Saturday, May 21, 2011 | By: Tonya Keitt Kalule

The Black Panther Party-do we need them today?


I have been reading a great deal about The Black Panther Party lately and it has quite enlightening.  This all started with my learning about  Assata Shakur who is in exile in Cuba and seeing a documentary on Pete O'Neal , who is in exile in Tanzania, both former party members.

The photo to the left is of the six founding members of the party. That was taken from Wikipedia. {Original six members of the Black Panther Party (November, 1966) Top left to right: Elbert "Big Man" Howard; Huey P. Newton (Defense Minister), Sherman Forte, Bobby Seale (Chairman). Bottom: Reggie Forte and Little Bobby Hutton (Treasurer)}




One of the books I read was, Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton, by Bobby Seale. I had read many things in the media as I was growing up about the party and the fear that was sparked by the many state governments, as the party started chapters in many states across the country. I am learning that their basic premise was to protect their neighborhoods and its residents from the blatant racism of the time, as well as to start programs that would help us better care for our own.  Yes they did come from some of the worst neighborhoods in the various states just like the many doctors, lawyers, and business people that many became so proud of.  The were self-educated even though the founders did meet in college.  They knew their constitutional rights and were determined to protect them.
There were many organizations in the 1960s that were fighting for civil rights, and the Black Panther Party was no exception, but because they armed themselves, per their constitutional right, they were considered dangerous. They were arming themselves because it was mostly policemen that brutalized many in the neighborhoods and the people were tired of falling prey to this abuse.
The FBI created a special task force, COINTELPRO, for what they considered a problem.

The Black Panther Party was not only attacked from outside forces but also from within the organization. There were operatives that went undercover to infiltrate the organization and wreak havoc to divide and destroy the mission, but there were also those that joined the party to have a cover for their criminal activity.  Both of these things were successful in accelerating the demise of the party. When the leaders realized that they were being destroyed from the inside, they ceased new membership, but it was already too late.  They were being attacked from every direction.

Today the media attacks would not be as successful because of citizen journalism.  The truth would hit the airways before the news outlets even got a hold of the story.  The sad thing is, that not much has changed in our society in reference to racism.  In the 60s it was just against blacks, but now it is against most people of color.  So instead of going away, it has just spread o like a fungus. Most people are too busy trying to keep their heads above water or the poverty line until they don't even notice.
There are still large numbers of people of color being incarcerated and often railroaded into taking plea deals.  The neighborhoods where people of color are concentrated are still under attack by police brutality and institutionalize racism. The schools in the area are still extremely inferior, rendering hopelessness for those that attend them, breeding crime and the like.  The children in these neighborhoods are still sadly aware that they are not deemed worthy of quality education in a safe and clean environment.
So do we need another Black Panther Party? A group that protects and works hard to take care of their own? A group that fights for the rights of its children?  Fight for the rights promised to them by the constitution?  Or do we just sit back and continue to be brainwashed by the system into believing that one day we too will have the American dream if we just continue to work hard and keep our noses clean.  We can now see that this didn't work for our parents who in their later years are still working to keep a roof over their heads way past retirement.  What I am advocating here is not accepting the status quo. We can't change the system without first changing ourselves. We know that the rules of the game doesn't apply to people of color, even though a few of them eke by; and as soon as we learn the game they change the rules. We have to force ourselves into that picture.  And that starts with self, with home, with our own.  We need to help our kids get a better education and that may not start in the schools, but usually within the home, the neighborhood Creating the kind of student that demands better for themselves. The now clich√© phrase, 'it takes a village to raise a child', is not new to us.  It is something that we have been doing since we were brought to this country, and we need to return to that.

Before I get off on this rant, I would love to know what you think.


Photos taken by llka Harmann shows beautifully the climate of the times.

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