Tommie and I were contemplating our post-high school fate, on the back porch of the Urban League building. We were smoking pot.
“Broome Community College”, puff.
“Upper Front Street High; two more years”, puff puff.
An upperclassman from the 4-year university, Harpur College, finds us.
“So, here’s Binghamton’s famed Black radicals. Stoned out of their minds”.
“How can we help you, bourgeois college boy?”
“What if I can get you into the Big School this Fall?” We listened.
“Book the Urban League community room, then escort the New York chapter of the Black Panther party from the Greyhound bus station, and fill the seats”.
Tommie got his Mom’s bright yellow Chevy Caprice and met the Panthers at the Chenango Street bus station.
I went door-to-door in the neighborhood; houses, apartments, jook joints and businesses. Mission accomplished.
Upstairs in the community room, the Panthers insisted that Tommie and I flank them as they spoke. The upperclassman stood in the back by the door.
One of our homeboys, Paul, decides to flex his brain muscles by challenging the Panthers with questions about the necessity of self-policing our neighborhood or their even talking to our community.
“Binghamton is a quiet, peaceful town without the racial problems of a big city like New York”, says Paul.
Tommie and I glanced at one another with that ‘he ought to be shot’ look. Then we remembered that the Panthers were armed. Afterwards, someone remarked that our knees were shaking.
That Summer, we attended some special admissions classes and were admitted into the 4-year big school in the Fall of 1969. Thank you Black Panthers! And thank you, bourgeois college boy.