Former Black Panther to speak on campus despite bad feedback

Today at 6 p.m., the Student Government Association in conjunction with the Minority Student Leadership Academy will host Florida A&M University’s first Black Talk.

This event will be a panel discussion with note worthy speakers such as Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, Sharon Lettman and the Rev. John F. White II.

Bobby Seal was the co-founded of the Black Panther Party in 1966 with Huey P. Newton. 

But, the event has received both positive and negative feedback form the students. While some students are interested in the panel, others are not. At an event where SGA is expecting a large turnout, the question still remains on whether the students will attend.

“I think it’s probably the greatest thing that’s ever happened on FAMU’s campus,” said Greg Butler, a freshman African-American studies student. “So many times I feel that our school is the passive voice of reason. Bobby Seale could be doing so many things, yet he is choosing to come and talk to us.”

Crystal Finlay, a senior African-American studies student from Miami agreed, “It’s absolutely necessary. We’ve had many forums, but talking is ineffective without follow through.”

However some students feel that this event is not something that they need to attend.

“I feel like I could find a better use for my time than sitting in Lee Hall and listening to people talk about all the problems instead of trying to fix them,” said freshman Ralph Forbes, a biology pre-med student from Prince George County, Md.

Sophomore Tia Miller, a physical therapy student from Jacksonville, said, “I didn’t even know about the event.”

Whether students feel positively or negatively about the event, one thing is for sure, today’s Black Talk is one of the most anticipated events that have occurred on campus this year.

“This has been an event that has been in the works since the beginning of the school year,” said Secretary of Student Affairs Jillian Jones, “but we did not confirm Bobby Seale’s presence until about two or three weeks ago.”

SGA Vice President Monique Gillum compared today’s event to panels of the past. “I have great faith that the students will show up, stay, and have great dialogue,” she said. “This event is similar to an even that we did last year. We will be treating the students to another panel discussion in the spring.”

Thomas Lehman, a professor of sociology, said students should attend Black Talk because that time is not that far behind.

“I think it will be good for the FAMU student body,” Lehman said. “In the not so distant past things were not the way they are today. It will help students see that change hasn’t always existed, and that there is still more change that has to occur.”

Seale was a member of the Chicago Eight until he was tried in 1968 for inciting a riot and conspiracy at the Democratic Convention.

He received four years in prison for his outbursts in the courtroom. Seale was tried a second time in 1970 for murdering Alex Rackley, but he was acquitted of all charges. More recently Seale dedicates his time to a youth outreach educational program “Reach!”

Elaine Brown is a former leading member of the Black Panther Party.

She is also the author of “A Taste of Power and Condemnation of Little B. A Taste of Power.” Brown has co-founded other organizations including Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice in 1997 and the National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform in 2002. Brown now teaches at universities around the United States on New Age Racism.

Panelist Sharon Lettman is the Vice President for External Affairs for People for the American Way Foundation in Washington. Lettman also was the campaign manager for Andrew D. Gillum, Tallahassee Commissioner. He became the youngest commissioner elected in February 2003 to Tallahassee’s commission. The last guest on the panel is White, Pastor of New Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

White received the E.C. Curry Memorial Award, and he is writing his dissertation titled, A Pastor’s Transitional Manual for the A.M.E. Church, for the doctorate of ministry black church studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio. Since his position as head pastor over 400 members have joined the church.