Black History Month: The Black Panther Party

The Black Panther Party was a revolutionary socialist organization founded in 1966 with the intent of protecting and enriching the lives of the Black community.

The BPP publicized What We Want Now!: A Ten Point Program, demanding the following:

  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 Capitalists 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.

 

The BPP set out to accomplish these things by creating armed patrols within Black communities and neighbourhoods. These patrols would simply walk around and monitor police activity for incidents of brutality. The Black Panthers focused on learning about open carry laws and acting within those laws for self and community protection. When confronted by police, they would cite laws, and threaten to sue should those rights be violated.

They further created social programs, called Survival Programs, including things like clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics, first aid and self defense classes, transportation to prisons for family members of inmates, an emergency response ambulance programs, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and testing for sickle-cell disease.

The most famous Survival Program, however, was the Free Breakfast for Children Program. This program provided breakfast for nearly 20,000 children a year during its run, making them a target of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation.

The FBI, being invested in maintaining white supremacy, engaged in a program dedicated to delegitimize and eradicate the Black Panther Party and their Survival Programs. This involved raiding their breakfast programs, targetting and arresting their rank-and-file members, attempting to start rivalries and wars with various other groups, and infiltrating their organization. The FBI murdered two members, and arrested a third, who remains in prison to this day, despite declassified documents admitting to his framing.

Further reading:

The FBI’s war on the Black Panther’s South California Chapter

Published by Aila Moireach

Aila is a 30 year old single mum and social justice educator and writer. You can find her on facebook, or on her blog http://ailamoireach.com