How The Black Panthers Changed My Life | ArtiFact 47: Eldridge Cleaver’s ”Soul on Ice”

ArtiFact: Books, Art, Culture

04-10-2023 • 1時間 55分

Two years after the creation of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver’s prison writings were published as SOUL ON ICE. He became the party’s Minister of Information, but would soon have a falling out with Huey P. Newton over tactics and ideology. In ArtiFact #47, authors Alex Sheremet and Keith Jackewicz break down the text, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses, as Alex explains why it was so critical for his own intellectual development in high school. You can also watch this conversation on our YouTube channel:

If you found this video useful, support us on Patreon and get the B Side to this conversation:

B Side Topics: re-visiting James Baldwin; why don’t political writers care about good prose; varieties of bad conservative & liberal writing; African American leftist writing tends to be self-Orientalizing; art has become an arm of ideology, parasocial relationships; terrible art-objects (“The Sound of Freedom”) and ciphers (“Try That In A Small Town”); the implosion of Ibram X. Kendi; his valorization of ignorance and refusing to read; Ibram X. Kendi doesn’t get Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “The Tempest”; Christopher Rufo runs victory laps; Boston University’s racial problems; COVID in 2023: no tracking, vaccination is disorganized, no funds for long COVID & the nature of endemic disease; most Americans are not compliant with vaccine uptake; blood clots & COVID; Chapo Trap House & their fanbase; the practical ramifications of day-to-day climate change; waking up to storms; Pittsburgh & the Amtrak experience; Ukraine/Russia developments; why did Biden box himself in by selling the war as a Russia-US proxy; Nikki Haley vs. Joe Biden; the salience of Roe v. Wade; Republicans will likely adopt Trump’s abortion strategy; Zelensky & Minsk II

We are working on a film on the late, great Minneapolis poet, Bruce Ario. Read more and contribute to the film here:

Subscribe to the ArtiFact podcast on Spotify: Apple Podcasts: Google Podcasts: Amazon Music: Podbean: iHeartRadio:

Read more from the automachination universe:

Read Alex Sheremet’s (archived) essays:

Follow us on Twitter:


0:00 – a white kid sits at the black table

1:30 – introducing Eldridge Cleaver’s classic Black Panther text, “Soul on Ice”; how the book totally changed Alex’s life in high school; Keith: Cleaver has more lyrical dexterity than most leftist writing; the homophobia

9:00 – Malcolm X’s autobiography vs. Eldridge Cleaver; thresholds of transformation; Ras Kass’s 1996 rap album, “Soul on Ice”; contrasts with Huey P. Newton’s “Revolutionary Suicide”; homophobia & social conservatism in the radical left; the RCP’s Bob Avakian; Aleksandr Dugin’s style of fascism

19:25 – why the Black Panthers presented as a black nationalist group despite being Marxist-Leninists; how Donald Trump’s election shattered Keith’s understanding of the world; why the United States government feared the Black Panthers; hecklers in the Nation of Islam; the New Black Panther Party; armed patrols in California; overreaction within geopolitical rivalry; liberalism & the erosion of rights; 2007’s Stop the Madrassa; America’s change of opinions on Islam, immigrants; Alex: why Richard Spencer, et al was a dying gasp in 2016-2017

38:50 – Eldridge Cleaver’s obsession with poseur whites; Norman Mailer & “The White Negro”; a terrible passage from Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”; masculine novelists & insecure violence; cultural appropriation discourse is now passe; how diversity & integration teaches everyone; Alex’s experiences in a majority-black high school; how Alex was transformed by Countee Cullen & Harlem Renaissance poetry; black America faces steeper consequences for *everything*

52:08 – respect vs. fetishization; collectivization & sociability in black America; Eldridge Cleaver’s attacks on James Baldwin; Eldridge Cleaver might have been a closeted bisexual; Cleaver fails to understand high art; assessing Giovanni’s Room; defending James Baldwin’s comments on Richard Wright; Cleaver’s upbringing & psychology damaged his chances of becoming a great author; the worst chapter in Soul on Ice

01:19:42 – Eldridge Cleaver’s love letters are surprisingly well-handled; Alex’s favorite chapter in Soul on Ice; Cleaver knew how to sketch and characterize; Cleaver’s writerly tricks in his Old Lazarus chapter; how sexual imbalances fuel resentment; black objectification; comparisons to Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse

01:42:05 – Patreon show preview; Eldridge Cleaver’s latter biography; his falling out with Beverly Axelrod; Soul on Fire was a terrible follow-up; Keith: how There Will Be Blood & Ratatouille changed my life

Tags: #politics #books #blackpanther