The Black Panther Party
Soon, it will be the 60th year anniversary of the Black Panther Party. The Brothers and the Sisters in the Black Panther Party for Self Defense were heroic human beings who wanted black people to be liberated from evil. The BPP has been slandered, misunderstood, and talked about for decades. This organization came among a long line of many liberation movements too. The Black Panther Party was one of the most influential revolutionary movements in world history. During the Maafa, slave revolts existed that tried to end the Maafa and slavery once and for all. There were the Deacons of Defense that used guns to defend civil rights protesters and to protect their own communities in the Deep South, especially in Louisiana and Mississippi. Robert F. Williams of Monroe, North Carolina believed in self-defense and he advocated the use of weapons in defending black people too. He was a strong black person and he wrote his ideals in the classic book entitled, “Negroes with Guns.” Also, there was the group called RAM (or Revolutionary Action Movement) that advanced black liberation too. We can never forget about Malcolm X. As Ossie Davis has said, Malcolm X was a representation of living black manhood. Brother Malcolm X stood up against racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, and any injustice. He supported rifle clubs to protect the black community and he believed in self-defense. Malcolm X wanted nonviolence to anyone who is nonviolent with us, but he rejected nonviolence if someone was violent towards him. This strong history and legacy of self-defense politics is part and parcel of a large section of the black freedom movement. Likewise, nonviolent resistance and demonstration are also legitimate actions that are part of the black freedom movement too. I don’t view both as incompatible. I believe in both nonviolence and self-defense. There is a time to be nonviolent and there is a time to use self defense if necessary. After World War Two, there was the post war economic boom. Even with that boom, there were still working class and poor people (especially of black African descent in America) suffering problems. The Great Migration caused many African Americans to move into the cities and towns of the North, the Midwest, and the West Coast. Those lands readily use de facto discriminatory policies, massive police brutality existed, and economic exploitation was common.
Today, in our community, we witness poverty, housing repossessions, unemployment, police brutality, mass incarceration, theft of pensions, struggling schools, and other evils (caused by many things from the Great Recession to the austerity policies enacted by both major capitalist parties). Therefore, we have to know about the Black Panther Party, so we can learn lesson and develop future strategies in causing justice for all. In racist, capitalist America, we face many evils. During the 1950’s and the 1960’s, before the BPP, evil people assassinated many human beings. Rev. George Lee was murdered in May 7, 1955 in Belzoni, Mississippi for just trying to register people to vote. He was one of the first black people to register to vote in Humphreys County. Lamar Smith organized black people in a local election and he was killed in Brookhaven, Mississippi in August 13, 1955. Emmett Louis Till was killed in August 28, 1955 in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till's evil death increased the power of the civil rights movement. Herbert Lee worked with civil rights leader Bob Moses to register black voters. He was murdered in September 25, 1961 in Liberty, Mississippi. William Lewis Moore protested segregation and he was killed in Atalla, Alabama in April 23, 1963. Medgar Evers directed NAACP operations in Mississippi. He led a campaign for integration in Jackson and he was shot and killed by a sniper at his home in June 12, 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. On September 15, 1963, white terrorists exploded a bombed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. This bomb killed 4 innocent school age girls. Their names are Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. These girls just wanted to worship God in their own way inside of a religious church. The church was a center of civil rights meetings and marches. President John F. Kennedy would be assassinated too later in November 22, 1963.
There are so many other civil rights martyrs that fought for justice. We honor their memories. These events showed the youth that allying with the establishment wasn’t going far enough to cause immediate liberation. Young people questioned bourgeois reformism since that reformism will not only take society so far and it will primarily benefit the rich and the middle class not the poor or working class. The over reliance on the capitalist Democratic Party has been exposed by SNCC as how SNCC members were disrespected by the 1964 Democratic National Convention (when Democratic delegates wanted Fannie Lou Hamer and others to accept token representation for Mississippi. SNCC members refused such a vile gesture). The revolutionary views of Malcolm X inspired the Black Panther Party as admitted by both of their founders. The events of police terror, imperial wars, ghetto rebellions (in urban cities like in NYC, Los Angeles, etc.), the age of Black Power (which was called for by Kwame Ture and Ricks in 1966. Kwame Ture used a Black Panther logo in his political party of Lowndes, County, Alabama), and economic deprivation set the stage for the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966.
