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DAR Legends: The Black Panther Party





Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
In desperate times, change is needed. When oppression becomes far too overwhelming, change is needed. Evolution. Growth. A plan to fight back and battle against the system that attempted to hold us down. The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966, at a time when the Civil Rights Era was in full swing. Malcolm X was murdered, many leaders were targeted, and the non violent, march and protest peacefully method was the normal way of handling things. For the Panthers, standing up to the systematic oppression and attempts to keep black people down was necessary. The origin of the Panthers started in Oakland, with the founders being Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, two men tired of watching the system and the devils in society keep their foot on our necks. Alongside Elbert Howard (known also as "Big Man"), Sherwin Forte,  Reggie Forte, and Bobby Hutton, the Panther six was born. Their purpose was different from the Civil Rights Movement and resembled the plans of the destroyed Black Wall Street movement, which was intended to give blacks their own economy. The Panthers wanted political, economic and social power, and they set out to obtain it. They would start with work in the communities to help build up our foundation, launching community survival programs that provided free breakfast to kids, among other vital resources. The work the Panthers did over the years stands as the groundwork for everything that today's organizations want to accomplish, but the Panthers were militant and disciplined. They were concise. They were wise. The Black Panther Party is just as important to the black struggle and plight, as the fights of Martin, Malcolm, if not more.



Today, we wanted to take a brief look at the Black Panther Party and what it brought to our people, our culture and how powerful they were. You'll see us talk about the key members, our memories of the Panthers and what they truly mean to each of us. Let's get into it.





Key Members
The members of the Panthers that had a significant impact stand as the most vital pieces of the movement. From strong willed women to true fighting and honorable men, these key members of the Panthers stood for something and were vital in the legacy of the party growing. Missing from this list are key names like Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis and H. Rap Brown, who weren't actually members of the Panthers, but more so honorary ministers during the short lived SNCC alliance with the Party. Angela was a very close associate of the Party and many consider her to be a Panther, but in reality, she wasnt a founder or vital piece in the organization. She was however instrumental in pushing for education to be a focal point and a huge proponent of the wider Black Power movement, which also included the Panthers (SNCC, Communist Party USA, and others were also a part of this movement). Their contributions are still vital to black history however and made an impact on the Panthers, which is why you'll see their photos in this article but not a mention as a key member. However, let's take a look at the key members.


*Bunchy Carter
-The founder of the Southern California chapter of the Party, Bunchy would lead his chapter of the Party to make waves and be very successful in bringing programs and education to the people. He was murdered in 1969, but his role in the Panthers was essential to their growth. A key player.


*Mark Clark
-If his name sounds familiar, it's probably because of the date he was murdered. He was murdered along with Fred Hampton at the young age of 22, but he was a vital member in Chicago for the Panthers. He was working his way up in the ranks at the time of his murder and was on security duty when the Chicago Police came in and did the heinous act. His death serves a reminder of how the police were towards the Panthers and their path of liberation.


*Eldridge Cleaver
-Responsible for one of my favorite books, Soul On Ice, Eldridge was the Minister of information for the Panthers at one point. He wrote Soul On Ice in prison, helped to push the Party ahead through the late 60s and early 70s, but would be removed from the Panthers after an issue with Huey. Regardless, he was still a vital contributor to the movement and one of the most popular members.


*Kathleen Cleaver
-The wife of Eldridge and a vital woman in the Party, Kathleen was essential to furthering some of the programs in the Party and stood by her husband's side. Some say she's responsible for the riff between Huey and Eldridge, but that is merely speculation. Kathleen is a prime example of just how important women were to such a revolutionary movement.


*Fred Hampton
-My personal favorite Black Panther, Fred was a true revolutionary. The Chicago native was the Chairman of the Chicago Chapter of the Panthers and he delivered his speeches, his messages, and his words with a flare that was unlike any other Panther. He was a strong willed leader, a threat to the establishment, and one of my inspirations growing up. He was killed unfortunately, in a controversial raid by police that also took Mark Clark and wounded others, but no matter what, Fred lives on as one of the most vital members of the Panthers, and as I said before, my favorite.


*Bobby Seale
-The co-founder of the Party, Bobby was gifted with a vision. He would go on to create literary works, run for local office, and help set the path for what the Panthers would become known for. In addition to being a visionary, Bobby was also a true revolutionary that wanted our people to finally fight back against oppression and buck the system.


