The Autobiography of Leroy Looper: Chapter 8

by Leroy Looper on January 30, 2007

(The Future Tenderloin Leader Comes to San Francisco’s Fillmore District and Has Run-In With Black Panthers)

“George had committed a crime against the people’s revolution— he was caught taking down Huey Newton and Cleaver’s posters.”—Leroy Looper

As I planned my move to San Francisco, I began to throw out new ideas to people. People were receptive, and said they were timely. I tested my dreams in meetings until I was sure I was on solid ground. Dorothy Brewster’s son Charles had been out of school for several months and had an M.A. in social work and grew up in the field. Q.R.Hand, poet, civil rights activist said,” I am afraid of flying but I will meet you there. George Santiago, ex-con, ex-drug addict, pro nationalist, Puerto Rican revolutionary said, “ I am ready.” I gave the Board six months notice and began to separate myself from Reality House. They did not believe me. Nobody wanted to believe me! I am quite sure there were mixed feelings. But they did not surface until we neared the end. After a while power shifts and blocks formed.

Amos wanted my job, but I did not think he was ready. The black and white professionals wanted the job. I felt that ex-addicts did not have many options. I felt that both should get behind Amos and help him develop his skills. The fight began! I had no administrative skills, but the staff cooperated with me to make Reality House work. Why could not they do the same thing for Amos? When I first started Reality House I could not get a black professionals to involve themselves in Reality House. Now they wanted it for themselves.

While professionals had a broader employment market than any other group, why should they take the job from someone in the community. I made a decision to go for Amos. I invited Amos to my house and told him that I was going to fight for him but I told him about his shortcomings and where he could get the help he needed to do the job. He was grateful. But lots of people disliked me for not selecting them! But the paraprofessionals for whom the program was created felt happy that Amos was selected as opposed to one of the profession people.

My Farewell party was a stage production, directed by friends and community associates ‘I was a member of the Black Coalition party. I was the top trainer of Encounter, Inc., and board member. I was part and parcel of many programs in New York City. We had an orgy of kissing, crying, loving, hugging, and drinking. The movie careers were recording the event. New Breed, a clothing enterprise I was connected to was responsible for the movie. Group therapy in its most bizarre form was the only agenda item. Clients who loved me and felt they needed me did not want me to go. They felt that I was abandoning them. They pleaded with me: Don’t go.” People who I was associated with in all typed of ventures asked me to stay. The night wore on and I became angry! Nobody wanted me to stay for me. They wanted me to stay for them!

Charles Brewster and crew spent many hours at my house planning out our move. I had been to San Francisco. I had created a New Breed there. I knew the situation’ better than anyone else. San Francisco still locked up dreg addicts for internal possession. Parole officers sent the clients beck to jail for internal possession. Synanon, which was the granddaddy of all drug programs, had stopped dealing with just failure prone addicts. Synanon had become a business. The Fillmore was overloaded with addicts. There was no Walden House, Délancey Street, or Westide Therapeutic Community. No methadone, no S.F.C.C.D.A., no Division of Special Programs. No Fell Street Clinic. We would be needed.

And so we came to California. Charles Brewster was a heavy drinker, heavy set, Black young man who was a worker. We began to organize the lit resources that were available and helped to create what was needed. Charles and I both worked day and night, seven days a week. Our wives hated Reality House with a passion. Charles did not get paid. Neither George nor I got paid. Charles belief in Reality House West was so great that he went on welfare to feed his family so that he could spend his time developing Reality House West. George also went on welfare.

Because of my past experiences I did lots of consultantships and managed to feed my family. I would buy large bags of beans and rice. I would buy canned food from Dented Cans. Occasionally Miss K would send my wife some money, but after a while I got a letter from my lawyer that the $250,000 he had for me to develop Reality House with had been stolen by someone because he gambled my money in some type of venture.

Once Charles and I were certain that we had no money expectation coming from New York City we worked even harder.

I also worked a situation where I could set up a Training Center at 102 Baker to train paraprofessionals to become Substance Abuse Workers. I had them to pay for ex-addicts to be trained in the field.

I had a little problem with a small segment of the community. The Black Panthers. The Panther situation I feel must explained in a better way. I have always stayed away from it because I want the memory of it to die, plus I feel that it was a bad situation’ based on miscommunication. Let me preface my remarks about. the Panthers.

In 1969, the Panthers was truly in a Vanguard Position. They had wedded rhetoric with pure guts. They had created a platform for the people. They had organized the people in the ghetto to move with guns and fight back. When I finally came here, I was truly moved that they were so well organized. I marveled that they would move against the Police Department. My back ground in New York City was grass root revolution. I had to appreciate their position.

My problem sufficed when Redevelopment gave me my first Reality House and it was two doors down from Panther Headquarters. The man asked me did I mind being so close to them, my reply was “F_ck it.”