3 men invented the Black Panther Party. Their names are Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, and David Hillard. They were intellectuals and they weren’t afraid of standing up against oppression. They studied in college (Seale met Newton in 1962 at Merritt College. They joined Donald Warden’s Afro-American Association). In that organization, they read, debated, and organized in a Black Nationalist tradition as they were inspired by Malcolm X and other revolutionaries. The Black Panther Party was created in October 15, 1966. It was a group that was a revolutionary Black Nationalist and socialist organization. No one can understand about the Black Panthers without understanding about socialism (or the economic philosophy that the people or the government should control the means of production in an economy). Oakland back then was filled with an epidemic of police brutality. The Black Panthers wanted to establish a unique form of politics to address poverty, racism, and other evils in the black community. Many early Black Panther members in Oakland had families who came from the South (which was filled with Jim Crow apartheid or segregation). In essence, the Black Panthers wanted to work in the community in a grassroots level, so that can be used as a platform to liberate all freedom loving peoples of the world. This group was anti-imperialist and the Black Panther Party was a progressive organization. The Black Panther Party adopted the Black Panther logo from the LCFO or the Lowndes County Freedom Organization from Alabama. By October 29, 1966, Kwame Ture (a leader of SNCC) came to Berkeley to advocate for Black Power. Newton and Seale decided on a uniform of blue shirts, black pants, black leather jackets, and black berets. Then 16 year old Bobby Hutton was their first recruit. The Original Six members of the Black Panther Party in 1966 were Elbert “Big Man” Howard, Huey P. Newton (Defense Minister), Sherwin Forte, Bobby Seale (Chairman), Reggie Forte, and Bobby Hutton (Treasurer).
By October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale wrote the first draft of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense 10 Point Program. This outlined their plans and political positions on issues. It wanted full employment, exemption from military service, an end to police brutality, and freedom. In essence, the Black Panther Party was a combination of revolutionary Black Nationalism, Third World Marxism, and community service politics. In January 1967, The Black Panther Party opened its first official headquarters in an Oakland storefront and published the first issue of “The Black Panther: Black Community News Service.” Their office was at 5624 Grove Street, Oakland, California. The Panthers would patrol the streets of Oakland. When they encounter the police dealing with a person, the Black Panthers would advise the person of their rights and observe the police doing their actions. On February 21, 1967, the Black Panthers escorted Sister Betty Shabazz from the San Francisco airport to Ramparts for an interview with Eldridge Cleaver. Cleaver was famous for his book "Soul on Ice" that outlined his experiences. In that book, he admitted to raping white and black women. So, it is obvious I don't view Cleaver as a super hero. I don't admire Eldridge Cleaver.
In April 1, 1967, in Richmond, California, Denzil Dowell was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies at Third and Chestly, an unincorporated area of North Richmond. Denzil was an unarmed 22 year old construction worker. Black Panthers responded to a request from the family of Dowell for protection from police harassment. The Party's ideals resonated with several community members, who then brought their own guns to the next rallies. The first issue of the Black Panther Party Black Community News Service is published. This four page mimeograph newspaper headlines “Why Was Denzil Dowell Killed?” Numbers grow slightly starting in February 1967. The Panthers employed a California law that permitted carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun as long as it was publicly displayed and pointed at no one.