*Huey P. Newton
-Another co-founder of the Party, Huey is another one of my favorite members. He is revered for his no-nonsense way of handling things, and for being willing to stand up and die for what he believed in. Of all the Panthers, he is the most popular and most loved it seems. He was a fighter, a revolutionary, and a visionary as well.


*Elaine Brown
-One of the most important women in the movement, Elaine joined the Party in 1968, and would be a rank and file member. Her work with the Party would include cleaning the ammunition, passing out newspapers, and the simple tasks initially, but she worked her way up the ranks and became a very vital part of the growth of the movement. She would help set up the first Free Breakfast program for Children and eventually take the position of Minister of Information within the party. She helped do work in the community to get local black officials elected and even after leaving the Black Panther Party, she continued her activism, eventually working with the Green political party in order to run for President in 2008. Of course, that bid was unsuccessful, and many have leveled the accusation that she could have been a government agent, but the truth is, her work with the Party really led them to better heights.


*Geronimo Pratt
-Another infamous Panther, who is known for many things, but his name is controversial for how he would end up serving 27 years in prison. A vital member early on, Pratt would experience some trials and tribulations, when his wife was killed when she was 8 months pregnant. Regardless, Pratt was strong willed and willing to stand up for the cause. Something that was essential for progression of the movement.


*Afeni Shakur
-I'm sure you all know her name well. The mother of one of the greatest rappers ever (2Pac) was a true Black Panther and revolutionary at heart. She was a section leader of the Panther Party Harlem chapter and was a part of the infamous Panther 21, who were reportedly planning bombings in New York.


*Bobby Hutton
-The young man known as "Lil Bobby", was the youngest recruit and the actual first recruit to join the Party. He was the first treasurer of the Party and one of the more revered members as well. He was killed at the young age of 17 in a strange turn of events that have many different accounts. Some say he was murdered after officially surrendering to police and showing he was unarmed, some say he was running and the police shot him (12 times.... doesn't make sense), and he even had Marlon Brando speak at his funeral, which really raises eyebrows. His death served as the reminder of what the reality was for us with police brutality and their willingness to murder us. He was the true first martyr of the Party, for better or worse.


*Ericka Huggins
-Her name might not be as familiar to many of you, but she is a vital woman in the Panther history. She would be the director of the Black Panther Party's Oakland Community School, and would be a leader for the Los Angeles Chapter of the party. She was also a part of the New Haven Black Panther Trials, something that is still a controversial topic.


*Assata Shakur
-One of the strongest women we've spoke of in American history, Assata is one hell of a revolutionary. She was vital to the movement, but also was seen as someone too strong willed to be effective within the Party, as she left the Party shortly after joining and leading the Harlem branch. She would not like the behavior of the men and that caused her to drift away, and she even spoke out about the lack of black American History knowledge from the Panther Party. She would eventually join the Black Liberation Army, a group very similar to the Panthers in ideology, but different in execution (somewhat). We all know the story of Assata, but to know her history with the Panthers, before everything else went and all the allegations and fleeing is vital. She is also 2Pac's godmother.




What They Mean To Us
(W/@SpeedOnTheBeat, @JADBeats, @TrueBlueLowry,  @CherchezLaPorsh, and @hab_r1ch)
-I gathered the team to discuss what they love about the Panthers and what they remembered best. Some of their thoughts range from a general view of the party, while some referenced specific members they appreciate as well. Regardless, this is what the team has to say about the Panthers and their love/appreciation for the groundbreaking Party.

SpeedOnTheBeat- Without the Panthers, it's easy to argue that a lot of the movements that're going on now, politically and otherwise, wouldn't be in existence. The Black Panthers' reach extends far beyond images of Huey Newton with black fists raised. See, it became a way of life. Yes, there was pro-Blackness before the Panthers--and after. But, with the movement, we got an influx of beautifully Black music, beautifully Black movies (even if some went straight into borderline parodic blaxiploitation territory), and just an influx of people who were beautiful, Black, and embracing everything that made them such. Overall, I'm down for anything that's pro-Black and promotes unity within our culture.


TrueBlueLowry- The Black Panthers movement was something that's very significant to African American lives and  it continues to have a lasting effect to this day. With the mistreatment of blacks by the government, people within our race decided to take a stand and fight for the future of African Americans.

