Letter to the Editor
In the Executive Privilege dated November 6, 2006, Brad Yankiver incorrectly mentioned Malik Zulu Shabazz as a member of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPPSD). Mr. Shabazz is the leader of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), a group that is ideologically aligned with the Nation of Islam.
The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was formed in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, and was formed for and fought for the goal of securing social justice for black people living within the United States. It provided social services to the community, at one point feeding over 10,000 inner-city schoolchildren breakfast every morning. It organized against the reality of police brutality and racism during the 1960s and 1970s. Operations all but ceased by the early 1980s, largely due to coordinated police and FBI oppression as a part of the COINTELPRO program.
The Ashanti Alston event happened in the post-Shabazz atmosphere not because of the input from university officials, but in spite of it. There were requests from the university to postpone or cancel the event, but I and others refused. After all, I set about organizing the event after learning that Mr. Shabazz would be coming to our campus because it was important to me that the campus be exposed to a positive black radical voice.
The most surprising aspect of my closed-door meetings with university officials was a concern that Ashanti might discuss Israel, because they had circumstantial evidence that Ashanti supported the Palestinian right to self-determination. While I vehemently refused to add any rider to his contract to forbid Ashanti from discussing Israel, other students, in my place, might have caved to the university’s demands.
I wish to make this clear: Just because Ashanti was able to speak does not mean that everyone, in practice, has freedom of speech on our campus. Policies alone can’t create that freedom.
Carnegie Mellon University ’06