*The Black Panther Party has an explicit philosophy. They didn’t just express themselves in using newspapers. They developed an analysis of society. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale believed that the black communities of America were as an occupied people by the U.S. government. They compared this occupying of the black communities by the police as similar to how the Vietnamese people are brutalized, colonized, and oppressed by Western forces. Therefore, Newton and Seale wanted the Black Panthers to act as a vanguard organization to develop strategies to promote the interests of the community. They wanted to show programs to serve the community. They wrote that in their books and literature. Also, new recruits of the Black Panther Party has to follow the 10 Point Program and read books from Fanon, Malcolm X, Mao, and other human beings who expressed revolutionary views. The rebellions especially of 1967 in Newark and Detroit inspired the Panthers to advocate for armed self-defense against police terror. They advocated that action before 1967, but the rebellions crystallized their views. They viewed the rebellions as not successful long term, but they did realize that they were expressions of frustrations with poverty, police brutality, and bad social conditions of the ghetto. They viewed the rebellions as protopolitical actions. Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton before the protest in the California capitol in 1967 encountered the police and cited the law, so the police couldn’t arrest them unjustly or without cause. The Black Panthers studied the law and studied the actions of revolutionary movements of the Third World in order for them to develop their anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist views.
The California Legislature
The Black Panthers grew in 1967. Governor Ronald Reagan wanted to pass the Mulford Act (which would be made into law) which would make the public carrying of loaded firearms illegal. This proposal came about in response to the actions of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Ronald Reagan was a notorious reactionary person. The Black Panthers protested this action in a historic event. On May 2, 1967, the California State Assembly Committee on Criminal Procedure was scheduled to convene to discuss what was known as the Mulford Act.” Eldridge Cleaver and Huey P. Newton created a plan to send a group of 26 armed Black Panthers which would be led by Seale from Oakland to Sacramento to protest the bill. The group entered the assembly and they carried their weapons. This event was publicized worldwide. The Black Panthers came into the California legislature to oppose the Mulford Act since they said that it was racist and it leaves black people defenseless against the onslaught of police terror. The police arrested Seale and five others. The group pleaded guilty of misdemeanor charges of disrupting a legislative session. The Panthers acted courageously to stand up for their convictions.
In June 1967, rebellions exist in many major cities like Newark, Cleveland, and Detroit. These cities of the North and the Midwest have suffered poverty and racial injustice for a long time. In August of 1967, the FBI or the Federal Bureau of Investigation directed its COINTELPRO evil program. This program wanted to “neutralize” (or destroy) Black Nationalist groups, progressive organizations, and any group that were against the status quo. The FBI readily used illegal tactics to try to fight the Black Panthers and other organizations that were in favor of social change. There is the incident between Huey P. Newton and police officer John Frey. This happened in October 28, 1967. Newton and his friend were pulled over by the Oakland Police Department officer John Frey. Frey called for backup after knowing who Newton was. When officer Herbert Heanes came to the scenes, shots were fired. All three were wounded. There have been different accounts of the incident. Frey was shot four times and died within the hour, while Heanes was left in serious condition with three bullet wounds. Black Panther David Hilliard took Newton to Oakland’s Kaiser Hospital, where he was admitted with a bullet wound to the abdomen. Newton was soon handcuffed to his bed and arrested for being accused of Frey's killing. Charges against Newton would be dropped by 1970. By December of 1967, the Black Panther increased its circulation tenfold. In January of 1968, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, deputy minister of defense for Southern California, organizes The Southern California branch of the BPP. The BPP office is at Central Ave. and 43rd Street. Then on January 16, 1968, something else happened. At 3:30am, San Francisco police officers break down the apartment door of Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver. The officers ransack the apartment without a search warrant. Emory Douglas is also present. On February 8, 1968, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, on the campus of South Carolina State College, local police backed by the National Guard fired on a crowd of unarmed black students; 33 black activists are shot, and three people died.
There was the famous “Free Huey” rally at the Oakland Auditorium in February 17, 1968. That date was on Newton’s birthday. It had more than 5,000 supporters there including Kwame Ture, H. Rap Brown, James Forman, Ron Dellums, and Peace and Freedom Party representatives. By this time, the groups of SNCC and the BPP united on many ventures from opposing police brutality and advancing the ideal of Black Power. The “Free Huey” campaign was about the freeing of Huey P. Newton from prison. The American left was involved in the campaign too. He was released years later when his conviction was reversed on appeal. As Newton awaited trial, the Black Panther party's "Free Huey" campaign developed alliances with numerous individuals, students and anti-war activists. These organizations were anti-imperialist and linked the oppression of antiwar protesters to the oppression of black people and the Vietnamese. The campaign gained support among black power organizations, New Left groups, and other activist groups like the Progressive Labor Party, Bob Avakian of the Community for New Politics, and the Red Guard. The Black Panther Party also worked with the Peace and Freedom Party. This party was strongly antiwar and antiracist and they were in opposition to the establishment Democratic Party. The Black Panther Party provided needed legitimacy to the Peace and Freedom Party's racial politics and in return received invaluable support for the "Free Huey" campaign.
