Tagged: New Orleans

From Black & Panther to Black & Poly: An Interview with Ex-Black Panther Kato Cooks

Kato CooksA lot of folks have asked me what makes being Black & Poly different from just being plain poly, but my answer is that its in the folks that choose this lovestyle. Although Kato Cooks may be one of our most informed, dynamic, and composed members of B&P, he is also one of the most laconic individuals I’ve ever encountered. A member of Mensa, an executive producer of the indie documentary film Hibakusha, a martial arts expert, ex Black Panther news bureau chief, a small business correspondent for the Examiner, and on top of all that he’s Poly just to name a few things that make up his many layers that we have the pleasure and time to discuss in this interview.

B&P: Welcome welcome welcome Kato Cooks.

Kato: Thank you.

B&P: So glad that you could take out the time from your busy day to answer a few questions about your illustrious and colorful life. Before we get started, is there anything off limits that we should not be discussing?

Kato: I’ll know when the question is asked.

B&P: Although this is an online interview, just answer as if I’m sitting in front of you I want your personality to show through more than just answering questions.

Kato: My personality is pretty stoical…but you’ll get it.

B&P: Now before we get into the juicy stuff I wanted to shed light on the fact that I heard you’re a Mensa Member. Is that true? And what put you on that journey?MemberLogo

Kato: Yes, I’m a life member of Mensa. I skipped the fourth grade, going from the third to the fifth, landing in an academically enriched program. I was tested sometime in elementary school where they determined my IQ was above the 98th percentile. I was suggested for Mensa at the time but my mom couldn’t afford the fee. I joined, formally, some years later when I had the money. My family wasn’t surprised, though they had no idea what Mensa was; none of us had ever heard of it.

B&P: Your childhood.  What was that like?  What type of climate was in your household?  Was it very restrictive or was it more liberal?

Kato: I was reared, for the most part, in abject, Los Angeles-style, urban poverty. My parents separated when I was about two. My dad was in the Marine Corps, stationed in Camp Pendleton. My mom was in New Orleans. During discussions between them, my mom agreed to move to Oceanside, where she took a job on the base.That didn’t work out, so they parted ways a couple of years later. Upon discharge, my dad moved to Oakland, CA, and my mom stayed in Oceanside. Later, she moved to San Diego, then to Los Angeles (Watts). We ended up on 69th and Main Street in South-central Los Angeles. My dad went to work for himself, as he had done since he was 8 years old. My mom went on welfare. (how much of this do you want? It can go on for a while. I’ve lived a long, full life.)

B&P: LOL. What type of upbringing did you have overall? Was it religious?

Kato: Short answer: I grow up with my mother and 10 siblings (I am the eldest) in a two-bedroom apartment. The apartment was roach-infested. I don’t recall ever being religious. I questioned everything. At 10, I became an ovo-lacto vegetarian. My step-mother told me that I came to her with the request, stating that “I find something repulsive about the consumption of cadavers.” At fourteen, I announced I was agnostic. And I am one to this day. I find religion, and other god-theories, to be contemporary mythology.

B&P: Questioning can get you in big trouble.

Kato: Or put others in trouble.

B&P: True indeed… So speaking of trouble, what was your first sexual experience like?

Kato: It was between two residential buildings with an aggressive 13-year-old named Fritzy. I vowed to do this often.

B&P: With Fritzy or just in general?

Kato: With any willing female. My neighborhood was populated with a mass of gorgeous, feisty, young ladies.

B&P: So would you say your first experience had the most profound effect on your sex life?

Kato: No. I don’t think it became profound until I was mature enough to connect more meaning to the act. Prior to that, it was just recreational.

B&P: What was your first love like?

Kato: I don’t remember. I had lots of first loves simultaneouslyAt the time, it was called ‘playing,’ hence, player, or Playboy, or…playa,”playing the field.”

B&P: The black panthers… When was your first contact with the panthers?

Kato: I joined in 1968 around the time Bunchy Carter and Jon Huggins were killed at UCLA. I went to the office on 78th and McKinley to volunteer. I had martial arts and boxing skills; I thought they needed fighters, soldiers. Instead, they put to me work cooking and serving in the Free Breakfast for Schoolchildren program. Service.That was what they were about. Later, I was accepted into the Panther Underground, managed by Flores Forbes (Will You Die With Me), and supervised in the field by Wiley ‘Simba’ Rogers and Jimmy JohnsonSome of my comrades from that underground unit are on Facebook. One, Dale Rascoe Sista Sasy, is writing a book about the internal structure and conflicts of the party; it’s patriarchal form of polyamory – more like harems for the male leadership. Her book is titled ‘Guerrila Girl: Memoir of my life in the Black Panther Party’.BPPhistory400

B&P: Is this where you had your first taste of what we refer to today as polyamory?  How did that come about?

Kato: No. I pimped for a year (I was terrible at it; too much compassion). From that developed several women, the numbers varied, who stayed with me as a family. It began, for me, in 1967. The Party drew much of its leadership from street thugs: pimps (Jimmy Johnson, for example), dope dealers, and the like. The leadership had access to all of the females in the party. The rank and file, not so much. And the men were brutal with their women. Many women left broken. Dale is an example. I learned of the potential horrors of patriarchal polyamory from experiencing the Party with Dale.

B&P: Were there lessons from the panthers in regards to polyamory ones that you follow today?

Kato: Yes. Think for myself. The only model that matters is the one that works for you.

B&P: You mentioned once that the panthers taught you a new approach to relationships what was that approach?

Kato: Non-possessive, non-exclusive relationships. They taught me to develop principles that bind the pod to an objective or objectives – preferably, social objectives. Drawn from Om Eternal, Richard Thorne  Referenced in Revolutionary Suicide, by Huey P, Newton, and Seize the Time, by Bobby G. Seale. More on the Party atwww.itsabouttimebpp.com Kato Cooks

B&P: What does being Black & Poly mean to you?

Kato: Only that there are black people involved in open relationships. I don’t over-construct it in my mind. Everyone’s poly can – should – be different. Only basic tenets apply to all of them. And even those change over time. One of the things I learned in the Party is that change is the universal constant. I remember when swinging was wife-swapping. Nowadays, it’s more just recreational sex.

B&P: With all that has happened in other areas of social change, you would think that the public view of alternative lovestyles from then to now would have experienced greater strides.

Kato: Social growth does not seem to be linear.

Ron and LisaB&P: Thanks for taking out the time to speak with us, and keep doing what you do.

Kato: Of course. Enjoy your night.