So far I have had a pretty good life and all things considered I have no regrets except for one: I wish that I could have been born about 20 years earlier so that I could have been a member of The Black Panther Party.
The Black Panthers of the 1960's was an organization that epitomized everything that I believe in: standing up for your rights, supporting community, questioning authority, economic uplifting and discipline. Founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966, the Black Panthers were as instrumental in the Civil Rights movement as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and any of the myriad of organizations and civil rights groups of the time. As part of this Black History Month in 2012 we salute the efforts of the Panthers and let the world know that we have not forgotten.
The Black Panthers started as an idea, borne from the oppression, police brutality, lack of economic opportunity and blatant racism of the times. Although these conditions had existed for most of the history of black people in America, the 60's was ripe for change and rebellion was in the air as a result of the questionable politics of the Vietnam War and the uprising of the youth against all manners of inequality to include prejudice against blacks and women.
What made the Panthers so instrumental was the model that they proposed. Not only did they want equal rights, but they also wanted and demanded that individuals respected themselves and their community. The focus was on self-determination, self-respect, self-protection and defense of the the black community. Instead of just using empty rhetoric they put their ideas into action.
The institution of discipline and structure within their organization was a key component of the Party, and through the implementation of structure they were able to put into place many aspects of their agenda.
The 26 Rules regulated use of alcohol, drugs and conduct of the organization and activities during and outside of Panther events, and
The 10 Point Plan laid out specific demands of the government and America that needed to be met
The structured division of responsibility at the national, state and local levels allowed the Panthers to focus on the implementation of several community programs to include:
Free Breakfast For Children
Self Defense Classes
Several Medical Programs to include: ambulance services, first aid programs, sickle cell testing and alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs.
For all the good that the Panthers did in the community, they were still Public Enemy #1 in the eyes of the government and in particular J. Edgar Hoover. The reason for this was the willingness of the Panthers to use arms to defend themselves and the black community. In the face of police brutality and violence against blacks in America during the 60's and prior the Panthers made no bones about using violence (if necessary) to not only defend themselves but to bring about the change required for equality.
If it were not for the illegal actions of the Government and the FBI, the Panthers were ready to change the world as we knew it, however the government crackdown known as CointelPro was insidious, it was the root cause of the destruction of the Panthers, and bears much of the responsibility for many of the problems within the Black community today.
Infiltration from spies planted by local and federal authorities bred distrust and sabotage
The injection of drugs in the neighborhoods and within the Party eroded discipline
False imprisonment of the strongest leaders of the Party sapped the strength of the movement
Destruction of black businesses and shops at the hands of the police caused tremendous economic hardship
The Black Panthers were never able to recover from the direct onslaught of J. Edgar Hoover and his henchmen and unfortunately no other group has risen to step into the void the Panthers left. Although they may be gone as a group we are here to let the survivors, our community, the government and the wold know that we saw what happened, we have learned from it and we are adapting. Much progress has been made but we know that strong institutional barriers to equality still exist. We understand redlining, stop-and-frisk, the corrupt police industrial complex, corporate monopoly, unbalanced funding of education, and the other problems that still leave too many people behind.
When a people are aware of a problem they can fix it. We are aware and we will prevail over these obstacles to achieve the integrated, fair and balanced society that not only the black community deserves, but that the rest of America has cried out for since the Panthers were born.
For those who persist in standing in the way, we have one thing to say - the revolution is coming and we know what side you're on.
Be peaceful, but be strong and vigilant,
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