On February 25, at 2:00 am., Berkeley police officers broke down the door and ransack the home of Bobby and Artie Seale. The Seales were charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Charges are later dropped for lack of evidence. Arthur (Glen) Morris or the brother of Bunchy Carter was shot and killed by agents of the U.S. government. He was the first member of the BPP who was murdered. This happened in March of 1968. Anthony Coltrale was killed in Watts by a local police officer. Also in March, the Kansas City BPP office was raised by the police and five Panthers were arrested. The Black Panther Party has international influence as one source accurately states:
"...Repression had the effect of publicizing the Black Panther Party in a way that drew supporters of a growing anti-establishment movement that made the connection between the US government's war in Vietnam and its war on Black America. This brought political and financial support to the Party's survival programs. The Panther’s organizational response to repression was action. They rallied the anti-war movement at home and built relationships with the anti-imperialist struggle abroad. At their height, the Black Panther Party had chapters in dozens of countries including Algeria, Japan, and numerous European nations..." (Danny Haiphong's "In defense of the Panthers")
The FBI Document
On March 4, 1968, there was a FBI memo from J. Edgar Hoover (who was the head of the FBI back then. He was also a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason. Hoover was an evil male). It outlined goals to his staff to “prevent he coalition of militant black nationalist groups.” In that directive, Hoover stated his goals: "Prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a 'messiah'... . Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and [Nation of Islam leader] Elijah Muhammed [sic] all aspire to this position ... . King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed 'obedience' to 'white, liberal doctrines' (nonviolence)." This program also existed in the same time in a broader effort by the government to prepare for military responses for urban rebellions. The FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and the Department of Defense worked together in illegal spying against the progressive movement (internationally and domestically). The CIA created its illegal domestic espionage program called Operation CHOAS to illegally monitor the anti-war movement (especially those in colleges and universities). The FBI monitored the disrupted efforts of the Poor People’s Campaign (which was created by Dr. King and SCLC to occupy Washington, D.C. in order for the government to address poverty in the America and establish economic justice for all people). FBI COINELPRO program targeted anti-Vietnam War activists, civil rights organizations, black nationalist organizations, feminist groups, anti-colonial movement (like the Puerto Rican independence groups), and other New Left organizations. COINTELPRO officially started in August of 1956.
In April of 1968, the New York BPP Chapter is organized. On April 3, the Oakland police department raided Neil’s church where Party members are holding a meeting.
The Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panther Movement wanted the same goal (which is justice, freedom, and equality for all) despite their disagreements on nonviolence. I view them as part of the same struggle for black liberation. Also, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used civil disobedience, went to jail, and violated the law in numerous times. He wasn't an ascetic. He also advocated a work stoppage and he was much more radical than some view him as well. My philosophy is to use nonviolence, protests, community organization, economic strategies, political strategies, and if necessary self-defense to enact real social change. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. That was a tragic day.
On the night of April 6, 1968, the Black Panthers had a shootout with the Oakland Police. In this shoot out, Bobby Hutton (a Black Panther member was murdered by the police). The scene was at 1218 28th Street in Oakland. Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Hutton were in the basement of a house. A fire soon started and they surrounded to the police according to Cleaver and the deposition of Officer Eugene Jennings (one of the 2 black police officers who witnessed Hutton’s murder). Jennings said that both Cleaver and Hutton were brutalized after they surrounded. Hutton stumbled after being pushed from behind. Later, on officer stepped forward and shot Hutton in the head. Other officers shot at Hutton too. In context, Oakland back then was in the midst of racist policing practices. The establishment then and now has promoted the mass incarceration state and police occupation. Hutton’s murder was so unjust that people from across backgrounds condemned the murder of Brother Bobby Hutton. Funeral services for Bobby Hutton held at Ephesians Church of God in Christ on Alcatraz Avenue in Berkeley. Moe than 2,500 attend the funeral.
