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"The trial of all political activism in this country started with the trials of the Black Panthers." French playwright Jean Genet told an overflow crowd at M.I.T.'s Student Union last night.
Speaking through an American interpreter, Genet cited the Panthers, and their chairman Babby Seale in particular, as the most "brilliant, luminous, and poignant part of American society."
The fifteen-minute talk marked Genet's first Boston appearance since he began his American tour with the Panthers ten days ago. The trip was prompted, he explained, by a group of Panthers who went to Paris two weeks ago to seek his advice. He decided to voice his support for the Panthers by coming to America "immediately and secretly, since the U.S. government refused me a visa."
Genet said that the short time that he has spent with the Panthers has already impressed him with the "vertiginous" heights from which they work and the danger of their everyday life. Referring to a New York radio station's request that he not use obscenity on the air. Genet called the fact that black people are obliged to barricade themselves in their homes for protection "one of the greatest obscenities imaginable."
The crowd responded enthusiastically when Genet, who wrote the controversial play The Blacks, explained how a society that white people like himself perceived as "bourgeois" can rightfully be called "fascist" by the black people it oppresses. The end of the speech, an exhortation to white radicals to "work hard for the Panthers," received a standing ovation.
A Boston leader of the Black Panther Party followed Genet with a longer speech that reiterated some of the some issues. This speaker castigated the white audience directly for its "safe radicalism," the "comfortable verbal masturbation that never gets off the level of abstractions."
He criticized radical student organizations by name for their "subjective racism." specifically blasting the Worker-Student Alliance Caucus of SDS forignoring at its recent conference the death of Illinois Panther Fred Hampton.
"Black nationalists ask why white students move ahead for three days and then sit back in theoretical discussion of their action for three months," the speaker said. "And we don't have anything concrete to prove to them that some whites are on our side. If we can't make a unified class struggle, we'll go ahead with black liberation, and people will someday say that White America just couldn't come along."
The speaker claimed that "the script has already been written" for the execution of Bobby Seale on a Connecticut murder charge. He said that whites had to join Panthers in resisting Seale's conviction to the point of making it clear that "we're going to get a few deans and businessmen" if Seale is executed. "It's coming down to the wire," the speaker said. "White America had better shit or get off the pot."
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