I.considered myself a revolutionary. I do my part one way, they do theirs another way. I did not feel that there would be any trouble. The first thing I wanted to do was to clean up the front of Reality House. You do not have to be poor and dirty at the same time. I instinctively knew that I should get permission from them to take down all the old posters from my window, you just do not start tearing down photos of Huey Newton and Cleaver without people thinking you were anti-revolutionary.

So I asked my partner in New Breed to get permission from D.C. who was their leader. Doing those times everybody crazy. The Police just had a shoot out with them. There were other shoot outs across the country. The youngsters were not taking orders like true soldiers. My partner said that. D.C. said it was alright to take down the posters then after we cleaned the windows we agreed that we would put up new ones.

So I gave George Santiago the Puerto Rican Director of Reality House the go ahead to clean the windows. I first met George in Green Haven Prison in our Prison Program. George was a Puerto Rican-nationalist whom I had taken machine guns away from in Reality House in New York. I was trying to get George to see that there was another way to be a revolutionary. Everybody did not have to carry guns or kill people.

So after going home to my pregnant wife, I decided to go to sleep. While sleeping, my wife woke me up and told me that the Panthers had kidnapped my Director (George). That my partner Jim had tried to talk to them, but they told him they would shoot him if he persisted in their business. George had committed a crime against the people’s revolution— he was caught taking down Huey Newton and Cleaver’s posters.

I found myself in an untenable situation. No 1, 1 had a pregnant wife who was going to give birth to my first child. I owed them and myself a future.

I had a duty to George who was carrying out my order. I know that Blacks and Puerto Ricans do not communicate well. I owe it to Reality House to deal with the problem. The one thing I was certain of, they would shoot police and anybody else that got in their way. I had no choice, I must go and get George. My wife understood.

I said goodbye to her. I did not feel that I would ever see her or my unborn child again. I took what I considered my last drink, got my gun and went into the street and hitched some rides to the Fillmore.

As luck would have it, each ride carried me straight to my destiny. I was mad as hell, I was mad because I considered myself just as good a revolutionary as anyone else, now 1 had to take a chance on being killed by some crazy mother fuckers.
By the time I reached the Panthers Head quarters I was totally mad. But very clear that I was not going to take no shit from anybody.

I saw Jim and he was trying to tell me to wait until D.C. came back from some trip and I said f_ck D.C. and walked into their office. I knew that this was my D-Day and I was ready. I asked the fellow who was in charge where was George. He asked me who I was and I told him and that I had come for George. He asked me if I had a gun and I said, yes! He asked me was I going to shoot it! I said yes and proceeded to shoot up everything I saw move.

As I was moving out of the store, bullets were flying all over the place. I had one thought– to get across the street to my store where there were several guns and a high-powered rifle. Bullets followed me all the way over to the store. I never looked back. I knew they were behind me. As I was flying into the store Jim was calling me all kinds of names for bringing all those crazy people into the store. I made it to the back room of the store laid down on the floor, cocked the high powered rifle with the telescope lens, took again what I considered my last drink and waited.

I had a perfect view of the front door. I was not going to be wasting my bullets. I made myself relax because at that point my blood was pounding in my head from all the excitement. Somebody came to the door and told Jim that they were going to kill him if he did not turn me over to them. I saw my man George then, and there was some more movements then they left. Jim came back to the room and said that he had arranged for a Cab to pick me up and that I should get the hell out of there. I got the distinct impression that he was angry with me. I said hello to George briefly and we agreed we would die together. So I made Jim give George a gun to cover me because staying in the store was a trap!

Before leaving, I gave George orders to keep Reality House open. They did not want him any more. It was me they wanted. I stayed with some friends of mine then made contact with people all over the country to negotiate with the Panthers.

They would not listen to anybody. They wanted to deal with me. My wife got tired of the place we were staying even though it was a mansion. I decided that if she did not mind dying, we would go back to our home. So I went back home, 102 Baker Street. Day and night we kept our guns ready. Everybody was still trying to talk to the Panthers but to no avail.

One day, the word came that Huey Newton in prison had reviewed my case and had charged me a fine. He directed that I should go to a certain place and pay the fine. I was allowed to take one friend and both of us were to go without guns. To me this was the ultimate in craziness. Why would I go into any one’s stronghold without a gun!

I had only one friend that I would trust to go into that kind of situation. His name was Mickey McCalip, we both laughed about it, shook hands and said goodbye. We both knew that this may be our last time seeing each other. When we arrived at our destination we were searched and went forward, paid the fine and came back to San Francisco. I must say that that was a good way to do business.

What did I learn? Friendship is precious. Life is only precious when you are willing to die for it. Responsibi-lity and leadership go hand in hand, and it can become a burden! The greatest lesson that I think I have learned from all this is that revolutionary groups must come together and recognize that it is alright to do different things as long as we have the ultimate goal in mind, Peace, Harmony, and Equality for all!!!

Go to Chapter 9
Go Back to Chapter 7
Go Back to Index of Chapters

Filed under: Archive