Activist/musician/writer Pat Thomas has been busy the past five years compiling music, speeches and photos from the height of the Black Power movement, spending much of that time in Oakland, California, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. The result is Thomas’ forthcoming book, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 (out March 5 through Fantagraphics Books), which entrenches us in one of the most politically and culturally explosive times in America, and more specifically in the writings and music of black revolutionaries like Bobby Seale, Huey Newton and Elaine Brown.
The companion piece to Thomas’ book—Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1967-1974—is an intriguing and comprehensive collection, featuring speeches, spoken word and music from a diverse cross-section of artists from Bob Dylan and Gil Scott-Heron to British singer-songwriter Roy Harper and Black Panther house band The Lumpen (below). The book and its soundtrack (CD out Feb. 20, vinyl Feb. 28 on Light In the Attic Records) also get into the history of Motown Records and its Black Forum label, which from 1970 to 1973 put out spoken-word recordings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael and Elaine Brown (Carmichael’s “Free Huey” and Brown’s “Until We’re Free” are both included in the collection).
Highlights are The Lumpen’s “Free Bobby Now,” which calls for the release of Bobby Seale, who spent four years behind bars for outbursts during the trial of a group accused of inciting a riot in 1968, and the jarring spoken word “Die Nigga!!!” from The Original Last Poets. It’s a gritty and important look at everything white folk feared during that tumultuous time in America. And definitely worth revisiting.
Pat Thomas does a special presentation of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 Thurs., March 1 at Washington Hall in Seattle.
“Free Bobby Now” – The Lumpen
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