Monday, October 16, 2006
All Power To The People: the 40th Anniversary of The Black Panther Party
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 and end to the robbery by the capitalist of our Black community.
4. We want decent housing, fit for the 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 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 trail 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. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-Supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the Black colony in which only Black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of Black people as to their national destiny.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
They came from as close as downtown Oakland California and as far away as Tanzania, located in Southern Africa.
They are mothers, fathers, and grandparents; artists, IT professionals, singers, songwriters; some walked erect, others moved about with the aid of canes, and a few in wheelchairs; they were doctors, lawyers, teachers, and activists, but above all else they were revolutionaries; they were Panthers; Black Panthers.
From Thursday, October 12th through Sunday October 15th, hundreds of comrades from the Black Panther Party (BPP) descended on Oakland California to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the organization.
Founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, The (BPP) was dedicated to bringing about real change and self-determination to Black communities around the country. “I remember having the opportunity to spend hours with Bobby, and his brother John Seale, and ‘Big Man’ (Earl ‘Big Man’ Howard), and just brainstorming, and pick their minds on things that could be done. And I remember the concept of him (Bobby Seale) talking about feeding children.” recalls James Mott, who was active with the Party in the Sacramento chapter.
Thus out of those brainstorming sessions that took place came the first free breakfast program for children founded in Oakland in May of 1968: “It was in that point in time that Jessie Unruh, who was the State’s Attorney General came out and made the blatant statement that the BPP is feeding more children in this country than the United States government.” said Mott.
The BPP instituted a number of survival programs designed to meet the needs of the community. The survival programs served as an organizing tool to expose the inequities and contradictions of the United States. Some of the programs were:
1. Inter-communal News Service (The BPP paper).
2. Free breakfast for schoolchildren.
3. Petition Campaign – Referendum for Community Control of police.
4. Free clothing program.
5. Free housing cooperative program.
6. Free shoe program.
In all there were 16 programs that the BPP instituted in the community.
Several speakers at the reunion spoke of the various roles that people took on in the organization. Although, two men founded it, the BPP had a strong group of women that were involved and led in a variety of ways. One such woman was Charlotte O’Neal.
Charlotte O’Neal and her husband Pete O’Neal were involved with the Kansas City chapter of the BPP. At the age of 19, Charlotte was pregnant and had been transformed by the BPP. Now living in exile in Tanzania and regal in her African headdress and gown, O’Neal, spoke of the need to get the youth of today more active in what is going on around them; “It’s like they almost have on blinders. Well it’s up to us, all us old Panthers, to tear those blinders off!”
Another strong woman was Kathleen Cleaver. Along with her husband the legendary Eldridge Cleaver, they promoted the BPP struggle with other international freedom movements all over the World.
But as the BPP grew, so did the watchful eye of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO Program (Counter Intelligence Program). Hoover considered the BPP to be the greatest threat to the American way of life; “He meant white America!” intones a man named Ali Bey who was involved in the New York BPP chapter.
Hoover, arrested, harassed, infiltrated, and sowed seeds of distrust and disunity amongst the various chapters. Many BPP members found themselves in jail, fled the country or dead. The names of Fred Hampton, Mark Clark and ‘Lil’ Bobby Hutton stand out in the memories of those in the BPP. By the early 80s, the BPP as an active force had all but ceased.
However, the vision and dedication of those that came and still more who attended the celebration was a testament to just how far and wide the reach of the BPP has been. Many came from as close as Oakland and as far away as France. There were young and old, Black and White, those who knew the history and still others who were beginning to learn it.
One speaker commented that: “As long as one person remembers the BPP, the struggle will go on.”
James Mott summed it up thusly: “one of the greatest stories ever told talked about a man who fed thousands; I remember us having breakfast programs that fed thousands. Talked about a man who healed the sick; we had health clinics that healed the sick. Clothing people, housing people; encouraging people; so that is why I want to say that I know that we were on the right path and I know that we still are on the right path today.”
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!