The Real Truth of the Black Panther Party

What has been made painfully clear to me recently is that few people truly know and understand precisely what the Black Panthers were all about. There are so many misconceptions and outlandish propaganda being thrown around when one hears the name Black Panther Party that I must admit at times it makes me cringe.

Why are folks so afraid of the BPP? Why are we not teaching our children about this organization? Why don’t many folks really KNOW what this organization stood for?

The truth is the BPP was the first independent Black organization to truly have a clear cut analysis of the type of society we lived in not only then but now. And that is a society in which a small class hold all the economic and political power and use it to exploit the majority.

The BPP was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966 in West Oakland, and with their leadership and the help of countless others they formed a movement with the express goal of not only addressing desegregation, but dealing with the fundamental socio-economic problems that people of color faced in their everyday lives.

The fact that the Panthers decided to take up their constitutional right to carry arms and to implement Malcolm X’s philosophy of self-defense, by patrolling the police is really what made some folks afraid of them and here is where the propaganda was used by our government to aid in the mistrust and misconception of what they stood for.

The BPP patrolled the streets of West Oakland at a time when severe police brutality was at an all time high! The police would beat down and kill Black folks at random! How in the world could self defense and defending one’s community be looked at as being anti police?? Or terrorists? They were in fact a beacon of hope for the folks of Oakland. They instilled pride and a sense of community where it was lost for too many.

And what about the numerous community programs started by the BPP? Community programs were vital to the BPP. Firstly, they demonstrated that politics was relevant to peoples lives – to feed a hungry child, give out food, clothing and medical care showed that the Panthers related to the needs of the community. Secondly, it showed what could be achieved if you were organized. The programs achieved a great deal with very limited resources but it also raised in folks minds how much more could be achieved if they had the resources available to the government and various business corporations. Please take a minute to acknowledge the contributions of the BPP  from 1966-1982:

1. Alameda County Volunteer Bureau Work Site

2. Benefit Counseling

3. Black Student Alliance

4. Child Development Center

5. Consumer Education Classes

6. Community Facility Use

7. Community Health Classes

8. East Oakland CIL (Center for Independent Living) Branch

9. Community Pantry (Free Food Program)

10. Drug/Alcohol Abuse Awareness Program

11. Drama Classes

12. Disabled Persons Services/Transportation and Attendant

13. Drill Team

14. Employment Referral Service

15. Free Ambulance Program

16. Free Breakfast for Children Programs

17. Free Busing to Prisons Program

18. Free Clothing Program

19. Free Commissary for Prisoners Program

20. Free Dental Program

21. Free Employment Program

22. Free Food Program

23. Free Film Series

24. Free Furniture Program

25. Free Health Clinics

26. Free Housing Cooperative Program

27. Food Cooperative Program

28. Free Optometry Program

29. Community Forum

30. Free Pest Control Program

31. Free Plumbing and Maintenance Program

32. Free Shoe Program

33. GED Classes

34. Geriatric Health Center

35. GYN Clinic

36. Home SAFE Visits

37. Intercommunal Youth Institute (becomes OCS by 1975)

38. Junior and High School Tutorial Program

39. Legal Aid and Education

40. Legal Clinic/Workshops

41. Laney Experimental College Extension Site

42. Legal Referral Service(s)

43. Liberation Schools

44. Martial Arts Program

45. Nutrition Classes

46. Oakland Community Learning Center

47. Outreach Preventative Care

48. Program Development

49. Pediatric Clinic

50. police patrols

51. Seniors Against a Fearful Environment

52. SAFE Club

53. Sickle Cell Anemia Research Foundation

54. Son of Man Temple (becomes Community Forum by 1976)

55. Sports

56. Senior Switchboard

57. The Black Panther Newspaper

58. Teen Council

59. Teen Program

60. U.C. Berkeley Students Health Program

61. V.D. Preventative Screening & Counseling

62. Visiting Nurses Program

63. WIC (Women Infants, and Children) Program

64. Youth Diversion and Probation Site

65. Youth Training and Development

The BPP was, is, and will forever be an inspiration to me and I hope to generations around the world. And my sincere wish is that as a People, we will once again come together and join in the struggle against oppression.


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