Eldridge Cleaver: A Man of Good or Evil?
It’s arduous for a person to decide whether a man like Eldridge Cleaver was born an angel or a demon. Controversy still arises when these contemplations ruminate their conscience. Cleaver has been known for many things in his existence including being a Black Panther leader, a skilled polemicist, a rapist, an international fugitive, an obsessive drug addict, and surprisingly enough, a born-again Christian (Reed/Koury 1). But here’s the kicker, after all of his years of racketeer, he then found the audacity to be a “non-violence counselor,” (1). As we ponder among this dumbfounded news, know that this is nothing yet to what you will soon be enlightened. However, despite of his utterly poor choices in his life, many look back and they see a heroic figure that once aided to the crying help of the needy. So where was the soul of the “good” Eldridge Cleaver in all of this? Was he held captive in his own mind by the demon possessing his body, hoping that one day this hell-raised soul would be exercised? Let us linger on this thought-provoking question a bit more, shall we?..
Leroy Eldridge Cleaver first opened his eyes on the day of August 31, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas (Wikipedia 1). Under the parental supervision of a waiter-piano player father and a grammar-school educating mother, his family first moved to Phoenix and then packed their belongings in their migration to Los Angeles (Reed/Koury 2). Cleaver’s youthful years was a clichéd childhood of many black adolescents like himself in his time. At an early age, he had already seemed to be having trouble with the “white-man’s law” (Auther 2). The lost, teen-aged boy struggled with routine pat-downs by the “5-0,” which eventually lead to the practically ritual arrests of his law-breaking. The terms reform-school and prison were words that were quite friendly to his ear, when caught in the midst of thievery and the illegal dealing of marijuana (Reed/Koury 2). However, although agreed upon many to be the worst a juvenile could do, theft and selling marijuana was nothing yet compared to what Cleaver was capable of committing. His level of crime severity was literally up with the “big boys.” Later in 1957, serious crimes ticketed his trips to California’s most sinful prisons (2). Even in these harsh conditions, vulnerability was never a factor to him. In fact, the pressure of law enforcement observing his every move enraged the convict even more to a level where he was extremely determined to act upon the white-dominated power structure and would stop at nothing to take matters into the very palms of his own hands (2). In his time of isolation, he wrote his fiery manifesto. Here lay the expressions of his anger and the rising hatred towards these white-skinned people. The demonic black aura that surrounded his figure was one of pure malignancy.
Eldridge Cleaver helped found the Black Panther Party along with cofounders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (Auther 2). The Black Panther Party was a Oakland based black nationalist group that strongly despised white America (2). They challenged the white peoples’ government (Reed/Koury 2). They were prepared to engage with force if necessary with an arsenal of their own weaponry (2). As one of the more powerful leaders of the organization, Cleaver is renowned for his role as the Black Panthers’ Minister of Information or spokesman of the group (2). The author of the article, “ ‘He was a symbol’: Eldridge Cleaver dies at 62,” Jennifer Auther, asserts, “ ‘I thought Eldridge was the reincarnation of Malcolm X. I’d never heard such power, such eloquence,’ said Roland Freeman, another former Panther,”(Auther 1). Evidently, many people did see Eldridge Cleaver as a hero of their time. In the article, Jennifer also endorses, “ ‘At that time, it was inspirational for us here in the South to see a group like that out in Oakland providing breakfasts, providing shelter for the needy,’ said Tobe Johnson, a...
Cited: Auther, Jennifer. “ ‘He was a symbol’: Eldridge Cleaver dies at 62.” CNN Interactive. 1998. 7 March 2008. .
Koury, Renee & Reed, Dan. “Former Black Panther Transformed from Fiery Radical to Quiet Conservative.” San Jose Mercury News. 1998. 5 March 2008. http://sks.sirs.com/cgi-bin/hst-article-display?id=SCA5699-0-5941&artno=0000021685&ty….
“Eldridge Cleaver.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. 7 March 2008 .
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