In 1971, Eddie Conway, Lieutenant of Security for the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party, was convicted of murdering a police officer and sentenced to life plus thirty years behind bars. Paul Coates was a community worker at the time and didn't know Eddie well – the little he knew, he didn't much like. But Paul was dead certain that Eddie's charges were bogus. He vowed never to leave Eddie – and in so doing, changed the course of both their lives. For over forty-three years, as he raised a family and started a business, Paul visited Eddie in prison, often taking his kids with him. He and Eddie shared their lives and worked together on dozens of legal campaigns in hopes of gaining Eddie's release. Paul's founding of the Black Classic Press in 1978 was originally a way to get books to Eddie in prison. When, in 2014, Eddie finally walked out onto the streets of Baltimore, Paul Coates was there to greet him. Today, these two men remain rock-solid comrades and friends – each, the other's chosen brother.
When Eddie and Paul met in the Baltimore Panther Party, they were in their early twenties. They are now into their seventies. This book is a record of their lives and their relationship, told in their own voices. Paul and Eddie talk about their individual stories, their work, their politics, and their immeasurable bond.
"By turns touching, enraging, moving, tough, and tender, always riveting and ultimately inspiring, The Brother You Choose underscores the essential truth embodied in Che Guevara's observation that "the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love." —Ward Churchill, author of Wielding Words Like Weapons
"My beloved comrade brothers, Eddie Conway & Paul Coates both connected together like Siamese twins for over forty-three years both with unflinching self determination and unconditional brotherly love and appreciation for the others humanity. Eddie's confined in maximum security prison(s) while Paul navigates minimum security the world we all live in informing and educating the world to "FREE EDDIE CONWAY. What an amazing story of triumph over a system of wicked injustice behavior." —Emory Douglas, Revolutionary Artist & Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party 1967-1981
"With a dramatist's eye and a radical's heart, Susie Day has crafted a conversation between two titans about fighting the good fight, enduring the hard stuff, and living to tell about it. The Brother You Choose is smart, endearing, funny and inspiring. Paul Coates and Eddie Conway reflect on commitment to the world and to each other. Pull up a chair and have a listen." —Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing on the Civil Rights Era