ELDRIDGE CLEAVER

"I thought Eldridge was the reincarnation of Malcolm X. I’d never heard such power, such eloquence," said David Hilliard when Eldridge Cleaver died recently in 1998. Born in Arkansas in 1935 and having grown up in L.A., Eldridge Cleaver ran into legal trouble when he was only a teenager, being arrested for robbery and selling marijuana. In 1957, he was convicted for attempted murder and imprisoned in San Quentin prison. In prison, he read many civil rights books, including the writing of Malcolm X and became inspired to write his own essays on racial and revolutionary issues, which became his book Soul On Ice. In one of his essays he wrote, "I wanted to send waves of consternation through the white race". After being released from prison, Eldridge Cleaver joined the BPP, later becoming the organization's minister and speaker of information. In 1968, he was traveling in two cars with eight other BPP members, which were ambushed by the Oakland police, resulting in the killing of Bobby Hutton. Cleaver was convicted for attempted murder, but before he could be imprisoned, he bailed out and fled in exile to Algeria, Cuba, and France. In 1971, Cleaver was expelled from the BPP on account of several arguments with Huey Newton, and in 1975, Cleaver underwent a huge transformation both politically and religiously. He converted to Christianity and rejected his former political views, describing the American political system as “the freest and most democratic in the world with all its faults”. He ran the Cleaver Crusade for Christ, attempted to form a new religion, which he expressed in his next book Soul On Fire, and also tried to run for a Senate seat in California. However, his later life became a struggle with drug problems and he was charged for possessing cocaine. Despite his many transformations, he will always be remembered as a Panther and for his revolutionary ideas. "You don't have to teach people to be human. You have to teach them how to stop being inhuman."