Being from California where the Black Panther Party started, it also means something to me because they stood up and monitored the police brutality issue, which was huge in the state of California. They represented the voice that many African Americans didn't have around that time and at times they had to get physical with doing that. I believe the Black Panther Party helped African Americans voice themselves more without the fear about the repercussions for helping better the race in this country.


Hab_r1ch- The Black Panther Party influenced my mindset towards fighting discrimination more than anything else. The old phrase “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” comes to mind almost instantly. That is to say the methods used by blacks in different parts of the country all helped, but they could not be employed unilaterally. The Black Panther Party, in all likelihood, could not have been conceived and implemented in the Deep South. They would have had to deal with the police and racist neighbors, who probably wouldn’t have hesitated to launch an unprovoked violent assault on a group of black people.

What I appreciate most about the Black Panther Party is that it reminds me that we as black people, when we want to (picture not wanting to), can harness our own collective powers together to create positive change. I also appreciate the fact that they were fearless. They knew the opposition they faced and were ready to accept whatever consequences came with their actions. However, in a fight against a crooked system, they really had no choice.



CherchezLaPorsh- If we revisit history, there has always been some catastrophe or time period where the world has been in utter turmoil and clearly, nothing has changed. If it isn’t a war, a famine or a natural disaster hitting on a global scale, you can be sure that there is crime, violence discrimination, protests or some other form of concern that hits our neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries. While these incidents are disastrous and mostly divisive, they do spark a strain of positivity. They cause awareness, knowledge and often action. It’s that action that becomes important. In current day, we see it mostly in the form of protests, rallies and “movements”, so it’s only fitting to take it back to 1966 and revisit one of the most prevalent and revolutionary movements in history spearheaded by none other than the Black Panther Party (For Self-Defense). An African American run party for the advancement and wellbeing of all African American people across the United states that started in Oakland, CA.

Although it would take hundreds of pages to scratch the surface of the Black Panther Party’s contributions to society, the short version is that they banded together and empowered others to join the movement to stop police brutality and racism in local communities and while doing that, they also did a ton of charitable and notable work in the way of medical clinics and providing free food to thousands of kids. It wouldn’t take long before they would gain a positive following amongst civilians and be hated by the governments. The Black Panthers were far from a “peaceful” group, but they were a positive one.

The group consisted of the original six members at the start, but grew drastically over the years reaching over 45 members and hundreds (and even thousands) of affiliates. While I love the BPP as a movement and appreciate a lot of their ideologies and activities, it’s the members that deserve recognition and acknowledgement. Here are the two members who have always stuck out for me personally.

Bobby Seale, who was the chairman and co-founder of the Party. He (along with one other member) were so inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X that they decided to create the group. He was against the system and oppression and spent the first 3 formative years of the BPP to write books and doctrines outlining the BPP’s philosophies, principals, guidelines, and evolution. Those works include “What We Want Now!” and “Seize The Time: The Story Of The Black Panther and Huey Newton”. It didn’t take long before Seale would be on the FBI’s radar and he would be under surveillance for some time. In 1969, Seale would be pinned for conspiracy, inciting a riot and several counts of contempt.  In prison, he was quoted in saying “To be a revolutionary is to be an enemy of the state. To be arrested for this struggle is to be a political prisoner”. This would allude to the series of trials he would undergo in the following months of his release. Seale was a vital component of The Black Panthers and his popularity and attentiveness would gain him the second highest amount of popular votes in the mayoral elections in Oakland in 1973, but Seale would lose to John Reading. In a span of seven years, Seale made an imprint in history and inspired and empowered so many others to towards a vision of advancement and equality that was so desperately needed at the time. Which leads me to the second member that was important to me.

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver. Cleaver was best known for 2 things. The first, of course, his early involvement and membership as a Black Panther and second as a writer. He is to thank for the book “Soul On Ice” (which is the inspiration behind Ras Kass’ debut album of the same name) and in the book he said “If a man like Malcolm X could change and repudiate racism, if I myself, and other former muslims can change, if young whites can change, then there is hope for America”. We would learn that he lived by those words. Cleaver didn’t have a spotless record, and while serving as the Minister of Information and the head of the international section of the Panthers, he was involved in several situations that would result in some trials, convictions and ultimately his exile that landed him in Cuba, Algeria and France (he led the Chicago ambush in 1968 that led to Seale’s imprisonment). During the time of his involvement with the Panthers, Cleaver did his most notable work and much like the other members, he too left a profound imprint in history and became an example for future likeminded people. He had a falling out with Huey Newton, who was a founder of the Panthers Party and that weakened the group. Some years later (1980) Cleaver would find his way as a born again Christian and later a Mormon. His time as a Panther was up but his legacy would remain.

