Cleaver.

Union activity/social activism

William C. Velasquez helped the United Farm Workers Union in organizing activities in the Rio Grande valley in 1966-67 and left graduate school his last semester to serve as boycott coordinator for the San Antonio area in the Starr County Strike. While still a graduate student, Velásquez was hired as a consultant to the executive director of the Bishop's Committee for the Spanish Speaking of the United States Catholic Conference. In March 1967 he helped found the Mexican American Youth Organization at St. Mary's University, and he also served as the first statewide coordinator of El Movimiento Social de La Raza Unida, the forerunner to the Raza Unida Party, a political third party for Hispanics. In January 1968 El Movimiento sponsored a conference on Chicano politics at which attendance was 2,000.

There were five founding members of the Mexican American Youth Organization-Jose Angel Gutierrez, Juan Patlan, Willie Velasquez, Ignacio Perez, ("Nacho" Perez) and Mario Compean.

Gutierrez was a graduate political science student at St. Mary’s University . Jose Angel Gutierrez was the "heart and soul" of MAYO and was responsible in great part for bringing this group together. Juan Patlan was an old friend of Gutierrez from high school. Willie Velasquez worked for the Catholic Bishop’s Committee on the Spanish Speaking. “Nacho” Perez was a non student who was active raising money for the Texas chapter of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. Mario Compean, the last to join this group, was a former migrant worker who was entering his freshman year as a political science student in 1967.

According to Gutierrez they(the founding members) came to discuss politics, the Chicano student movement in California, and the conditions of Mexican Americans in general, and to drink beer. It was this group that would be the driving force behind the Mexican American Youth Organization. This group first met at a local bar, the Fountain Room, situated a few blocks from St. Mary’s University.

This group studied different political theories and examined the works of black nationalists such as Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, and Malcolm X. This nucleus of MAYO also followed the actions of the Alianza de Pueblos Libres movement led by Reies Lopez Tijerina in New Mexico and the Crusade for Justice movement in Colorado headed by Rodolfo Gonzalez[2].

These Mexican American activists were not satisfied with just reading about the works and political philosophies of U.S. activists. Members of this group were sent into the South to talk to Stokely Carmichael and associates of Dr. King. Tijerina was interviewed also. After the interviews were completed, reports were made back to the group. As a result of these travels and the study sessions the Mexican American Youth Organization came into being. These activists concluded that an organization needed to be formed to get involved in issues of discrimination, police brutality, labor organizing, and education and the treatment of Mexican American students in public schools. In addition, MAYO would attempt to foster a new pride in being Chicano.

According to Mario Compean, the group adopted the confrontational tactics of Chicago based "community organizer" Saul Alinsky[3];

“What we needed was an approach similar to what the Black Movement was using . . . demonstrating, marching in the streets. To that we incorporated a Saul Alinsky component of confrontational politics. And we said that was going to be the strategy MAYO was going to be using. Use of confrontational politics based on information well researched but foregoing the use of nice language.”

Peace and Freedom

The Peace and Freedom Party held its first national convention to nominate candidates for President and Vice President in Ann Arbor, Michigan on August 17-August 18, 1968. Eldridge Cleaver was nominated for President over comedian/activist Dick Gregory by a margin of 161.5 to 54. Cleaver, a convicted felon and Black Panther Party spokesman, was technically not eligible to run since he was only 34 years old at the time. Due to the needs of the state parties to collect signatures, the party fielded several different vice presidential nominees, including Chicago activist Peggy Terry, Chicano activist Rodolfo Gonzales, radical economist Doug Dowd and Judith Mage, who had been nominated at the national convention[4].

U.S. People’s Anti-Imperialist Delegation

Alex Hing (center) in front of the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea

In 1970, Hing went on a delegation to North Korea and North Vietnam and then China.

China, North Korea, and North Vietnam were all socialist, liberated countries. They were trying to make socialism work. I could go on about why that’s not a model any longer. But it was fascinating that there were people that liberated themselves from U.S. imperialism, and Vietnam was in the process of doing that at great cost. That was a life changing experience.[5]

The U.S. People’s Anti-Imperialist Delegation, spearheaded by Black Panther Party (BPP) leader Eldridge Cleaver and Ramparts editor Robert Scheer, on a two-and-a-half month tour of North Korea, North Vietnam, and China in 1970. This group was “a cross-section of the U.S. radical left” , different in composition, politics, and itinerary from the kinds of peace delegations organized by FOR and WSP. It was made up of four men and seven women, and four members of the group were people of color: Cleaver and Elaine Brown of the BPP, and Asian-American activists Alex Hing and Pat Sumi. [6]

Violent views

At the time of the Kent State shootings, Steven Conliff was a supporter of black radical Eldridge Cleaver[7];

By the time I became a college radical and activist in the fall of ’73, and a mistaken supporter of Eldridge Cleaver, I firmly believed that the students should have been better organized with well-armed militias and shot back. Hell, I dreamed about getting down to it, as Neil Young advised.

Foreign Travel

In June 1964 Judith Hemblen and Stewart Albert departed for Algiers, Algeria via Canada to meet with Eldridge Cleaver for a period of three weeks. Albert also visited Santiago, Chile with Jerry Rubin from August 2 - September 24, 1971. On September 9, 1975 Kurt Groenwald was observed by a Special Agent of the FBI departing 102 West 14th Street, New York City, accompanied by Ellen Ray, Judy Hemblen and Stewart Albert.[8]