Black Panther Bobby Seale with actor Marlon Brando. (Image Source: San Francisco Bay View)
In a San Francisco Bay View film review for the 2015 documentary “Listen to Me Marlon”, the story of Marlon Brando’s press-making eulogy for slain Black Panther Bobby Hutton is retold:
In the late ‘60s, Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda are credited with helping to bring the Black Panther Party and their politics to a mainstream white audience. In 1967, Brando gave a speech at the funeral of 17-year-old Black Panther Bobby Hutton who was unjustifiably murdered by Oakland police.
“That could’ve been my son lying there and I’m going to do as much as I can. I’m going to start right now to inform white people of what they don’t know. A white man can never dig it, ‘cause he never dug it, and I’m here to try to dig it.”
White young people are shown protesting Brando’s involvement in the Black Liberation struggle with picket signs that said “Marlon Brando is a nigger-loving creep.”
Another point that points to Brando’s character is when a television interviewer asks Marlon straight up, “Have you considered the fact that you might suffer bodily harm yourself?”
Brando thinks for a second, looks around, smiles and says, “Yes.”
In “Listen to Me Marlon,” he puts his politics out there for everybody to see. “I’m standing up, not for the Black race; I’m standing up for the human race. All men are created equal.” This was a huge statement coming from Hollywood’s golden boy at the time when Black people were fighting against Jim Crow laws and police terror.
“This is life and death. This is real life. We’re talking about human relations. We’re talking about human rights, racial issues, and that’s why I care. “
For more, read this 1997 interview of Eldridge Cleaver by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, or watch “The Black Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution “, currently available to stream on Netflix. You can also read about a talk Bobby Seale gave in January on resistance, MLK and Marlon, or this Baltimore Sun piece on the altruistic side of the Black Panthers.