Exclusive for Black Panther Party History Month magazine, October 2009 Issue (Laney College, Oakland, CA) presented by The Commemorator and It’s About Time (PDF)

By Larry Pinkney

The month of October is Black Panther Party History Month. Let’s examine why this is.

The Black Panther Party was founded in October of 1966, by two serious, politically conscious and concerned Merritt College students, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, in Oakland, California. The Black Panther Party was founded in response to massive human rights abuses by the police and government in Oakland, Ca., and in Black communities throughout the United States.

While the Black Panther Party believed strongly in standing up against the racist oppression and oppressors in Black communities, one of its primary missions was to serve the specific needs of every day people in the communities. Thus, the Black Panther Party established numerous community programs locally and/or nationally–including, free breakfast programs, free medical / clinic programs, free shoe programs, and free busing to prisons programs so that families in the community could visit incarcerated relatives. Moreover, with an emphasis upon education that was truly relevant to community youth, the Black Panther Party established and operated the Oakland Community School (OCS) staffed with Party members and other community educators who literally volunteered their time to teach classes on a regular basis. These foregoing examples are just a few (of many) instances of how the Black Panther Party served the people for many years, after its formation in October, 1966.

Women and men Black Panther Party members were also very active politically on college and university campuses around this nation including in California, at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, UCLA, and City College of San Francisco, etc. to name just a few. The Black Panther Party believed in an “education” that addressed the true needs of students and the wider community.

“Grasping what has been achieved in the past is an important foundation upon which to build for the present and the future. Without this foundation we are but directionless leaves, blowing in the wind.” The challenges of racism, poverty, joblessness, police brutality, and unjust U.S. wars abroad, etc., are still very much with us today, and it is imperative to remember that the Black Panther Party, as an active, national political organization did its utmost to address these challenges.

Serious and committed political struggle is absolutely necessary, but it is not a joy ride. It takes hard work and dedication. Many members of the Black Panther Party were murdered by the government and/or police. Others were wrongfully thrown in prison, and some still languish in various prisons nationwide to this very day in the 21st century. There are in fact numerous political prisoners in this nation, many of whom are in fact former members of the Black Panther Party.

The men and women of the Black Panther Party worked tirelessly for their / our communities. Moreover, the Black Panther Party also worked in conjunction with other people and organizations of color including the Chicano/a Brown Berets, the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the Chinese Voice Party, the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), and others. The Black Panther Party had no problem also working in conjunction with certain White progressive organizations such as the majority white Peace & Freedom Party. A powerful slogan of the Black Panther Party was, ‘All Power To The People!,’ and indeed this is what the Black Panther Party struggled to make a reality.

Though the Black Panther Party was ultimately hideously and wrongfully physically decimated nationwide, there is perhaps, even today no single political organization in modern U.S. history that still evokes more joy, pride, hope, and debate than the Black Panther Party, whose legacy lives on.

In knowing and honoring the history and legacy of the Black Panther Party this month of October and beyond, we honor the very best in ourselves, for the struggle for economic and social justice continues!


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