Books -- A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story by Elaine Brown

Article excerpt

A Taste of Power is the stuff of major motion pictures. When Huey Newton, Defense Minister of the Black Panther Party, jumped bail on murder charges and found asylum in Cuba, he summoned his lover, Elaine Brown, to take charge of the organization that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the greatest threat to our national security.

At the very moment Brown believed she was finally free of an increasingly unbearable life at the hands of Newton's dual nature--his passionate and liberating rhetoric accompanied with a bent for brutality--she received from him a chance to seize power too seductive for such an admitted opportunist to resist.

Ms. Brown begins her engaging, at times harrowing, narrative with her childhood. She was the only offspring of a laborer mother and an absent father, whom she learns in her teenage years is a prominent physician who uses political connections to avoid assuming legal responsibility for her. Without apology, she describes her escape from the violent realities of a North Philadelphia ghetto by succeeding crosstown as an "A" student in a predominantly white private school. On those savage streets of her youth she came within moments of being gang raped on one occasion and on another was senselessly beaten to near unconsciousness by a gang of "dissed" brothers.

Discontented with her vapid academic life at Temple University, she moved to Los Angeles where she became the only black waitress at the fabled Pink Pussycat. Before long she was picked up by novelist Jay Kennedy who stopped by the club with the Frank Sinatra entourage.

Ironically, it was Kennedy, a white married family man from the East coast, who on the one hand gave her the spoils of the good life that included days in the plush Sinatra compound and weeks in the best Las Vegas hotels, and on the other hand made available the literature that cultivated in her a sense of direction as a black woman in a racist America she had never quite reckoned with. When her relationship with Kennedy ended, she fell into the Black Panther Party and eventually met and worked closely with all its legendary leaders, including: Newton, Stokley Carmichael, H. …