When you talk about a made for Hollywood story about redemption and the power of belief and faith, there are few that can match the plight of the incredible Jamal Joseph and his memoir “Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention.”. In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring. Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college, but that was in the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties, and when exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter. He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling and earned two college degrees and wrote five plays and two volumes of poetry . He is now a professor and former chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts Film Division—the very school he exhorted students to burn down during one of his most famous speeches as a Panther, the founder of the Impact Repertory Theatre Company in Harlem, and was recently even nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Song category for his contributions to the song “Raise It Up“, performed by IMPACT Repertory Theatre and Jamia Nash in the 2007 film August Rush.
Here “The King Of Kamelot” sits down with Black Panther member and Columbia University professor Jamal Joseph to talk about the surrealness of his life and it’s unique path, what the true intentions and meanings of the Black Panther Party are, his life in Prison and becoming a recognized artist and author (The story of organizing plays with inmates in just incredible!), what it was like during one of the most unique and revolutionary periods in US history in the 60’s, his Oscar nomination, and soo much more!! On a personal note, Jamal is one of the most charming and captivating people you will ever meet, his charisma is unreal! He has lectured and performed around the country in venues ranging from Fisk and Harvard Universities to the Apollo Theater and Lincoln Center. Awards include a Cine Golden Eagle, a Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award, a Union Square Award, an N.A.A.C.P. leadership award. He has written and directed for Black Starz, HBO, Fox TV, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., and A&E. His produced screenplays include Ali: An American Hero (Fox), New York Undercover (Fox), Knights of the South Bronx (A&E), and The Many Trials of Tammy B. (Nickelodeon). He wrote and directed Drive By: A Love Story, Da Zone, and the docudrama Hughes Dreams Harlem for Black Starz. Enjoy Kade Nation!!