Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Speaker tells NU to come together

Mixing a discussion of serious issues with a sarcastic humor that got frequent chuckles out of her audience, writer and activist Elaine Brown touched on topics ranging from reparations to abortion to war during her lecture Thursday night.

“We can ask ourselves if there is something wrong with black people or we can ask ourselves if there is something wrong with the scheme of things,” she told about 75 students and faculty members.

Brown, the keynote speaker for Northwestern’s Black History Month celebrations, was the first and only woman to lead the Black Panther Party and presently works with Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice and the Legal Defense Committee for Michael “Little B” Lewis.

“I don’t want to simply talk about the Ebony magazine cover story about, you know, how one black person got a job sometime last year,” Brown said.

Instead, she said the first step to solving social problems is to acknowledge American history since slavery and to examine society’s current structure. Brown reviewed major American events and dispelled myths about the country’s history of race relations.

“Not Hitler (and others), but our great hero Thomas Jefferson, had laid down a cultural reason why the black people can never be equal to the whites,” said Brown, referring to Jefferson’s belief that blacks and whites are genetically different and therefore could never truly integrate.

She also said Abraham Lincoln was more concerned with the unity of his country than with the freedom of black people and that America’s capitalist economy is based on exploitation and oppression.

Brown said one of her current causes is reparations for slavery.

“We have a Vietnam (Veteran’s) Memorial, and we have a Holocaust museum in D.C., all supported by taxes,” she said. “But there’s not a piece of paper anywhere in D.C. that acknowledges a crime has taken place.”

Focusing on poverty in America, Brown said no one can be free without food, water and shelter, which is why the Black Panther Party established a free breakfast program for children.

Brown touched on many controversial issues, such as abortion and the war in Iraq.

“I do not think that reproductive rights is an issue that … has to be the maker or breaker,” said Brown, adding that many Catholic feminists she knows are appalled by abortion, which they referred to as “black genocide.”

Sociology graduate student Aisha Mootry said she knew a lot about Brown but was still pleasantly surprised at Brown’s stance on abortion.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of feminists consider abortion be a feminist cause,” Mootry said. “As a pro-life person, I feel that pro-life is pro-woman.” She said she was glad to see Brown point out the connections between abortion, race and poverty.

Brown expressed anti-war sentiments and said she would like to see more black people involved in the anti-war movement.

“You’re gay, but you want the right to go kill other gay people,” she used as an example to dissuade minorities from fighting against minorities.

She appealed to young people to fight oppression and said activists should be oriented around issues and not around cultures.

“We have to come together, even if we do not want to come together,” she said.

She emphasized that the Black Panther Party, made up of mostly youths, collaborated with other groups and fought not only for black rights but also for the liberation of Native Americans, gays, women and other oppressed groups.

Brown’s lecture was well-received by her audience, who frequently applauded her.

“It’s thought-provoking that America purports equality for all but the nature of capitalism is exploitation,” said Jumoke Warritay, a Weinberg sophomore.

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Speaker tells NU to come together