by Rob Strauss
Eldridge Cleaver, the former leader of the Black Panther Party, is scheduled to speak on the University of La Verne campus Monday, Nov. 17.
The Black Panthers were a radical movement group made up of African Americans in the 1960s who were known for their black berets, black jackets and the empty .50 caliber shell which was worn around their necks on a rawhide thong. They were at the forefront of the “Black Power” movement, believing that force was the only way a Caucasian-dominated America would listen to them.
Along with leading the Panthers, Cleaver also had a brief time in the political spotlight when he ran for President in 1968 as a candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party.
Cleaver is also known for the two books he has written, “Soul On Ice” and “Fire On Ice.” The former, which reflected many of the Panthers’ social views, was written while he was in prison on assault charges.
Recently, Cleaver has turned toward religion and lecturing after overcoming a drug addiction in the early 1990s.
Harvel Lewis, coordinator of minority student affairs, said she thinks Cleaver’s visit is exciting and she hopes students will learn a lot from it.
“I think it will be a history lesson, to learn about, ‘Why were there Black Panthers?'” said Lewis
According to Dr. Sharon Davis, professor of sociology and criminology, they are trying to get Cleaver to stay on campus all day and meet with a variety of groups and organizations.
“We’re calling him a visiting scholar in residence for the day, so he’ll be coming about 11 o’clock in the morning and he’ll be staying with us until about 10 o’clock at night,” said Dr. Davis.
Though the schedule is only tentative, plans call for Cleaver to attend a few of Dr. Davis’ classes, meet with the media and attend a reception hosted by the AfrikanAmerican Student Alliance (AASA) and the Behavioral Science Club in the Minority Resource Center. Dr. Davis is also looking to see if ASF can help with funding and promoting the event.
“We are requesting some funds from ASF and some activity support from ASF, not just monetary, but also publicity,” said Dr. Davis.
Dr. Davis says that, so far, the reaction to Cleaver’s visit has been “extremely positive.”
“People remember him for his days of activism,” said Dr. Davis. “They remember some of the courageous stands he took against racism. They remember his conflict approach. He was very conflict oriented.”
Among the things that Cleaver will likely speak about are his activist days and his new book, which deals with the American justice system.
“I’m hoping that it will stimulate the students to ask a lot of questions and to really learn about this time,” said Lewis.