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Black Panther Party

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), founded in Oakland, California in October 1966, established itself as a leading black nationalist organization in the United States. The Black Panther Party (BPP) advocated the use of violence and guerilla tactics to overthrow the U.S. government. The Black Panther Party was founded by college students Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. It was a revolutionary organization with an ideology of black nationalism, socialism, and armed self-defense.

Newton and Seale began canvassing their community asking residents about issues of concern. They compiled the responses and created the Ten Point Platform that became the foundational guidelines and ideals of the Party. The Black Panther Party also provided free breakfast for school children, sickle-cell anaemia testing, legal aid, and adult education.

The platform and program of the Black Panther Party were put forth each week in its national newspaper, The Black Panther. The platform of the party consists of 10 points. These are:

  1. the freedom of black people to determine the destiny of their community;
  2. full employment;
  3. an end to white robbery in the black community;
  4. decent housing;
  5. a system of education in the black community which roots the needs of black people;
  6. the exemption of all black mon from military service;
  7. the end of police brutlity and murder In the black cormunity;
  8. the release of all black people from jails and prisons;
  9. the trial of black people accused of crires by juries of black people;
  10. land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

Clearly, most of the points of this platform pertain to changes which were essentially reformist. However, since its founding, the Black Panther Party had adopted a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist ideology. They advocate the arming of black people as essential for liberation. The liberation of the black community, they maintain, can only be achieved through armed self-defense and armed struggle. Their position on armaments came from the writings of Chairman Mao Tse-tung of the People's Republic of China. Chairman Mao said "political power grows ou of the barrel of a gun".

Members of the Black Panther Party saw black liberation as part of the world-wide non-white struggle against the forces of colonialism and imperialism, led by the government of the United States. Within the United States the Black Panther Party effected alliances with both non-white and white revolutionary groups such as the Peace and Freedom Party, the Students for a Democratic Society, the Young Lords, the Young Patriots, and the White Panther Party. It was the position of the Black Panther Party that in order for black people in the United States to liberate themselves, they must align themselves with other groups struggling to overcome the forces of American oppression, both internally and internationally.

The lack of access to hygiene and health services is often povertys most revolting aspect. A 1969 documentary film Out in the Rural ( shows massive poverty and underemployment as well as a dearth of sanitary facilities, potable water, health care, and education in a Black community in rural Mississippi. Living conditions there had hardly changed since the beginning of the century.

he BPP chose to create these new structures in urban ghettos. To this most depressed population in America, the BPP opted to offer modern forms of community care and prevention. There were doctors eager to help the Panthers and a population eager to be served. Make no mistake, wrote physician Quentin Young in the section of his autobiography reproduced in this issue, these young lions and lionesses were dedicated and skilled. They simply liked this idea of organic unity with the patients.

One observer later noted "... while many scholars and activist focus on the West coast-East Coast divide in the BPP, in was not only a matter of personality but geography. Whereas Oakland faces Asia and Mexico, producing a mestizo radical politic, New York faces the Caribbean and Africa. As such, many of the transplants who come to New York carry with them what Winston James called a majority consciousness. This could be seen in the activism of Marcus Garvey down to the Harlem Renaissance. Indeed, while many of the West coast Panthers were going by Huey, Bobby, Eldridge and Kathleen, the New York Panthers were changing their names to reflect this majority consciousness: Assata, Afeni, Zayd, Sundiata, and Lumumba."

The BPP is mainly remembered as a political organization of self-defense that underwent violent confrontation with the state and was defeated. In the haze of its confused fall, it is easy to lose sight of its tremendous dedication to serving the people.

Unfortunately, the violent confrontations of the BPP with the state tends to obscure the community service dimension of their legacy. Evidence abounds that in this confrontation between the BPP and the state, government authorities did not always act within the bounds of law and ethics. The more troubled pages of the BPP saga disenfranchised the party from the possibility of putting its mark on the laws, rules, and regulations to the adoption of which it has contributed.

The Black Panther Party dissolved in the early 1980s after in-fighting and FBI interference led to a decline in popular support.

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Page last modified: 24-09-2017 18:52:41 ZULU