Tag Archives: Bobby Seale

The Black Panthers Party Turns 50

In my attempt to give praise and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the formation and founding of the Black Panther Party. This article taken from The Huffington Post’s Blackvoices page, written by Lilly Workneh and Taryn Finley pays homage to the organization very respectfully.

=================================================

The Black Panther Party was founded fifty years ago — and still, any misconceptions about its revolutionary work run rampant.

“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” a documentary by Stanley Nelson which aired on PBS Tuesday, shined a necessary light on the contributions, convictions and struggles of members in the party. Nelson’s informative film took a deep dive into discussing the truth behind the Black Panthers and underscored the heavy institutional backlash the liberation movement received from police and the government.

From the group’s radical inception in 1966 to it’s dissolve in 1982, here are a few important things you must know to better understand the Black Panthers.

  • 1. The Black Panthers’ central guiding principle was an “undying love for the people.”
    David Fenton via Getty Images
    The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, otherwise known as the Black Panther Party (BPP), was established in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The two leading revolutionary men created the national organization as a way to collectively combat white oppression. After constantly seeing black people suffer from the torturous practices of police officers around the nation, Newton and Seale helped to form the pioneering black liberation group to help build community and confront corrupt systems of power.
  • 2. The Black Panthers outlined their goals in a 10 point program.
    Barton Silverman via Getty Images
    The Black Panthers established a unified platform and their goals for the party were outlined in a 10 point plan that included demands for freedom, land, housing, employment and education, among other important objectives.
  • 3. Black Panthers monitored the behavior of the police in black communities.
    Jack Manning via Getty Images
    In 1966, police violence ran rampant in Los Angeles and the need to protect black men and women from state-sanctioned violence was crucial. Armed Black panther members would show up during police arrests of black men and women, stand at a legal distance and surveil their interactions. It was “to make sure there was no brutality,” Newton said in archival footage, as shown in the documentary. Both Black Panther members and officers would stand facing one another armed with guns, an act that agreed with the open carry law in California at the time. These confrontations, in many ways, allowed the Panthers to protect their communities and police the police.
  • 4. The party grew tremendously and drew attention in cities everywhere.
    David Fenton via Getty Images
    The party’s goal in increasing membership wasn’t aimed at recruiting church goers, as explained in the documentary, but to recruit the everyday black person who faced police brutality. When black people across the nation saw the Panther’s efforts in the media, especially after they stormed the state capitol with guns in Sacramento in 1967, more men and women became interested in joining. The group also took on issues like housing, welfare and health, which made it relatable to black people everywhere. The party grew rapidly — and didn’t instill a screening process because a priority, at the time, was to recruit as many people as possible.
  • 5. “Free Huey” became an infectious rallying cry following Huey Newton’s arrest in 1967.
    David Fenton via Getty Images
    In 1967, Newton was charged in the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old police officer, John Frey, during a traffic stop. After the shooting, Newton was hospitalized with critical injuries while handcuffed to a gurney in a room that was heavily guarded by cops. As a result of his hospitalization and arrest, Eldrige Cleaver took leadership of the Panthers and demanded that “Huey must be set free.” The phrase was eventually shortened to “Free Huey,” two words which galvanized a movement demanding for Huey’s release.
  • 6. The Black Panthers affirmed black beauty, which helped to attract more members.
    David Fenton via Getty Images
    The sight of black men and women unapologetically sporting their afros, berets and leather jackets had a special appeal to many black Americans at the time. It reflected a new portrayal of self for black people in the 1960s in a way that attracted many young black kids to want to join the party — some even wrote letters to Newton asking to join. “The panthers didn’t invent the idea that black is beautiful,” former member Jamal Joseph said in Stanley’s documentary. “One of the things that Panthers did was [prove] that urban black is beautiful.”
  • 7. The Black Panthers understood the media and effectively used it to their advantage.
    Sacramento Bee via Getty Images
    The Black Panthers furthered their agenda by appealing to what they believed journalists and photographers sought after to cover in the news. “They were able to establish their legitimacy as a voice of protest,” journalist Jim Dunbar said in the documentary. They leveraged their voices and imprinted their images in newspapers, magazines and television programs.
  • 8. The Black Panthers Party launched the Free Breakfast For Children program.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The party saw a serious need to nurture black kids in disenfranchised communities, so they spent about two hours each morning cooking breakfast for children in poor neighborhoods before school. “Studies came out saying that children who didn’t have a good breakfast in the morning were less attentive in school and less inclined to do well and suffered from fatigue,” former party member David Lemieux said in the documentary. “We just simply took that information and a program was developed to serve breakfast to children,” he added. “We were showing love for our people.” The party served about 20,000 meals a week and it became the party’s most successful program of their 35 survival programs.
