5 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
We are all familiar with the iconic picture of the late Huey Newton seated in a wicker chair with a rifle in one hand and a spear in the other. Newton's portrait is only rivaled by Malcolm X's image of him peering out of his window also holding a rifle. Both men and their purpose have been misconstrued over time due to their refusal to pacify their oppressors. As one of the two founders of the Black Panther Party, Dr. Huey Newton's greatest contribution was been lost in translation. Was the Black Panther Party advocating violence or self-defense? Were they anti-white or pro-Black? Were they anti-establishment or more concerned with the growth of their own communities?
1. The Original Six Members
Most of us are familiar with the founders Dr. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale but haven't heard of Elbert Howard, Sherwin Forte, Reggie Forte and the organization's sixteen-year-old Treasurer Bobby Hutton. Just two years after the creation of the Black Panther Party Bobby Hutton was murdered by the Oakland, CA Police Department following a standoff where he surrendered in only his underwear to show he was unarmed. Eldridge Cleaver a Panther and eye-witness called the death of "Little Bobby Hutton" first-degree-murder. The cause of the standoff which took place April 6, 1966 was the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King just two days earlier.
2. The Demographics
At the height of the Black Panther Party's influence the organization was comprised of an estimated 60-80% women. Despite the notably more visible male leadership of the early Black Panther Party women are said to have played a pivotal role in creating political models that encouraged the involvement of women as revolutionaries. Their presence also directly challenged gender roles by carrying themselves in a very powerful manner to the extent of openly carrying weapons.
3. The Pioneering of Gender Equality
The inclusion of women in the Black Panther Party followed by the emergence of women leaders such as Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown and Angela Davis as faces and figureheads was a statement of unity and one of the few times we've seen an inclusion of Black women in an effort to advance the race. In 1968 only two years after inception, the FBI considered the Black Panther Party to be one of the greatest threats to the nation. This realization was followed by the systematic murder or jailing of many male leaders creating a void that women filled. As the force that shaped the mission of the party, their leadership was fitting. Women resorted to local level leadership in the form of higher level community service with numerous programs and initiatives that directly benefited their locale.
4. The Purpose
Many identify with the Black Panther Party on the idea of Black Power but often overlook the dedication that the party put forth to sustain and better their communities. The organization was formed to protect Black communities and end police brutality. It makes sense that something so positive has been villainized over time. Collectively, across the nation, the Black Panther Party created and implemented an estimated 65 programs that ranged from: Free Breakfast for Children Program, Free Busing to Prisons Program, Free Clothing Program, Community Pantry, Employment Referral Service, Nutrition Classes, Junior and High School Tutoring Programs, and Legal Aid and Education.
5. The Ten Point Program
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
2. We want full employment for our people.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the white men of our Black Community.
4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.
6. We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
8. We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
9. We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.