Bobby Seale, Copenhagen, 1969

One evening in March 1969, thirty-three-year-old Bobby Seale—co-founder with Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BBP) in October 1966—gave a speech in the packed-to-capacity main hall of Copenhagen’s Grundtvigs Hus. Skip Norman had traveled to cover the proceedings on camera and tape recorder. Seale’s speech was extensively deployed in Norman’s 1969 Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB) diploma film Strange Fruit; Norman also used parts of the audio recording of the speech in his shorter film Cultural Nationalism (1968/69).

Together with Raymond “Masia” Hewitt, the minister of education of the BBP, their chairman toured Scandinavian cities (Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, and Copenhagen) in winter 1969; here, international support for the Black Revolution was particularly strong, and local solidarity committees formed after each appearance. The trip was organized as part of the “Free Huey” campaign to generate support for BBP’s imprisoned minister of defense.1

Bobby Seale talking to an audience at Copenhagen, March 1969, still from Strange Fruit (dir. Skip Norman, 1969)

Norman films Seale, wearing a scarf and fur hat, standing at a lectern with a Che Guevara poster attached to the front, while a large baroque painting of an eighteenth-century Danish aristocrat can at times be discerned in the background. Seated at the table next to the lectern, facing the audience, were Hewitt, Leonard W. “Skip” Malone, and Connie Matthews. Malone was an African American author, journalist, and musician living in Denmark, and a member of the BBP.

Connie Matthews, Copenhagen, 1969, photographed by Robert Wade

The main contact in Scandinavia, however, was Connie Matthews, the “lead organizer of this support,” according to Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr.2 The “energetic and articulate young Jamaican woman” worked at the Copenhagen offices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Matthews, together with Malone, arranged, prepared, and accompanied Seale and Hewitt on the tour across Scandinavia in coordination with various left-wing Scandinavian organizations, enlisting their support by highlighting the class politics of the Black Panther Party. “I am only too willing time and time again to repeat to European audiences,” Matthews told Land og Folk, the communist newspaper in Copenhagen, “that the BPP is speaking about a world proletarian revolution and recognize themselves as part of this. It is a question of the oppressor against the oppressed regardless of race.”3

Connie Matthews and Bobby Seale, Copenhagen, March 1969 (from: Panter formand Bobby Seale taler – København Grundtvigs Hus marts 1969, 1970)

Matthews may also have been instrumental in organizing the publication of a small, twenty-page photo booklet on Seale’s appearance in Copenhagen.4 An extensive variety of people were in the audience at that evening. From the stage at Grundtvigs Hus, Malone noticed famed exiled jazz musician Dexter Gordon’s “tall frame at the back […], soaking in every bit of the Panther rhetoric. Later that evening, Bobby Seale, Dexter, Art Taylor, Johnny Griffin, and Sam Jackson were all invited for drinks at the home of one of the arrangers. And the Panthers were familiar with Dexter’s music, and of course they all had a lot of stories to exchange about their California background.”5 There’s room for speculation about whether Skip Norman may have been invited along to join the crowd of musicians and activists.

“Chairman Bobby Seale Returns from Scandinavia,” cover of the Black Panther (March 31, 1969)

Upon Seale’s and Hewitt’s return to San Francisco, the Black Panther newspaper covered the trip which was monitored by the infamous (and illegal) COINTELPRO unit of the FBI. In the following year, 1970, it was again up to international solidarity committees to organize the release of Bobby Seale, now in prison as a result of the Chicago Eight trial and other proceedings.6

Connie Matthews speaking at the Black Panther Solidarity Conference, student house Jügelstraße, Frankfurt am Main, April 1970, photographed by Abisag Tüllmann (bpk-Bildagentur: bpk 70243260 and 70243259)

Among the events organized in West Germany, partly coordinated by the likes of former German Sozialistische Deutsche Studentenbund (Socialist German Students’ Union, SDS) leaders K. D. Wolff and Christian Semler, was one at the Jügelstraße student house in Frankfurt am Main, where Abisag Tüllmann photographed Connie Matthews, who had traveled from Copenhagen to speak at the event. Seale’s history of the BBP, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (translated into German by Regine Wolf in 1971 as Wir fordern Freiheit: der Kampf der Black Panther) also appeared in 1970.

Footnotes

1 For some further contextual information about his 1969 Scandinavia tour, see Bobby Seale’s notes on his LinkedIn page: “Bobby Seale Speaks In Scandinavian Countries” (January 2, 2018), https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bobby-seale-speaks-scandinavian-countries-sweden-norway-bobby-seale, accessed March 2, 2022. 1

2 Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr, Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, Berkeley, LA, and London, 2013, p. 313. 2

3 Quoted from ibid. 3

4 Black Panther Party Solidarity Committee, Panter formand Bobby Seale taler – København Grundtvigs Hus marts 1969 (Panther chairman Bobby Seale speaks – Copenhagen Grundtvig’s House, March 1969), Copenhagen, 1970. 4

5 Leonard Malone, More Than You Know: Dexter Gordon in Copenhagen, Copenhagen, 1996, quoted from Maxine Gordon, Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, Berkeley, LA, and London, 2018, p. 161. 5

6 For West Germany, see Martin Klimke, “Black Power, die Black-Panther-Solidaritätskomitees und der bewaffnete Kampf,” in Wolfgang Kraushaar (ed.), Die RAF und der linke Terrorismus, Volume 1, Hamburg, 2006, pp. 562–82. 6

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March 18th, 2022 — Rosa Mercedes / 03 / Contexts
Interface

Tatsiana Shchurko on the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”

An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”

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Vasyl Cherepanyn (Visual Culture Research Centre, Kyiv) on Putin’s “World War Z” and the West’s deadly “foot-dragging”, via Project Syndicate: “The main feature of this Western condition is constant belatedness. The West has always been too late, incapable of acting ahead and instead just reacting to what has already happened. As a Ukrainian joke went at the time, ‘While the European Union was taking a decision, Russia took Crimea.’ Then as now, Ukrainians wondered, ‘What is the West’s red line? What will compel the West to act instead of waiting and discussing when to intervene?’”

Barbara Wurm on Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, killed in Mariupol, via Die Welt: “Kvedaravičius unfolded a whole spectrum of visual anthropology over a decade with only three films [Barzakh, Mariupolis, Parthenon]. It now awaits evaluation and exploration. The time will come. The films themselves make possible an infinite immersion in the matter of the world, between dream and reality, horror and everyday life, facts and phenomenal imagology.”

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Statement by #AfricansFromUA on Equal Treatment via e-flux notes: “Non-Ukrainian nationals from the war in Ukraine arriving in Germany have been facing very different terms of treatment—both in different federal states and cities but also within the very same city throughout time and different facilities. While some received so called ‘Fictitious Certificates’ for one year without further procedures others were pressured to submit an asylum application with their finger prints registered and passports seized. Again others were given a so called “Duldung” including the threat of deportation.”

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