  • 9. The party had enemies in high places, including former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who launched COINTELPRO.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover feared the rise of the Black Panther Party so he created COINTELPRO, a secret operation, to discredit black nationalists groups. The Counterintelligence Program’s purpose was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” black nationalists’ activities. “We were followed everyday, we were harassed, our phones were tapped, our families were harassed,” former Black Panther member Ericka Huggins, whose parents were visited by the FBI, said in the film. Hoover regularly sent police officers letters encouraging them to come up with new ways to cripple the Black Panther Party. Though COINTELPRO didn’t make the party their only targets, 245 out of 290 of their actions were directed at the Black Panthers.
  • 10. Hoover feared the “rising of a black messiah.”
    Don Hogan Charles via Getty Images
    Hoover feared any growth of the movement and especially feared young white allies who united with black activists to support the movement. Through COINTELPRO, Hoover found ways to track, stalk and dig up information on the party, including planting FBI Informants throughout the party. One of whom happened to be William O’Neal, who was the bodyguard for prominent Black Panther member Fred Hampton.
  • 11. Party members moved in together into “Panther Pads.”
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In response to COINTELPRO, members created community hubs called “Panther Pads.” Some members stopped going home to protect their families, so they stayed with each other instead. The “Panther Pads” had to have round-the-clock security and a list of rotating responsibilities and, in turn, it helped to create a stronger  sense of community.
  • 12. Black women spoke out, gained more recognition and helped to power the movement.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The Black Panthers are often associated with its male members, but women also played a pivotal role in the party. By the early 1970s, most of the Panthers were women. Women such as Kathleen Cleaver (photographed here), Assata Shakur, Elaine Browne and Angela Davis — who wasn’t an official member — took on leadership roles and had a huge influence on the direction of the party.  “The Black Panther Party certainly had a chauvinist tone so we tried to change some of the clear gender roles so that women had guns and men cooked breakfast for children,” Brown said in the documentary. “Did we overcome it? Of course we didn’t. As I like to say we didn’t get these brothers from revolutionary heaven.”
  • 13. The Black Panthers helped to sustain the party by selling a party newspaper, which boasted impressive artwork.
    David Fenton via Getty Images
    The Panthers distributed a newspaper throughout different cities that became vital to the party’s survival. They sold the paper for 25 cents, half of which went to printing and the other half to different branches of the group. The paper, which outlined their 10 point plan, reached people that the Panthers didn’t have physical access to. The paper also portrayed moving artwork which depicted the resilience of black lives.
  • 14. MLK’s assassination left a devastating impact on the party.
    Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
    Civil rights icon, Martin Luther King Jr., who consistently advocated for non-violence and inspired many, was assassinated in 1968. His murder triggered an overwhelming response from the Panthers. “They had killed their last chance for me to be peaceful with them,” one former member said in the documentary. “They had killed their last chance for negotiation.”
  • 15. Seventeen-year-old Bobby Hutton’s killing by police impacted many.
    New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images
    Eldridge Cleaver’s response to King’s death was to have members attack the police. The younger members with the youngest being 17-year-old Bobby Hutton, were armed and ready, despite the older members disagreeing with the idea. After being cornered by the police in a basement, Cleaver instructed the group to surrender by taking off all of their clothes so the police could see they were unarmed. However, Hutton was embarrassed so he only took off his shirt. Hutton exited the house with his hands in the air and was immediately gunned down by cops. He was one of the first members of the party to be killed by the police.
  • 16. Eldridge Cleaver moved to Algeria and focused on expanding the party outreach abroad.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Cleaver was expected to turn himself in shortly after Hutton’s death but he fled the country. He moved to Algeria and opened an international chapter. As a result of the chapter, the Panther’s were able to forge relationships with North Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese and several African liberation movements. These countries shared a similar anti-American sentiment with the Panthers.
  • 17. David Hilliard temporarily took over command of the party.
    New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images
    With both Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in prison and Eldrige Cleaver in Algeria, the party was left without a leader. So on September 28, 1968, David Hillard, a prominent party member at the time, became the party’s Chief of Staff in the interim before heading to trial a year later in connection to charges from Hutton’s police killing.
  • 18. The FBI doubled down as a direct threat against the Black Panthers, who they perceived to be a terrorist organization.
    Boston Globe via Getty Images
    After President Richard Nixon’s election in 1968, Black Panther party members said his administration gave Hoover even more of a sense to “oppress without restriction.” Shortly after, Hoover publicly identified the Black Panther Party as the no. 1 threat against the United States. His statement, which he made during America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, ignited immediate fury. Following his damning public statement of the party, the FBI took a more proactive approach to what they considered to be a terrorist organization. In the film, Black Panthers said that the FBI manipulated police, who raided homes and sparked shootouts that led to the arrests of countless black men and women.
  • 19. “The Panther 21” set a new precedent among party members.
    David Fenton via Getty Images
    On April 2, 1969, 21 leading Black Panther members in New York were arrested and accused of charges related to terrorist activity. The men faced up to 360 years in prison and extortionate bail amounts. Community members worked together to raise money for legal fees, old footage in the documentary even shows actress Jane Fonda hosting a fundraiser in her home. After a 13 month trial and a 3-hour-long jury deliberation, the men were eventually acquitted.
