leave it to cleaver: the guy next door

by Art Chantry:

eldridge cleaver was one heck of a guy. a serial rapist who repudiated rape while in prison (soledad, san quentin and folsom prisons – all notoriously nasty places). he wrote a series of important essays that were compiled in the sixties leftist classic “soul on ice” – whcih became a best seller. it was heralded all over the world as important viewpoint from deep inside the african american male mindset. he was cherished as a poet and and a visionary and a sensitive profound fella. a man of letters. dignified and respected. the new york times reviewed his book as “brilliant.”

---ya know, the panthers were heroes. make no mistake about it. they were REALLY important in the history of america - and they mostly did good deeds. if you ignore some of their lamer hustles and their obvious misogyny (embarrassing for an organizations fighting for human rights), they were brilliant. but, in the end, in america it's all about making a buck. we're capitalists.---AC

when he got out of prison, he immediately joined up with the black panther party (he liked the armed resistance concept) and became the ‘minister of information’ – the press spokesman for the panthers. his influence rivaled only that of co-founders, bobby seale and huey newton. his public stature and presumed intellectual “honesty” inspired him to run for president (the peace and freedom party) in 1968. also in 1968, cleaver was shot by the police when they ambushed him and bobby fuller (who was killed by police bullets). he jumped bail and (with the help of timothy leary’s weather underground connections) escaped to cuba, then later ended up in algeria, where he was supported with funding from the north vietnamese government. he got so bored, he actually ‘arrested’ leary for drug abuse.

edlridge cleaver eventually began to argue with his co-horts in the black panther party and had a falling out, soon disowning each other. while still in algeria, he was arrested for operating a car theft ring and was suspected of murdering his wife’s illicit lover. he split for france, where he lived in ‘underground’ splendor and then (keeping up with the jesus freak movement fad of the early 70′s) became a born-again christian. however, he developed his own ideosyncratic meld of islam and xtian he dubbed “christlam.’ it didn’t catch on.

he returned to the united states (having most of his old charges dismissed or reduced to misdemeanors) and began a series of new efforts (“hustles”) to cash-in on the american market (“marks”). he wrote more books, began a series of barbeque events (he was the head chef deluxe selling his ‘special sauce’) and eventually designed and marketed these lovely trousers – aiming exclusively at the ‘soul’ community (the obviously hilarious and even offensively racist implications notwithstanding.)

after the laughter died down, he converted to the church of later day saints and became a member of the morman faith in good standing until his death in 1998. in the intervening years, he became a political conservative, campaigning for right wing republican candidates and causes. he ran for office and continued to lose. during the last few years of his life, he became addicted to crack cocaine and began to get arrested for drug use and probation violations. it was a sort of full circle.

in one of his last interviews, he tried to claim these trousers he created were actually a practical joke. uh-

moral of the story: never trust your heroes. they always just end up being people like you.


…back there in your past that you worked on that makes these funky panties look smart. we all have stupid ideas and projects buried back there. i am no exception, you are no exception….

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