The one-time assistant chief of staff of the Black Panther Party recounts his metamorphosis from urban guerilla to urban planner.
Forbes, now the chief strategic officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation in New York, gives a vivid picture of the ethos of the black liberation movement and the alienation of black youth. He was first attracted to the Black Panthers when his older brother, a UCLA student, brought the party’s newspaper home with him to San Diego, where Forbes, a high-school drop-out, had felt the brunt of racial discrimination. In tune with its goal of ending police brutality, he joined the party at age 16 and was soon selling its newspaper on the street in the Bay Area. From there he moved up to the party’s ministry of information, and by age 20, he had become the party’s head of security, maintaining and distributing weapons. His personal choice was a 9-mm Browning automatic pistol, worn on an inside belt holster, but he also kept a riot shotgun and a Colt 45 close at hand. When his plan to kill a witness against Huey Newton went awry, leaving one Black Panther dead and Forbes wounded, he fled the Bay Area and went underground, living in various cities under various aliases. After some years as a fugitive, Forbes shed the persona of an angry, gun-toting police-hater and made the decision to turn his life around. Returning to California in 1980, he turned himself in, stood trial for felony murder and was convicted. Forbes used his time in prison to earn college credits; he was released in 1985. At 37, armed with a graduate degree, he took his first paying job as an adult. When writing of his life within the Black Panther Party and of his time behind bars, he uses black street jargon freely, lending this some added authenticity. An appendix provides a chronology of the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party.
A dark and disturbing read.