Instead of shining light on the legacy of a late femme artist, this time we decided to highlight the roots of activist/lawyer Kathleen Cleaver's continuous mission and work.
The lines between fashion icon and political icon are blurred for Kathleen due to combined beauty & brains paired with the hip style she possessed throughout the 60s-70s. Cleaver's activist work with the Black Panther Party came to fruition after she met Eldridge Cleaver in 1967. He convinced her to leave New York's branch of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and relocate to Oakland, CA, becoming the first female member of the Panther's committee.
Though the position given to her was monumental in regard to political gender standards, Cleaver still dealt with a handful of sexism towards any idea she would bring to the table at first. Kathleen noted that men's ideas were immediately implemented, while the same ideas when they came from women were brushed off or ignored completely. "The suggestion itself," she explained, "was never viewed objectively. The fact that the suggestion came from a woman gave it lesser value."
While the Black Panthers's original goal was to put an end to police brutality, with feminine influence they began to see the need for social programs as well. Black students living in proximity to a party's office were welcome to a free breakfast each morning, with schools reporting the skyrocketing performances of each student.
After a series of complications and unfortunate events within the Oakland branch of the Party (raids, ambushes, deaths of friends/comrades), Kathleen fled to Algeria to meet with Eldridge, who had ended up there due to jumping bail, post-ambush. After giving birth to two children overseas, Maceo and Joju Younghi, Kathleen returned to the United States in late 1975. Graduating summa cum laude, with a B.A. in history from Yale University in 1984, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Since all of this, Cleaver has been a visiting faculty member at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, the Graduate School of Yale College and Sarah Lawrence College, where she was Professor of Public Policy during 1999. She has taught legal ethics, litigation, torts, a legal history seminar entitled "The American Law of Slavery and Anti-Slavery," along with a course on Women in the Black Freedom Movement.
Currently, she is a Senior Research Associate at the Yale Law School and executive producer of the International Black Panther Film Festival.