As I said the Black Panther Party saw a growth in membership and affiliates. These would be people who saw the need to stand against the governments and authorities in a movement towards equality, empowerment and "freedom" of the African American population which had seen (and continues to see) a tremendous amount of injustice. Although we see attempts at forming similar groups in present day, none will be quite like the Panthers who were a vital part of US history.



JADBeats- Founded in 1966 by Dr Huey P Newton & Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party For Self Defense was a group that were seen as the opposition to Dr. Martin Luther King's beliefs of non-violence. The Panthers believed violence was necessary, but mostly in protecting African Americans from police brutality. Being that it was a time where whites would just attack blacks at any given moment, MLK's approach wasn't strong or efficient enough. There were a set of Panthers who followed and policed the police's actions in black communities and another set that did community services like medical clinics, free breakfast programs and after school programs. They had demands for urban communities, which were better housing, jobs. land, food, education, justice and peace.

Just within a few years, the Panthers would be present in major cities across the country. But as always, whenever blacks make progress as a whole, that's seen as a threat to white supremacy, so FBI director J. Edgar Hoover put in place COINTELPRO to dismantle and neutralize the Panthers along with any other black nationalist group. They used divisive tactics to take the organization down like false propaganda, false imprisonment, wire tapping, informants, bribes and harassment, which eventually worked. The party eventually came to an end in 1982.

My personal thoughts on the group? I could just imagine the lies that were told and tactics the FBI used to corrupt and dwindle the Panthers. White supremacy was being threatened so I can imagine the panic in white america. We see it now with Black Lives Matter, who aren't a threat at all and doesn't have even a fraction of the influence or racial aspirations as the Panthers did, yet the police and news outlets look at BLM as a terrorist organization, and it's comical. I aligned more with the Panthers ways. Learning about them at a young age helped me realize that it's important to read, know the law and your rights. It is also important not to take shit from racists and sometimes force is necessary. I wish we could have another well planned thought out movement with blacks educated in the law and who can pass that knowledge down to the people to all come together collectively to put forth and implement our own programs to better us as a people. Many Panthers said that at that time they felt free being around all that blackness and empowerment. Imagine if our people today could feel that.






Legacy
What always stuck out to me was the cowardice displayed by J. Edgar Hoover in regards to the Panthers. The Panthers were violent in a way, in terms of defending themselves and fighting back against the system, but when J. Edgar referred to the Panthers as the "biggest threat to our internal security", what was the purpose? What did that mean? Is the internal security of America only necessary to be assured for white supremacy and American dominance? Is it a bad thing for a strong group of black people to unite in their own communities, work together and protect each other? Was it known that the bigger the party gets, the tougher it will be to systematically control and oppose the people as a whole? One has to wonder what the meaning behind that statement really entails, though many could clearly speculate.




I think one big proponent of the Party that many forget is that these were youthful beings who educated themselves and were organized beyond belief. Their youth might have led to internal conflicts as well, but make no mistake about it, these were college graduates and students who were sick of the oppression and circumstances and stood up to fight against it. Knowledgeable, smart, militant, and wise beyond their years, the members of the Panther Party were 100% aware of what they needed to do to reach the masses and to obtain success. Though some women who left the Party would criticize them for their lack of appreciation for women, I think much is to be said about the women of the Party and their contribution. Black men and women worked together to really provide support for each other and to protect each other in all facets.




On the surface, there wasn't a large presence of divisiveness between our men and women, a far cry from where we are now. Imagine that: black men and women working together to better each other and standing side by side. Sure, we see that very often in separate situations and through social media activism, but we see more tearing down of each other and finger pointing than anything. If there was one thing to take away from the Black Panther Party, it is that with unity, we as a people can accomplish a lot together. We can make enough waves together to shake the system. We can do more than peacefully protest. We can do more than march from time to time. We can fight. We can triumph. We can be victorious. All it takes is a unified front, discipline, and a plan. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get one final sentence out: Fuck J. Edgar Hoover, fuck the FBI, fuck COINTELPRO, and fuck the systematic oppression we face still. Long live the Panthers, by any means necessary.

-DAR

1 comment:

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