SOU recently sponsored a speech by Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party. I contacted SOU and asked what his fee was for the speech and who paid it. It’s been over a week, and I haven’t received an answer. Can you find out?

— Brian G., Ashland

Bobby Seale’s $5,700 speaking fee, in addition to his airfare from Oakland, Calif., and hotel in Ashland, were paid for by Southern Oregon University’s Black Student Union and Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Jean E. Whalen, an SOU senior and the vice president of the Black Student Union, said Seale's visit was a splurge for the club and accounted for about two-thirds of its annual budget. But despite the cost, club members and officers voted in favor of inviting Seale, co-founder of the Black Panthers, to speak in recognition of Black History Month.

"Almost everyone knows who Bobby Seale is and how important the Black Panthers are to black culture," Whalen said.

The event, which sold out, was free for students and cost $15 for community members, allowing the club to recoup some of the cost. Whalen said Seale stayed afterward to sign autographs and visit with folks in the audience. 

Seale also visited Ashland in 2012 for Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of "Party People,” which explored the legacies of the Black Panther Party and Young Lords. His Ashland friend, Verin Lewis, is the one who originally proposed inviting Seale to speak at SOU.

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