In this unprecedented narrative, black rights activist Reggie Brown tells an extraordinary tale of community building and resistance in southern Illinois. Brown begins with his early experiences in Harlem, including a near brush with Malcolm X moments before he was pronounced dead. Brown’s story continues with his surprising decision to leave Harlem to attend college in southern Illinois. As a student at Southern Illinois University (SIU), the author formed a team of civil rights activists who built a relationship with Carbondale’s African American community, organizing a free breakfast program for local children as well as other community programs. Brown and his team also trained black students and community members in handling firearms and supported the militant self-defense measures of the United Front, a black resistance organization in Cairo, Illinois.
Brown joined the Black Panther Party and met with Fred Hampton, the Illinois chapter’s deputy chairman, engaging the man to speak at SIU just three weeks before his infamous assassination by Chicago police under orders from the FBI. Soon after, tensions would escalate into violence closer to home. Before his work in Carbondale was over, Brown would survive a terrible betrayal, an explosion that resulted in a month-long coma, the amputation of a leg, and a poisoning that was attempted as he lay in his hospital bed. After Brown’s injuries forced him to withdraw from Carbondale, his group would be falsely accused of shooting a local police officer, and their residence would be attacked with gunfire and tear gas. The narrative also reveals the challenges and struggles he faced in dealing with physical disabilities and the consequences of addiction.
A View from the Inside offers not only a fresh perspective on racial conflicts in southern Illinois during a pivotal era but also reflections on black identity, leadership, drug addiction, and more. In original poetry and rap as well as prose, Brown reveals a fascinating and significant moment in African American history.