Tribute to Big Man: Action is supreme

by Steve McCutchen

Elbert-Big-Man-Howard-Steve-McCutchen-at-Black-History-event-West-Oakland-Library-021608-by-Carole-Hyams-Howard-web-300x225, Tribute to Big Man: Action is supreme, Culture Currents
Black Panther comrades Big Man and Steve McCutchen confer at a Black History event Big Man hosted at the West Oakland Library with Party archivist Billy X Jennings on Feb. 16, 2008. – Photo: Carole Hyams-Howard

Poor is the word without the deeds

poor the deeds without the WORD –

During the time of Big Man his words were commitment to action

his determination exposed the people’s cries we HEARD –

Where the spectator merely shouts creates noise that static sound without rhythm or RHYME –

Big Man stood front and center at the eye of the storm in the arena of struggle

and intoned the poor and oppressed will rise time after time after TIME –

We think of originals Malcolm X Harriet Tubman Sojourner Truth

Muhammad Ali our brother and comrade is kindred spirit to them ALL –

body and soul back to back heart to heart here is the best of humanity

Toe-to-toe with the message get up move something even

with your back pressed against the WALL –

When Panther needed words Big Man held the pen in one HAND –

when a presence was needed between the oppressor and oppressed he was

There to run the doomsayers’ gauntlet holding high the banner of freedom’s DEMAND –

We saw him dressed Panther-down that classic black and blue –

yet day to day he wore that badge of history a suit of destiny

The audacious style and swagger the oppressors never KNEW –

the image and action said here I stand we are here to claim

that promissory note of freedoms too damn long OVERDUE –
We-Were-Free-for-a-While-Back-to-Back-in-the-Black-Panther-Party-by-Steve-McCutchen-cover-200x300, Tribute to Big Man: Action is supreme, Culture Currents

He walked with Huey chairman Bobby and Lil’ Bobby Hutton way before

Panther rushed out of Oakland into the world SPOTLIGHT –

What he did loudly proclaimed I’m here for the good fight

even if struggle brings about a war to the KNIFE –

Deputy Minister of Information Panther international spokesman

oh he was so much more than any title or some appointed ROLE –

Big Man brought that storm

that down home stump jumpin’ flavor to the table shared the

visions that the POWER of the people is

not subject to the oppressor’s CONTROL –

When all around Panther the storms of oppression and repression were routine

like mail the postman would BRING –

Big Man rolled up his sleeves dug in for the long march his actions spoke

let’s get busy transform Babylon so one day we all hear the sounds of

Freedom RING –

Now this may sound like fiction out of Aesop’s fables or

street legends from the hood or round the WAY –

But reality speaks to a true icon an ox for the people to ride

among the first of the vanguard holding all enemies of humanity at BAY –

Now as we celebrate his presence we relieve him from his post

at the front gates of his people’s survival and LIBERATION –

Black-Panther-Party-46th-Anniversary-Steve-McCutchen-Walter-Riley-Sundiata-Tate-at-Oscar-Grant-Plaza-101312-by-Malaika-web-300x200, Tribute to Big Man: Action is supreme, Culture Currents
At the 46th anniversary reunion of the Black Panther Party on Oct. 13, 2012, at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland are Steve McCutchen, Walter Riley and Sundiata Tate. – Photo: Malaika Kambon


He NOW moves ahead into the ages but look skyward some nights

among people’s CONSTELLATION –

There will be another star among the others reminding each simply that

what we will is what we CAN –

That star will signify our protracted struggle THAT we are not America’s also-RAN –

It will pulse the light seeming to ebb and flow a reminder

a renewed message the oppressor cannot hide

from true freedoms one generation to the next DEMAND –

a bright new member among the line of freedom fighters now shines so GRAND –

call that honored arrival our beloved Speaker of the House

None other than the indomitable BIG MAN.

His voice is still heard actions resound with vision and deeds that transcend the TIMES –

Through us for us not for the one but for the whole

Eloquently but simply I speak for the voiceless I come for what’s MINE.

Steve D. McCutchen, known as Lil’ Masai, a Baltimore native, is a 10-year veteran of the Baltimore and Oakland branches of the Black Panther Party, 1969-1979. Moving to Oakland in 1972, as a rank-and-file Panther, he taught math and physical education at the Party’s Oakland Community School and directed the Oakland Community Learning Center Martial Arts Program, later making a career of teaching in Oakland public schools – first math, later, at Castlemont, history and ethnic studies. He is the author of “We Were Free for a While: Back to Back in the Black Panther Party” (2008) and contributed a chapter to the 1998 classic “The Black Panther Party (Reconsidered).” He currently serves on the Communications Committee of the National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party (NAABPP) and can be reached at