  • 20. The momentum of the party began to dwindle due to growing hesitation on where the party was headed.
    Harold Adler/Underwood Archives via Getty Images
    While the acquittal of “The Panther 21” was certainly celebrated, commitment to the party’s mission grew weak as did levels of engagement. Other arrests and trials of Black Panthers angered many party members and consumed a lot of their energy, which, in turn, discouraged potential members. “Nobody wanted to go near a party that was so hot,” one former Black Panther said in the film.
  • 21. Bobby Seale’s trial helped give way for Fred Hampton to lead.
    Chicago Tribune via Getty Images
    Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale was arrested in Chicago in September 1969 on charges for conspiracy to riot, and was later also tried on murder charges of a Panther member who was suspected to be an FBI informant. During his trial, Seale demanded to represent himself and insisted on declaring his rights in court. In response, the judge ordered for a gag to be tied around his mouth and that he chained to his chair. During his days in court, protests erupted demanding the court to “Stop The Trial.” It was during this time when Fred Hampton grew prominence for his well-admired leadership and empowering public speeches during protests. “You can jail a revolutionary but you can’t jail the revolution,” he once famously said. Hampton was a voice of racial unity and he helped to build a broader Black Panther base in Chicago. He even expanded his coalition to include both hispanic and white activists who shared the same or a similar mission.
  • 22. Police raided the home of Fred Hampton, killing him and another party member.
    Spencer Grant via Getty Images
    On December 5, 1969, police raided the home of Fred Hampton and fired somewhere between 82 to 99 gun shots, which left both Hampton and Mark Clark, a party leader from Peoria, dead. Police claim their decision to open fire was justified but Black Panther Party members, as some expressed in the film, adamantly believe Hampton was a target and that the shooting was set up by the FBI. A federal investigation conducted after the shooting found that only one shot was fired by the Panthers. “This was a shoot in, not a shoot out,” one party member described in the documentary. Meanwhile, William O’Neal, an FBI informant, reportedly received a monetary bonus.
  • 23. The LAPD opened fire against the Black Panthers, which led to a massive shootout.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Just four days following Hampton’s death in Chicago, police in Los Angeles raided the city’s Black Panther office. This happened during a time when the racial climate in the country had severely intensified and police established themselves as the dominate force. On December 8, 1969, 300 SWAT members initiated a military-style attack against the Black Panthers. Refusing to back down, Panthers fired back, leading to a massive showdown that lasted for five hours, with 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 3 people from both sides wounded. All Black Panther survivors were taken into custody. To this day, and despite the violence, many Black Panthers consider that moment a victory, including Wayne Pharr, who gives a detailed and riveting account in the documentary, and his recent book, of what exactly went down that day. “After that all the main players were in jail,” Pharr said. “Locked up.”
  • 24. Huey Newton was released from prison and he subsequently renewed the focus to the movement.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Nearly eight months after the violent takedown in L.A., crowds began to gather in Oakland demanding Newton’s acquittal and release from prison. On August 5, 1970, Newton was a free man and his prison release was celebrated by people everywhere. Newton returned to the movement and renewed its focus to survival programs like the Free Breakfast For Children program. However, this sparked some criticism from some members who bemoaned the move. “People didn’t see it as a vehicle for social service,” former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver said in the documentary. “They saw it as a platform for radical political change.”
  • 25. The Black Panther Party split due to growing differences.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    With Newton recently released from jail, Bobby Seale incarcerated and Eldrige still abroad in Algeria, the movement’s leadership dwindled. Some Black Panthers chose a leader to follow while others just walked away. “The party had leaders not worthy of the dedication of their followers,” historian Clayborne Carson said in the film. Meanwhile, some suspected the divide was Hoover’s doing, as noted by historian Beverly Cage: “This is part of what the COINTELPRO operations were all about,” she said.
  • 26. The Black Panthers advocated for Bobby Seale’s mayoral campaign in Oakland.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In 1972, Newton shut down Black Panther chapters across the county and centralized the movement in Oakland. “The numbers were dwindling and the force of the party was dwindling so it only made sense to consolidate and see what we could do with what we have,” former Black Panther Elaine Brown said in the film. That same year, party member Bobby Seale was released from prison and later he ran for mayor of Oakland. Applying their political power at the polls was a new approach for the movement and enthusiasm grew quickly. Seale ran a strong campaign, which ultimately helped to register nearly 50,000 black voters in the city. Although he didn’t win, the movement considered it a success in some ways.
  • 27. The movement slowly began to eradicate, but the legacies of those involved in the revolution are long-lasting.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Following Seale’s loss, many said there was an empty void in the movement that eventually led to the closing of several national chapters. Around this time, prominent, original members withdrew from the party and Newton was noted to express erratic behavior. Newton died in 1989, at the age of 47, after being shot to death in Oakland. Eldrige, who lived until the age of 62, died in 1998 although his family never officially revealed his cause of death.  Seale, now 79, is among one of the many living Black Panthers who still speaks out about some of the same issues and carries on the party’s pioneering legacy.