The Continuation of the BPP
3 Black Panthers were arrested in Seattle, Washington in April 7, 1968. In April 9, Panther volunteers register citizens to vote in more numbers. Oakland remains clam despite the rebellions in major cities across the country due to the efforts of the BPP. In June, San Francisco Party captain Dexter Woods arrested for curfew violation and given 5 days in jail. By June 25, Eldridge Cleaver takes Panther case to the United Nations. In July 1968, the West Oakland Panther office was opened by Tommy Jones, Glen Stafford, and other dedicated Panther volunteers. The Seattle BPP office is raided by the local police in July too. Captain Aaron Dixon of the Seattle BPP and Panther Curtis Harris are arrested for grand larceny. Both are eventually found not guilty. Captain Dexter Woods of the San Francisco BPP was arrested for interference with the police in July 1968. From July 15-16, more than 6,000 protestors come out in support of Huey Newton on the steps of the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland. He national and international press is present as well as the National Guard. The newly formed Brown Berets make their appearance on the courthouse steps in support of Huey.
In August of 1968, the West Oakland Panther office was raided and ransacked by the police. In Newark, the Panther office was firebombed. In Detroit, Panthers and police have a shoot-out; however, here are no injuries. Fiver Seattle Panthers are harassed in their car by the local police. Black Panthers are killed in a shoot out between the police and Panthers in LA in August 5. On August 16, Chairman Bobby Seale and Captain David Hilliard speak to a crowd of 5,000 across the street rom the Democratic National Convention.
On August 17, Communications Secretary Kathleen Cleaver, in Hawaii at the Peace and Freedom Party convention, is refused the right to enter Japan. He here Black Panthers Robert Lawrence, Steve Bartholomew, and Tommy Lewis were murdered by the Los Angeles police at a service station. In September 1968, the San Francisco Examiner printed an article saying that Panther George Murray's employment was a teacher at San Francisco State. Chancellor Dumke orders Murray's termination. The Black Student Union immediately goes on strike in support of Murray.
Huey is convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the September 8. On that date, J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panther Party, the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” The FBI continued its surveillance, harassment, and other terrorist actions against the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. In September, Oakland police officer committed a drive by shooting of the BPP office on Grove Street. Eldridge Cleaver’s parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison.
In October of 1968, Denver police shoot up Panther office during racial disturbance. Panther Lauren Watson is charged with conspiracy to commit arson. The NYPD in the same month harasses Panthers over use of a bullhorn at Panthers headquarters. Seattle Panther Sidney Miller was murdered in November 7, 1968.
Panther Reginald Forte and Officer Wolke were wounded after an altercation in Berkeley. On November 25, 1968, a FBI memo details plans to cause dissension between Los Angeles Panthers and United Slaves (US) under the leadership of Ron Karenga. On December 1, Forty-three Denver police raid Panther office, cause $9,000 in damage, and steal $150 in cash. A Newark Panther office was bombed by the local police in December 7, 1968. The police attack the Indianapolis Panther office in December 18. So, this was a war between progressive BPP and the terrorist FBI. On December 21, the Denver police raided Panther office looking for weapons. They find nothing. So, out of frustration, the police officers in Denver, burnt food and clothing that were to be given to community poor for the holidays. You see why I have my views about crooked cops. There was a demonstration hled by the Indiana Committee to Defend the BPP in front of the local police station. clergy members, Citizen's Defense League, Purdue Peace League, and other community organizations are in attendance. On December 27, Des Moines Panther office is raided by 100 police officers and FBI agents. Mrs. Joanne Cheatom, president of the Des Moines Welfare Rights Organization, is arrested along with several Panthers. During the next day, San Francisco Panther office was raided by the police. Sacramento Panthers exchange gunfire in a shootout with the police. 13 officers were wounded and 37 persons were jailed. On December 30, Los Angels Panther Frank Diggs was shot in the head and killed by police agents.
