The Black Panther is an African Cat


Book Reviews


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Book Review

Dr. Julius Thompson

This collection of poems by Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, captures many aspects of the complex history, culture, and life of African peoples, at home in Africa, and abroad, especially in the United States. Like his poetry, Mondo's personal story and life is also complex.  A member of the Omaha, Nebraska Chapter of the Black Panther Party, he states that he and Ed Poindexter, another Black Panther leader in Omaha, were framed by the FBI and the Omaha Police Department for the murder of a local police officer. In April of 1971, Mondo was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment, and has remained in prison at Lincoln, Nebraska since that time.

Mondo's poetry reflects the sorrow, the sadness, and the pain of the black experience, which has long been associated with overcoming oppression and suffering within the context of the American experience, and, as Mondo would state it:  at the hands of white Europeans. Yet, Mondo reminds his readers of the need for African consciousness, and this is a theme that dominates the message of this poet.  His life has been a series of struggles, and the search for self-awareness, based on Pan-Africanism, African consciousness, and the tradition of black American protest, cultural awareness, and vision— are also represented in his body of poetic creations.                          

For Mondo, even the title of this collection of poetry, "The Black Panther Is An African Cat," reflects his total dedication to African consciousness and its development among people of African ancestry everywhere in this world. Indeed, Mondo is a poet in struggle.  His words move between the centuries of black life and promote an understanding of:  (1)  Africa; (2)  the black community; (3)  black heroes, such as Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey; (4)  over­coming white oppression of blacks; (5)  the black search for freedom; (6) black sisters, their beauty, strength, and importance to the black community; (7) black brothers—their roles and responsibilities to their people; (8) (black sell-outs); (9)  negative voices against black lives: white policemen, white politicians (especially George Bush), religious leaders; government; and U.S. foreign wars (Iraq); (10)  life in prison for many black men; and (11)  positives in the black memory and hopes for the future, including: Mondo's mother; Egypt (Kemet); blues artists; family; African ancestors; black musicians; black history; and the importance of Kwanzaa, as a theme in the struggle for African consciousness among blacks in America.

Mondo's special strength as a poet is an ability to pull from all of the dimensions of the Black world experience in his poetry.  For example, his poem, "From the Ancestors' House," incorporates the international dimensions of consciousness as a serious theme for peoples of African ancestry to understand and appreciate, and to carry forward in our everyday lives.

From The Ancestors' House 

what were we but strangers

to the land where we were born

males in search of manhood

females in search of womanhood

in a land where a settler regime

of usurpers

pretenders on a throne of ilegitimacy

carved definitions that we could not wear

on a plymouth rock

definitions that we could not wear because

the european words

were an ill-fit on us

and their meanings

were as ties of hemp

corsets of iron

strangling our Africanness

who were we but brothers and sisters

in search of brother-and-sisterhood

in a maze of europeanisms

that led us away from ourselves

and each other

except that Shabaka had lived

and Queen Nzinga, Nat Turner

Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X

who were we but those

who sought strength

in the house of their spirits

and emerged

to leap


into the hellish fray. 

The poet's dream is for an African world, which will unite all black people in their common struggle for political, economic, social and cultural awareness, life and liberty—at home in Africa, and throughout the world.  Certainly this volume of poetry serves as one guide for black people everywhere—as indeed, the black struggle continues in Africa, the United States, the West Indies, and elsewhere on Earth.  Mondo's poetic voice, and life's struggle reminds us of the dues that African peoples have paid on the journey of life, —and of the struggles which lie ahead of us in a new century of working to create a new Africa for people of African ancestry everywhere. 

Julius E. Thompson Director, Black Studies Program and Professor of History University of Missouri, Columbia 

April 26, 2006