Revolutionary Quotes

5 (1)Revolution is about the need to re-evolve political, economic and social justice and power back into the hands of the people, preferably through legislation and policies that make human sense. That’s what revolution is about. Revolution is not about shootouts.

When donors visited the Black Panther Party, they came and saw our real programs, a real clinic, with real doctors and medics, giving service to people.

If they had not murdered Malcolm X, there probably never would have been a Black Panther Party.

The FBI’s Counterintelligence Program would work hand-in-hand with police departments, literally planning attacks on Black Panther Party offices throughout the United States of America.

There is an entire generation of young people who know nothing about how viciously the FBI attacked The Black Panther Party, and why.

Bobby Seale


Huey P. Newton: Founder Of The Black Panther Party For Self-Defense

th (19)There were and are so many courageous black leaders throughout our history, unfortunately, unless they died for a white cause they were erased from the pages of time. This story is the last in a week long articles paying homage to a few of the bravest black revolutionary leaders of our time. In my opinion, what they did and the stand they took for black people is unmatched and profound.

Huey P. Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana, on February 17, 1942. You may find this surprising, but he was named after former Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long. Brother Huey’s legacy began in 1966 with co-founder Bobby Seale when they founded the left-wing Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

The organization was central to the Black Power movement, making headlines with its inflammatory rhetoric and militaristic style, becoming a leading figure in the black power movement of the 1960s in Oakland, California. The most significant thing Newton did was the create of what became known as the Head Start Program that over the years has provide benefits to million of poverty stricken children. What a great legacy!

The Black Panthers mission was to improve life in black communities and established social programs to help those in need. They also fought against police brutality in black neighborhoods by white cops. Members of the group would go to arrests in progress and watch for abuse. Newton himself was arrested in 1967 for allegedly killing an Oakland police officer during a traffic stop.

The case was eventually dismissed after two retrials ended in hung juries. He was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 2 to 15 years in prison. But public pressure – “Free Huey” became a popular slogan of the day – helped Newton’s cause.

Despite his legal run-ins, Newton began to take his education seriously. Although he graduated high school in 1959, Newton barely knew how to read. He became his own teacher, learning to read by himself and eventually earned a Ph.D. In the mid-1960s, Newton decided to pursue his education at Merritt College where he met Bobby Seale. The two were briefly involved with political groups at the school before they set out to create one of their own.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in 1966. Unlike many of the other social and political organizers of the time, they took a militant stance, advocating the ownership of guns by African Americans, and were often seen brandishing weapons. A famous photograph shows Newton – the group’s Minister of Defense – holding a gun in one hand and a spear in the other.

The group believed that violence – or the threat of violence – might be needed to bring about social change. They set forth their political goals in a document called the Ten-Point Program, which included better housing, jobs, and education for African Americans.

It also called for an end to the economic exploitation of black communities. Still the organization itself was not afraid to punctuate its message with a show of force. They vigorously protest a gun bill in 1967, Newton and other members of the Panthers entered the California Legislature fully armed. The action was a shocking one that made news across the country.