1969 would be a very historical year for the Black Panther Party. In January of 1969, the Panthers’ Free Breakfast Children Program or the FBCP is under way at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland. Los Angeles captain Bunchy Carter and Deputy Minister John Huggins are murdered in Campbell Hall on the UCLA campus (in January 17,1969), by US members. Later, people found that the murderers had ties to the FBI as informants. The Third World strikes comes about in UC Berkeley in February 13. On March 14 in Los Angeles, following a a student strike meeting at Victory Baptist Church, an altercation ensues in the parking lot between US members and Panthers. Panther Ronald Freeman is wounded in the chest and groin. Local police watch the fight from their vehicle parked across the street and do not intervene.
BPP sated the Free Breakfast Children Program in Vallejo, California. Hey start with 35 children. Within a week, the number of children grows to 110. IN March 19, 1969, Panthers Bobby Seale and Masai Hewitt tour Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. In March 24, the FBI continue to instigate inflammatory letters from US members to the Panthers to cause a divide and conquer strategy. By March 26, a house that was used as a BPP office in Des Monies was completely demolished by CDT plastic explosives. Later, in testimony before the House Committee on Un- American Activities, Panthers and the local police department accuse each other of the bombing. In San Francisco, police officers tear gas, fire upon using automatic weapons, and raid Party office. A total of 16 Panthers are arrested (in March 28).
In April 1, the Chicago Free Breakfast Children Programs begins. It starts with 83 children. By the end of the week, more than 1,100 children are fed.
In April 13, in Des Moines, the Black Panther Party office is totally destroyed by a firebomb. In May 4, Free Huey rallies are held in 20 major cities at the U.S. federal district courts.
In May 13, New Jersey Panthers David Williams and Marion Fields were harassed by officers for passing out leaflets.
By May of 1969, more developments came about. On May 21, in New Haven, Connecticut, Panther Alex Rackley is viciously tortured and murdered by undercover agent George Sams who eventually plead guilty to second-degree murder and whose status as an agent was confirmed at his trial. Before his arrest many Panther offices were raided under the pretext of looking for him. During the next day in the same city, the New Haven Panther office was raided by the police. Panthers were arrested on conspiracy to commit murder. Black Panther John Savage was murdered by US members in May 23. In Berkeley, the FBI curtails distribution of Black Panther Party newspapers by ripping them up and disruption U.S. mail service in May 31. United Airlines and TWA accept contracts to receive and deliver the newspaper, but now deny receiving the newspaper. In June 4th, the police storm the BPP office in Detroit o search for the suspects in the New Haven murder of Alex Rackley; $25,000 damage is done to the office and bail is set at $4,000 each. Charges on all Panthers arrested are dropped. On the same day, the Liberation School or a BPP survival program starts. Charges are dropped against LA Panther Daniel Lynem in June too. In June 7, the Chicago BPP office is raided in search of George Sams. Eight Panthers are arrested and charged with harboring a fugitive. Bail is set at $1,000, but all charges were dropped. Charges are dropped against LA Panther Wayne Pharr. In Chicago, 16 Panthers, including William O'Neal (an undercover agent), are indicted for conspiracy, kidnapping, and aggravated battery. Bail is set at $100,000 each (in June 10th). 3 days later, Panthers Joel Brown and Ron Davis are attacked, maced, and arrested by police for allegedly blocking a public walkway while selling BPP newspapers.. The San Diego and Sacramento BPP offices were raided in June 13. In June 19, Chicago Black Panther Davis Smith was arrested for just selling the BPP newspaper. . In July 2, the San Francisco Panther Liberation School opens in San Francisco (another one opens in July 20 with 90 children). In July 26, in San Diego, the John Savage Memorial FBCP moves ahead despite vandals who broke into the church and destroyed food.
