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A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story

by Elaine Brown

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426459,993 (3.94)2
"A stunning picture of a black woman's coming of age in America. Put it on the shelf beside The Autobiography of Malcolm X." --Kirkus Reviews Elaine Brown assumed her role as the first and only female leader of the Black Panther Party with these words: "I have all the guns and all the money. I can withstand challenge from without and from within. Am I right, Comrade?" It was August 1974. From a small Oakland-based cell, the Panthers had grown to become a revolutionary national organization, mobilizing black communities and white supporters across the country--but relentlessly targeted by the police and the FBI, and increasingly riven by violence and strife within. How Brown came to a position of power over this paramilitary, male-dominated organization, and what she did with that power, is a riveting, unsparing account of self-discovery. Brown's story begins with growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Philadelphia and attending a predominantly white school, where she first sensed what it meant to be black, female, and poor in America. She describes her political awakening during the bohemian years of her adolescence, and her time as a foot soldier for the Panthers, who seemed to hold the promise of redemption. And she tells of her ascent into the upper echelons of Panther leadership: her tumultuous relationship with the charismatic Huey Newton, who would become her lover and her nemesis; her experience with the male power rituals that would sow the seeds of the party's demise; and the scars that she both suffered and inflicted in that era's paradigm-shifting clashes of sex and power. Stunning, lyrical, and acute, this is the indelible testimony of a black woman's battle to define herself. "A glowing achievement." --Los Angeles Times   "Honest, funny, subjective, unsparing, and passionate. . . A Taste of Power weaves autobiography and political history into a story that fascinates and illuminates." --The Washington Post  … (more)
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This is a cold hard look at the Black Panther Party at it's least inspirational.

The title is surprisingly apt. Elaine Brown is a social climber, and we watch her ascent to the top of the Black Panther Party via a combination of her hard work and her ability to find and latch onto the most powerful person in the room. In the beginning of the book she brags about being in control of the baddest people in the room, that she has power over them. At the end of the book, while Huey Newton becomes more wealthy socially isolated philosopher than street-level organizer, she has moved on into "official" politics, first as a candidate, and then as advocate/advisor for candidates at the governor and finally presidential level. I literally couldn't have cared less about her constant jockeying for power.

I knew that the BPP had difficulties with misogyny, no more and no less than the rest of the New Left, who were likely less terrible than society as a whole at that time. Sexual violence and intimate partner violence pepper the book and Brown's own life experiences. That the BPP used bullwhips to enforce discipline (whipping people who did not meet party deadlines) was a shocking revelation. ( )
  magonistarevolt | May 4, 2020 |
  _praxis_ | Mar 4, 2018 |
  _praxis_ | Mar 4, 2018 |
7
  OberlinSWAP | Jul 20, 2015 |
Showing 4 of 4
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"A stunning picture of a black woman's coming of age in America. Put it on the shelf beside The Autobiography of Malcolm X." --Kirkus Reviews Elaine Brown assumed her role as the first and only female leader of the Black Panther Party with these words: "I have all the guns and all the money. I can withstand challenge from without and from within. Am I right, Comrade?" It was August 1974. From a small Oakland-based cell, the Panthers had grown to become a revolutionary national organization, mobilizing black communities and white supporters across the country--but relentlessly targeted by the police and the FBI, and increasingly riven by violence and strife within. How Brown came to a position of power over this paramilitary, male-dominated organization, and what she did with that power, is a riveting, unsparing account of self-discovery. Brown's story begins with growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Philadelphia and attending a predominantly white school, where she first sensed what it meant to be black, female, and poor in America. She describes her political awakening during the bohemian years of her adolescence, and her time as a foot soldier for the Panthers, who seemed to hold the promise of redemption. And she tells of her ascent into the upper echelons of Panther leadership: her tumultuous relationship with the charismatic Huey Newton, who would become her lover and her nemesis; her experience with the male power rituals that would sow the seeds of the party's demise; and the scars that she both suffered and inflicted in that era's paradigm-shifting clashes of sex and power. Stunning, lyrical, and acute, this is the indelible testimony of a black woman's battle to define herself. "A glowing achievement." --Los Angeles Times   "Honest, funny, subjective, unsparing, and passionate. . . A Taste of Power weaves autobiography and political history into a story that fascinates and illuminates." --The Washington Post  

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