The Panthers became in disarray mainly because of efforts by the J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and initiatives like COINTELPRO. Most don’t know that what we now know as Head Start was developed by the Black Panther Party. FBI Director Hoover said, “The biggest internal threat to the country’s internal security was the Panthers program to feed the children of the black community.”

During the Party’s existence, members of the group clashed with police many times. The party’s treasurer, Bobby Hutton, was killed during one of these encounters in 1968. In the 1970s, the Black Panthers began to fall apart key members left the group. During this time Newton faced more criminal charges and to avoid prosecution, he fled to Cuba in 1971, but he returned three years later.

Despite his legal run-ins, Newton began to take his education seriously and returned to school, earning a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1980. In his final years, however, it is believed that he suffered from a drug problem. The once popular revolutionary died on August 22, 1989, in Oakland, California, supposedly after being shot on the street for what “they” said was a failed drug deal gone badly. However, it smelled of a COINTELPRO plot by most.

Huey Newton was a man of profound stature and, in my opinion, had the courage to make selfless sacrifices for the benefit of a people at a time when the community needed it most. He once said, “You can jail a Revolutionary, but you can’t jail the Revolution.” If you stop struggling, then you stop life. Black Power Movement in it purest form was simply about giving power to people who have not had the power to determine their destiny.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

JUST A SEASON

FaceBook @ John T. Wills

Like my FaceBook Page
Twitter @ John T. Wills

Selma Revisited

th (1)I had the opportunity to see the movie Selma a few days ago, which was OUTSTANDING! I can remember the time from my youth. As a point of reference, I grew up and lived in the north but witnessed the same bigotry and racism. What struck me was it was jarringly similar to what I see today. We are often told how far black people have come. Maybe the question should be – why is it necessary to say because as so-called American’s; we should be equal.

Even if the film does take some dramatic license with historical facts, it is a film, after all, not a documentary. I will speak as a witness and history proves me right that it was not far off with regard to the wretchedness of the racial climate of the time. Let me remind you of what Brother Malcolm said, and I agree, “Anywhere south of Canada is the South”. What the movie shows is the secret soul of America that continues to live in the hearts of many today. I say secret because white America fails to acknowledge the shameful behavior of their people, then or now.

We relive the same hatred and witness the same racism in the twenty-first century. One thing that can’t be disputed is the powerful way Selma depicts the civil rights activists both well-known and unsung who fought for justice. In my heart of hearts I ask where are the same kind of  men and women with such conviction for civil rights today. The despicable acts of Selma or the atrocities that occurred all over America during that era are ever present today; we have seen the Zimmerman types and Ferguson. So the gene that produces hate has been passed down through the years.

7Just as in the epic film about Martin Luther King Jr. and the struggle for voting rights in the Deep South. We are still fighting that fight today. White America cannot fathom the indignities of their Apartheid like system of justice imposed upon black people they created and called Jim Crow . Seeing the movie will make you better understand the whitewashing of history, because they can’t allow their kids, little Billy and Jane, know how wretched their forefathers and grandparents where to other human beings. I suppose it’s like the Santa Clause story – they honorable people!

I can’t change the hearts of a race of people in a few words because no one has been able to do so in centuries. However, when you see the movie understand that the events of Bloody Sunday was not the worst that was done to black people during that era. I want to add an important insight to the story, which was the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It was named after or dedicated to an Alabama native who served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. After his side lost, he led the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and was later elected to the U.S. Senate. Given the Klan’s terroristic history against black people, it’s only fitting that a bridge named after one of its leaders is now forever known as a national historic landmark in tribute to the civil rights movement.

A few more important facts you should know. The day the Voting Rights Act was signed wasn’t an arbitrary date. When King and other Selma activists joined Johnson at the White House for the signing of the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 1965, the day’s historical significance may have been lost to some. But on that day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Confiscation Act, the first of two, which freed all slaves who were being used by the Confederacy. The acts were a precursor to the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all the slaves in rebel states.

In addition, it was the Selma movement that helped give birth to the Black Panther Party. At the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., 23-year-old SNCC activist Stokely Carmichael decided to head to Lowndes County, Ala. where 80 percent of the population was black but where there were zero black registered voters to build a new political party.

He formed the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which used the Black Panther as its symbol. In October 1966 Carmichael, who was now head of SNCC and a leading voice of the black power movement, was a keynote speaker at a conference in Berkeley, Calif. In attendance were Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, who would adopt the black-panther logo of the LCFO for a new organization they were forming in Oakland, California, called the Black Panthers.

2

This movie proves that black people can do movies about black people more realistic than others can, i.e., their version of “Moses”! I strongly suggest that you see the movie and take you children! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


%d bloggers like this: