Barbara Cox

Barbara Cox

Barbara Cox Bio (Nov.2003)

I was a student at San Francisco Community College. I was a member of the Black Student Union and we had invited Bobby Seale out to speak. I wasn't overly impressed. About six months later, I transferred to San Francisco State College. At that time, it was the beginning of the Black Student Union strikes. A friend of mine knew Eldridge Cleaver and he came over a few times and was talking about the brothers in Oakland. I still wasn't impressed. One person I met who I particularly liked was Emory Douglas, and we developed a very nice friendship. He opened my eyes to a few things. If you study history you know several things that happened, the shooting of Officer Frey, Huey Newton being shot, the famous picture of him wounded on the stretcher. I was living in San Francisco at the time and it seemed far away to me, except for my friendship with Emory.

I lived in Haight-Ashbury, which was drug haven, but it didn't faze me because I wasn't into drugs. I worked at Ice Cream A-Go-Go, trying to make some money and Emory used to come by and talk. One night he said, "I have just the brother for you.” I said, "OK, send him around.” I was bold. One night Donald Cox (DC) came into the store. He, like Emory, had a quiet disposition and was friendly. I was sassy and used to make him laugh. To make a long story short, we started dating. He asked me to go to Los Angeles to the Black Power Conference and I said, "Why not. “ At that time, I also kept in touch with some brothers in US (United Slaves). The conference in Los Angeles brought my relationship to US to an end.

DC started teaching me the concept of being armed, about military situations and I knew he was working closely with the Panthers because of his knowledge about laws relating to Black people and arms. He was a person of strength and influence. As I became more involved with DC, I started to meet a variety of other people like Bobby Hutton, the Forte brothers, and Stokely Carmichael. That is 1967-68 and how I got involved with the Party.

Initially, I was involved with the strikes at SF State and then would come home and cook and entertain various Panthers. Once the BPP office opened on Fillmore, I became a regular there and we were responsible for distribution, getting the BPP paper out. Then we opened the Free Breakfast Program about two blocks from our house. In the morning, I would go and open up for breakfast. I started reading, like everyone else, and going to political education classes. I soon discovered that my real calling within the Party was to be a social worker. I became the person who was easiest to talk with. Sometimes my middle class moralist upbringing created some conflicts, but I never strayed away from Party politics. I just questioned things that were uncomfortable. I sold papers like everybody else. I also had a privileged position being DC's wife. Our house became a place where people could come and rest and meetings took place. I wasn't always at the office.

When Eldridge and Kathleen moved to Fell Street, the Black House, I became their secretary, or administrative assistant. Looking back, I did a lot of work. I became a confidante. Then in 1969, the New York Panther 21 arrest changed my whole life. That is when I started to travel.

DC was assigned to New York to help reorganize the chapter after the arrest. After a month, I got permission to go. I met many other Panthers there who I am still in contact with today. Many rank and file spoke to me about little problems because they thought I had DC's ear and I didn't tolerate injustices like sexism and chauvinism. I didn't realize the scope of work he had to do and the responsibilities that he had, so many times I would cause him great grief and when he couldn't take it anymore, he sent me to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia was my home; I was born and raised there. It was the first time I had to be on my own. Because I was Barbara Cox and out of Oakland, the Philly Panthers were impressed with me and expected me to teach PE and assume a lot of responsibilities. I loved Philly because the Panthers studied and believed in what they learned and lived it.

We would go to New York for meetings and after a while, I became pregnant. I then moved back to San Francisco. That is when the conspiracy trials started in Baltimore and New Haven and DC was forced to leave the country. I stayed and was frightened because I saw some things happening that were totalitarian, chauvinistic, and downright corruption. I saw people getting mud-holed behind simple questions. I saw sisters being threatened with whippings to themselves or their significant others. There were sexual things happening that had no place in our political arena. In David's book, he makes it clear that he was incapable of running the Party. Due to the personal insecurities of David, June and John Seale, they were terrorizing people.

There was also the fear, being pregnant, of being at Central behind sandbags and being concerned about safety. I was away from my San Francisco comrades who I knew better. Fortunately, Kathleen and I were having babies at the same time. She was sent to North Korea as a gesture of good will. So, I was also sent to North Korea after passing through Algiers for only a day. I was with a gentleman who didn't speak English and had a suitcase handcuffed to himself. When we landed in Russia, he took me out through the back and put me in a hotel. It was a foreign hotel, so people spoke English. The next day we got on another plane with a group of foreign dignitaries. I didn't know who these people were but they were also curious about me, this pregnant African American woman with a big Afro.

We landed in North Korea and Kathleen met me. It was June and our babies were born in August, three weeks apart. I received a telegram from DC asking to name him Jonathan Carlos and that he would explain later. After the babies were born, Eldridge, Elaine and some others came through on their way to China. Kathleen and I stayed 6 weeks. Every night we had a movie or class about juche, or Kim II Sung. We had our own teachers come in from the colleges. One day this brother came in from the college and we, both jumped up because he was of extreme color. But when he opened his mouth, he was Korean, no doubt. I saw this in Russia, also, people of color. We learned a lot. While we were there, they arranged a trip to the DMV .I didn't want to go because my baby was asleep. One day, Kim II Sung's wife came to see us and I remember the awe in which she was held by the servants. We were well taken care of and it was very pleasant.

When it was time to leave, it was getting to be winter. Korea has very bitter winters. There was only a weekly flight to Moscow and we had just missed it. The children were getting cold. Kim II Sung's wife found out we wanted to leave and loaned us her personal Lear jet. We flew into Moscow first class. We stayed there for a week. We took turns watching the babies and going out for errands. We got a lot of attention with our large Afros, short skirts, and dark sunglasses. One day I went to pick up a paper and saw an international Newsweek with Angela on the cover saying that she was a fugitive. I realized how much we looked alike to those people. That is when I found out about the Marin County shootout, the murder of Jonathan Jackson, and the meaning of DC's telegram.

Back in Algiers, DC and I had a place by the Bay and were raising our family… (To be continued)