27 octubre 2009

Books I Liked

Por "la famosa escritora norteamericana"

SOUL ON ICE. Eldridge Cleaver
256 pgs. Delta (1999)

"Soul on Ice, written by Eldrige Cleaver is a collection of essays (written during his 9 years in Folsom State Prison during the 1960's) in which Cleaver discovers his racial identity. "I knew I was black, but never really stopped to take stock of what i was involved in. I met life as an individual and took my chances." Cleaver was sentenced 9 years for raping a white woman. Cleaver felt his crime was a way to "spit" on the white man's values and women. He lived his life only to benefit himself. After meeting with his attorney, he realizes the value of listening and absorbing what another human being has to say. "The price of hating other human beings is loving one's self less." Cleaver, educating himself in prison, also writes "In prison those things held and denied from the prisoner become precisely what he wants most of all."

Cleaver becomes especially interested in the writings of Thomas Merton, particularly his excerpt on the "New York Black Ghetto: Harlem." After many religious endeavors, Cleaver found himself most intrigued by the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. Malcolm X appealed to the black convicts caught in the vicious prison paroll cycle, like
himself. One aspect in which Cleaver felt most attracted to in Malcolm was that the society owed a debt to prisoners and not vice versa. Malcolm X did not "compromise truth to have favor with the white power structure." The American tactic was to emmasculate the black leadership and to manipulate them. The unique black leader who would defy white power would ultimately end up dead, in prison, or forced out of the country. Classic illustrations of this policy are the careers of Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Dubois, and Paul Robeson. White America crushes the black leaders while inflating the images of Uncle Tom's (black on the surface, white on the inside)and celebrities. Power is taken out of political and economic context and plainly debased to the level of good sportsmanship. James Baldwin was an author who wrote "Native Son" and "White Negro." Cleaver, inspired by Baldwin, felt that police brutatily was not caused by the hatred for the black man, but for social, economical, and political reasons. Blacks, having their freedom for approximately 100 years as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, were still treated as "part of someone's invetory of assests."

After the most violent negro uprisings, the Burning of Watts, the white power structure pacifies the black community by appointing John Roseboro, an African American baseball player for the dodgers, to consultant for community relations. Cleaver also writes about the Vietnam War. Black soldiers are called upon to sacrafice their lives for freedom in Vietnam. In Watts they are killed because of their desire for freedom. Cleaver felt the black man should stay and die here for a better life.

Cleaver's first imprisonment in 1954, for a drug charge, set the tone for his next 9 year term. Cleaver hung a poster of a white woman in his cell like the other prisoners. One of the guards came by and tore the poster down. The guard would only allow Cleaver to hang a picture of a black woman. Cleaver realizes that his attraction t
o the white women is not because of beauty or sexual appeal but because of their status and symbol. The white woman displays a symbol of freedom while the black woman is a symbol of slavery. "I will not be free until the day i can have a white woman in my bed and a white man minds his own business." Although Cleaver's actions were not always moral nor did he go about things in a peaceful way, his fight was to allow the black race to revive their eradicated identity. From the moment the blacks were brought to this country from Africa, the white man imposed their culture and heritage upon them. Cleaver's quote, dealing with the white woman in bed, hits the nail on the head. He does not care for trivial freedoms and rights such as drinking from the same water fountain or riding at the front of the bus, he cares for the freedom where he can do what he wants, when he wants, without the white man looking over his shoulder. "One task that we have in the black community is a coupe de'etat against our present leadership, to strip them from that machinery that controls the community. So that new ideas and new people can percualate up, then we can have a new agenda."

I thorougly enjoyed this book because Cleaver moves from hate and violence towards an understanding of himself and humanity. I recommend this book to anyone who is willing to gain a better understanding of the black struggle in the 1960's.

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