In Algeria, Eldridge Cleaver is cheered as he addressed the people in front of the new Afro-American Information Center. Cleaver is joined by Emory Douglas, David Hilliard, Masai Hewitt, Baby Dee, and the daughter of Richard Wright to attend a 12-day Pan-African Cultural Festival. The Chicago police in July 31 raided a BPP office in an unprovoked attack that lasted for 45 minutes. The Bobby Hutton Free Health Clinic was created by BPP members in Kansas City. On August 19, 1968, Bobby Seale is kidnapped by Berkeley police after leaving the wedding of Masai Hewitt and Shirley Neely. He is immediately taken to San Francisco and charged with initiating the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and New Haven murder of Alex Rackley. In August 30, the black Panthers brought attention to the political prisoner South African Nelson Mandela. On September 2, 1969, San Diego police fire bullets and gas rockets into Panther home for 45 minutes. People in the community throw bottles and rocks at police. Officers in turn kick down citizens' doors and beat the people. Bobby Seale was gagged and shackled to a metal folding in court in Chicago on September 4. Chicago opens a free medical health clinic in the same day. 2 days later, the Berkeley Tribe newspaper reveals a transcript of a 35-step assault plan by Berkeley police to engage in a full-scale attack on the BPP National Headquarters. The FBI continues to raid the officers of the BPP like on in Philadelphia in September 24. In Philadelphia, Barbara Cox starts the Panther Free Clothing Program. Panther Walter Pope was murdered by the LA metro squad in broad daylight as he drops BPP newspapers off at a store. BPP people in Seattle opened a fee medical clinic by November.
On January 24, 1969, Fred Hampton would be prevented to appear on a local television talk show by the FBI and the Chicago police. Fred Hampton was a strong black leader. He organized many great things for the Black Panther Party in Chicago. His is why on January 30, 1969, J. Edgar Hoover approved of mailing anonymous letter to provoke the Blackstone ranges to attack BPP members in Chicago. In the same day, more than 100 police officers swarm the BPP office in Des Moines, Iowa. In December 4, 1969, in Chicago, Fred Hampton, and Mark Clark are viciously murdered by police while they sleep.
Panther 21 and other Events
In April of 1969, 21 Black Panthers are arrested on a wide variety of conspiracy charges. In April 10, 1969, high school students hold a demonstration at Long Island City High School to demand freedom for the Panther 21 arrested on conspiracy charges. They or the Panther 21 accused of planned coordinated bombing and long-range rifle attack on two police stations and an education office in New York City. The Panther 21 group was completely innocent of the charges. On April 2, 1969 twenty-one Black Panther members were indicted. The number dropped from twenty-one to thirteen, who were arraigned before Judge Charles Marks with bail set at $100,000. Joseph A. Phillips from the District Attorney's Office led the prosecution, with Jeffrey Weinsten as his assistant.The Panthers were charged with conspiracy to kill several police officers and to destroy a number of buildings, including four police stations, five department stores, and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. The charges were false. The Black Panther members (of the Panther 21) were acquitted on May 12, 1971 of all 156 charges.
The Age of Nixon
December 1969 continued to be one of the most explosive years of the BPP when the government outright not only violated civil liberties, but used actions that targeted the Black Panther Party in brutal ways. In December 8th, 1969, the Los Angeles police launched a full scale attack on the Southern California Panthers in a predawn raid. In 2 separate locations, 400 officers arrested Party members and even children. These cops had no shame in their disgracefulness. During one shoot out, Roland Freeman’s body was riddled with bullets, but he survived. During the next day, the Los Angeles Local Union 535, Social Services Workers' Union, passed a resolution to protest the political murders of Panthers across the country and to demand the release of all political prisoners. The Bunchy Carter Free Health Clinic opened in LA in December 27. A shipment of BPP newspapers arrive in Winston-Salem North Carolina by December 30. From the beginning, the Black Panther Party dealt with the concepts of masculinity and femininity. There is the image of a black man (which many Black Panthers have shown) with a gun and the stereotypical image of manhood has been shown back then. Holding a gun doesn’t make a person a man or a woman. There is nothing wrong with holding a gun in a legitimate fashion, but life should be more than about a gun. The integrity, character, and the insights to help others are things found in real men and real women. In 1968, the Black Panther Party newspaper stated in several articles that the role of female Panthers was to "stand behind black men" and be supportive. That was wrong. There was massive sexism in the Black Panthers, which was evil and immoral. Many women in the Oakland chapter and in other chapters experienced gender discrimination, sexual harassment, assault, etc. by many fellow Black Panther Party members. When Oakland Panthers arrived to bolster the New York City Panther chapter after twenty one New York leaders were incarcerated, they displayed such chauvinistic attitudes towards New York Panther women that they had to be fended off at gunpoint. Regina Davis (an administration of a Black Panther Liberation School) was a great Black Panther who was beaten so badly by male Panther members that her jaw was broken and she was sent to the hospital. Some Party leaders wrongly thought the fight for gender equality was a threat to men and a distraction from the struggle for racial equality.
