In the 1960s Jamal Joseph - back then he was known as Eddie Joseph - called on students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he's employed by Columbia as a professor of professional practice in film.
Joseph's odyssey - from the streets of Harlem to Riker's Island and Leavenworth and on to the halls of academia - is both gripping and inspiring. He'll discuss his story as captured in the pages of his memoir Panther Baby on Friday, September 21, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.
Eddie Joseph was a 15-year-old high school honors student from the Bronx when he was introduced to the ideas of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. Within a year his devotion to the cause landed him behind bars on the infamous Rikers Island, charged with conspiracy to blow up public buildings as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the '60s.
After two years the government's case - much of it based on the testimony of an informer diagnosed as a pathological liar and paranoid schizophrenic - fell apart and all the defendants were released. Eddie (now called Jamal) became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers' New York chapter.
Convicted of harboring a fugitive in a deadly armored car robbery, Joseph was sentenced to 12 years in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. While an inmate he earned three degrees and wrote five plays and two volumes of poetry.
Today he is a writer, director, producer, poet, activist, and educator. He is the executive artistic producer of the New Heritage Theater in Harlem and has been featured on HBO's Def Poetry Jam and BET's American Gangster. He is the author of the interactive biography Tupac Shakur Legacy.
In 2008 Jamal was nominated for an Academy Award for his contributions to the song "Raise It Up" from the film August Rush.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407.