Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Black Panthers in Chicago

BOND: Now, what draws you to go to Oakland to see Huey Newton? What were you going through then mentally?

RUSH: Oh, we were — it wasn't something that was really thought out. I was a part of SNCC in the Chicago Chapter. Okay. Stokely was, right — had been the leader or the chairman of SNCC and Stokely left SNCC because of the Black Power thing, and he had gone to Oakland to become a member of the Black Panther Party. He was on the Central Committee. Well, we were kind of like Stokely's followers, you know what I mean? We loved Stokely, and Stokely asked us, because he was getting ready to join the Black Panther Party, he wanted us to join along with him so that he would have a base. So Bob Brown and I and some others joined the Black Panther Party. And I was asked to go to Oakland to get the authorization of the national Black Panther Party chapter for Chicago, and I went out and talked to David Hilliard and Bobby Seale and Eldridge [Cleaver] and Don [Donald] Cox and basically — and Bobby said, "We already have a chapter of the Black Panther Party in Chicago."

Well, I knew who those guys were. They were perpetrating themselves as Black Panthers, and I knew that they weren't really serious. They weren't movement — the movement wasn't in their heart. They was something like some hustlers, you know, and so they said, "Well, we'll give you some buttons and we'll give you a couple of papers. You can go back and sell the papers and have some buttons." So we went back, and I wasn't deterred at all. I went and got an alderman in the City Council, Sammy Rayner.

BOND: Sure.

RUSH: Sammy rented an office for us, and we got a telephone, and we start ordering papers from Oakland. Still not recognized as an official chapter. And around this time, December 1968, I got a call from David Hilliard saying that two members of the Black Panther Party who had been traveling, I think, from New York to California — they had a little gentleman's discussion, an argument or a debate, really, about whether or not the distance from New York to Oakland was the same as it would be from Oakland to Cuba and in their naivete, they asked the stewardess. You know, this was the height of the time when all these hijackings to Cuba, of planes to Cuba, and so what happened was she freaked and she called the pilot and they landed in Chicago, so they handcuffed these guys, put them in jail, and the only number that they had, that Oakland had for anybody, was my number and the number at the Panther headquarters, because we were smart enough to open up an office, so that's how we became officially recognized as an official chapter —

BOND: I see, I see.

RUSH: — out of necessity.