Read the Free Huey speech here.
Listen to it here.
Watch it here.
This speech was dedicated to Huey P. Newton (co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) after the trumped-up charge of 1st-degree murder of a police officer (of which he was not guilty) to slander and demean Newton, and by extension, the Black Panther Party.
In “Free Huey,” Kwame Turé underlines the concept of survival. Turé expositions this speech with the idea that the survival “of a race of people…is all that is at stake” (112). By establishing this, Turé discusses the roles that resistance, the vote (its futility, rather), allyship, and ideologies play in contributing to survival.
Resistance is a motif in black history. A motif that was engendered by years of oppression. It is a motif that manifests itself in many different ways throughout different periods of black history. One of the earliest and most tangible forms of resistance is slave rebellions and mutinies (while still on the slave ships). 18th-century slave insurrections like the Stono Rebellion and 19th-century rebellions led by Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey are examples. However, there are subtle ways of resistance that are less obvious and are less frequently discussed. Turé uses language and the communal way of life as examples of these subtle ways. Turé says, “We have never spoken English perfectly.” Not because we are or were incapable, but because we “consciously resisted a language that did not belong to us… [It is] a level of resistance” (114). The maintenance of “our communal way of life” and the fact that “we do not call children illegitimate” are examples of the values black people practice and hold dear. These values came from the Continent, values that 400 years of Colonialism and Imperialism could not shake.
Turé also discusses the irrelevance and futility of “the vote” in relation to the condition of black people in America. Turé dismisses the significance of the vote as nothing more than a “honky’s trick.” As examples, Turé cites states in which black people have endured the worst to communicate that black people were still able to remain resilient and survive without the vote. The only purpose the vote could serve is as a “vehicle for organization” (117). Something that could facilitate the organization of the black community. If it has no substantial purpose, it is irrelevant and even distracting.
Turé revisits the idea of allies with an emphasis on an allyship with the Third World. As peoples who have been colonized, “whose entire culture, whose entire history, whose entire way of life has been destroyed,” it is only natural to ally with those who have experienced the same thing (126); The people “who are trying to rebuild their culture…their history…their dignity…[and] who are fighting for their humanity.” Allying with poor whites, for example, is not sufficient because they are “not fighting for their humanity, they’re fighting for more money” (120). Again, this is not to say joining forces with white people is inherently bad. However, when one has the same enemy but different goals, it would not be in the best interest of those involved to join forces because the approaches to those differing goals are going to be different and hence prove ineffective as a unit. If they cannot agree on the methodology, then nothing will get done.
Turé then builds on the concept of community. Not only do black people need to organize as a community to fight oppression, but they must develop an ideology as well. An ideology that prioritizes racism. Since communism and socialism are generally tied to the fight for black liberation, Turé shifts this understanding by explaining that these ideologies only “speak [solely] to the class structure” (121). Turé argues that black people experience the intersections of oppression as a race and a class, but primarily as a race. Hence, these ideologies are not sufficient because they adhere to the less pressing issue. First order of business for black people is the fight against racism.The grand takeaway from this speech is survival. Turé stresses that black people have not only been resisting but surviving ever since 1619. Survival is a staple in black history; the same way conquest is a staple in white history. Black people have survived, not by relying on the vote and having to ally, but through the communal effort of resistance.