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Sacred FireThe demand for black power in the late 1960s meant different things to different groups within the black community. For the mildest of its mouthers, the slogan was a call for black economic self-sufficiency and political power within the American system. For others, it meant complete racial separatism and cultural nationalism. For still others, it meant a complete anticapi talist revolution in the Marxist model, except that where Marx thought the revolutionary vanguard would emerge from the industrial working class, Marxist black revolutionaries saw the revolution emerging from the black ghetto underclass. The Black Panthers, who were believed by many to be the most aggressively militant and revolutionary of the black organizations of the period, embraced the latter position.
Seize the Time was written by Bobby Seale, then chairman of the Black Panther Party, to clear up misunderstandings on the part of the public by thoroughly explaining the organization's origin, activities, and goals. The Black Panther Party began in Oakland, California, in October 1966, founded by Scale and the late Hucy P. Newton, who would go on to be its most visible and controversial leader. In contrast to the nonviolent methods being advocated by other activist groups of the time, the Panthers openly advocated the use of violence to achieve their goals, putting into action their interpretation of Malcolm X's "by any means necessary" philosophy. Starting from the theory that the police—the arm of the suppressive white establishment in the ghetto—must be monitored by blacks, they took to the streets with loaded cameras and guns, thus claiming for themselves and the black youths of the ghetto the respect and due process they felt was lacking. It also unleashed an era of increasingly violent activity by revolutionaries of all colors that was met with a fierce backlash on the part of the government.
Seize the Time was written while Seale was in San Francisco State Prison, during a period when nearly every black activist organization was under attack by government agencies. Scale's book is written in a language and style that reflect the urgency, passion, and justifiable paranoia of that turbulent era. While the Panthers were undermined by forces without and within, Seize the Time, with its urgent call for black self-defense and black pride, remains a compelling account of one manifestation of an oppressed people's continuing struggle for liberation.