The truth is that there is no racial equality without gender equality and vice versa. By 1969, the Black Panther Party newspaper officially stated that men and women are equal and they instructed male Panthers to treat female Party members as equals. That same year, Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois chapter conducted a meeting condemning sexism. After 1969, the Party considered sexism counter-revolutionary. Many Black Panthers promoted a womanist ideology. Women Black Panther Party members were strong leaders, they stood up against sexism in the Party, and they fought the good fight for liberation and justice. Womanism is the view that gender equality can never come unless black women have racial justice. Womanism emphasis more on issues of race, gender, and class (not just on gender alone). Famous woman Black Panther Party women leaders are Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Erika Huggins, Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and others. The Black Panther Party newspaper often showed women as active participants in the armed self-defense movement, picturing them with children and guns as protectors of the home, the family and the community. From 1968 to the end of its publication in 1982, the head editors of the Black Panther Party newspaper were all women. Many women headed many chapters of the Black Panther Party in Des Moines, New Haven, etc. In 1970, approximately 40% to 70% of Party members were women. This historical fact should remind that sexism has no place in any location on Earth. The heroic black Panthers who fought sexism and fought for justice deserve all of the respect in the world.
By 1970, the Black Panthers were attacked by the FBI, police agencies, and informants. The Black Panther Party was funded by many people. The Oakland BPP had another confrontation with the police with guns and fragmentation bombs in the Spring of 1970. 2 officers were wounded. Huey P. Newton’s conviction is overturned in May of 1970, but he remained incarcerated in May of 1970. In July 1970, Newton tells the New York Times that, “we’ve never advocated violence.” He is released from prison by August 1970. In the same year, many Black Panthers traveled overseas to promote anti-imperialism and solidarity with Third World activists. Some Panthers went into Asia and were welcomed guests of the governments in North Vietnam, North Korea, and China. The group's first stop was in North Korea, where the Panthers met with local officials to discuss ways that they could help each other fight American imperialism. Eldridge Cleaver traveled to Pyongyang twice in 1969 and 1970, and following these trips he made an effort to publicize the writings and works of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung in the United States.
After North Korea, the group traveled to North Vietnam with the same agenda in mind: finding ways to put an end to American imperialism. Eldridge Cleaver was invited to speak to Black GIs by the Northern Vietnamese government. He encouraged them to join the Black Liberation Struggle by arguing that the United States is only using them for their own purposes. Instead of risking their lives on the battlefield for a country that continues to oppress them, Cleaver believes the black GIs should risk their lives in support of their own liberation. After Vietnam, Cleaver met with the Chinese ambassador to Algeria to express their mutual animosity towards the American government. Algeria held its first Pan-African Cultural Festival. They invited many important figures from America. Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver were invited. The cultural festival allowed Black Panthers to network with representatives of various international anti-imperialist movements. It is at this festival where Cleaver met with the ambassador of North Korea, who later invited him to their International Conference of Revolutionary Journalists in Pyongyang. Eldridge also met Yasser Arafat, and gave a speech supporting the Palestinians and their goal of achieving liberation. 1971 would be another historic year for the Black Panther Party.
Long Live the Legacy of the Black Panther Party