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Date: Sun, 20 Oct 2002 14:58:22 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Black Panther History Month celebration in Oakland
Black Panther History Month celebration in Oakland
THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY for Self-Defense, founded
Oct. 15, 1966, by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, is a
movement that continues to resonate 36 years later.
From the free breakfast programs, community schools,
senior escort service, medical clinics and alternative
schools to the celebrated community policing program,
the BPP addressed sustainable development in
low-income, mostly black neighborhoods.
Although the black berets, leather coats, slacks and
shotguns drew the attention of youth who wanted to be a
part of an organization dedicated to liberation of the
people, the commitment forged by its huge national and
international membership pointed to something that was
beyond anything seen prior to its day.
BPP founding members Richard Aoki, field marshall and
first minister of education, described the environment that
necessitated a Black Panther Party movement as one in
which the Oakland Police Department was so corrupt that
the state Attorney General's Office put it in receivership in
Aoki was born in 1938, and his family was interned from
1942 to the end of World War II. When his family
returned to the East Bay, they settled in West Oakland in
A friend of Seale, Newton and David Hilliard's families, Aoki says: "The
was scandalous. The white cops would come running through West Oakland and
(beat) people. Oakland City Hall had a jail upstairs. They said the most
dangerous part of City Hall was the steps going up. ... So many black
down those steps. That was the nature of the beast in those days."
Aoki says in "Legacy to Liberation" that he and his friends were looking to
address the inequities in the black community. "The civil rights movement had
just chugged along, racking up casualties every day. I mean, it was outrageous
and frustrating. Bobby and Huey decided to do something about it. We
join the Muslims. At one point we were so frustrated with what was going on."
Yet the international situation with the African countries attracted them
the early ^A'60s, one nation after another gaining independence and providing
African Americans here with some hope things were going to get better. Black
Americans identified with the struggle against colonialism."
All along, Aoki recounts, Newton had been studying law and political
it was the example of Robert Williams, NAACP chapter president from Monroe
County, N.C., and his book "Negroes with Guns" that gave Seale and Newton the
idea of armed struggle for liberation.
The other organization that, according to Aoki, had a pivotal influence on the
BPP was the Lowndes County Freedom Organization of Alabama.
"They were for voting rights and their logo was the black panther," Aoki
"This group also used community action patrols armed with cameras and tape
recorders. They didn't use self-defense weapons. We added that."
Seale, Newton and Aoki got together one evening and pulled together a 10-point
program. They went to pool halls and other places where young people hung out
to recruit members, who told them specifically that redress for "police
was a top issue.
Aoki, who transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, from Merritt
College, where he earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees, says the
BPP was never racist.
"There were in fact six Asian Americans who belonged to the party membership
During the Third World Liberation Strike in 1969, Aoki became the Asian
spokesperson while his identity as a Black Panther Party field marshall was
out of the picture for several reasons, he says.
"One was security, the other was political, because Asians were starting to
move, and discussions with Huey and Bobby were to move me over to
organizing Asian students and the formation of parallel organizations, such as
the Asian American Political Alliance at Berkeley and the San Francisco Red
"That was an exciting, stressful period. Every day something was happening.
You've seen footage of the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle? Every
day it was the Battle of Seattle in Berkeley. ... In the urban areas, there
resistance to the oppression that was taking place and still is in
people of color, especially African Americans."
Anthony Woods, who joined the BPP at 17, says what attracted him was the
respect he gained from former oppressors. "If you crossed East 14th and
headed toward MacArthur (where it was all white), you'd be called (a racial
at least five times. ... We never got any respect from them until we started
grabbing them by the neck and pounding them on the head a little bit. It
same ... with the police."
Kathleen Neal Cleaver says what attracted her to the BPP at 21 was "they were
a very clear revolutionary black power cadre organization in Oakland."
Cleaver, who moved here from Georgia to marry the late Eldridge Cleaver, was
already a part of a revolutionary black struggle. A member of the Student
Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and having grown up in
Tuskeegee, Ala., she knew firsthand the issue raised by the BPP.
Cleaver, now an attorney and professor at Emory Law School, says we don't
know what the BPP legacy is. "It was a transformative experience for anyone
who participated in part because of the extraordinary combination of people
the time. As Bobby Seale stated: ^A'We had to seize the time.' People are still
grappling with what that meant."
"People need not need" is how Steve McCutchen recalled it. The party developed
alternative programs that addressed hunger with free breakfast programs;
education with charter schools; safety with community patrols; health with
community health clinics.
Before the Brown Act, the BPP was responsible for opening public meetings to
the public by insisting that government groups post times and locations.
At that time, party members lived in collectives and worked on party business
full-time. Theirs was total commitment that Emory Douglas, minister of
says was an experiences he doesn't regret.
McCutchen teaches at the Carl S. Munck Elementary School in Oakland, and is
retiring after 30 years with the Seven Shadows Martial Arts program he started
at the Community Learning Center School, a charter school started by the BPP.
He says he's most proud of the BPP political education classes.
"The Black Panther Party demonstrated that no one person is a hero, that
neighborhoods, community, makes things happen, not just one person,"
McCutchen said. "The BPP showed people how to translate theory into practice."
This is Black Panther Party History Month in Oakland. It concludes with a
barbecue at 1 p.m. today at deFremery Park (Bobby Hutton Park). Later today is
a community fair, party and hip-hop concert at Jimmies, 17th Street and San
Pablo Avenue. Through Oct. 31, there is a photo exhibit at the Oakland Public
Library History Room, the West Oakland Branch Library, the Martin Luther King
Jr. Library and the Oakland Museum. Call (916) 455-0908 for information.
"The ideology of the party was dialectic materialism which incorporated the
philosophies of Hegel, Marx, Engles. Huey called it Revolutionary
Intercommunalism. It was Huey's belief that because of the advancement of
technology the world had been transformed from nations to one large global
community connected through technology. Not only did technology connect the
world, it also changed national boundaries and centralized the wealth to the
United States and a handful of other territories. This change between the
territories and the relationship between the owners of the wealth and those
had to work for their wealth (meant that) the whole definition of political
structures had to change. (Huey) called that intercommunalism, because it
turn to the old communal system at a technical level.
This is Black Panther Party History Month in Oakland. Sponsored by It's About
Time Committee and Black Panther Party Alumni Committee (
www.itsabouttimebpp.com , the month concludes with a barbecue at 1 p.m.
today at deFremery Park (Bobby Hutton Park). Later today is a community fair
along with a party and hip-hop concert at Jimmies, 17th Street and San Pablo
Avenue. Through Oct. 31, there is a photography exhibit at the Oakland Public
Library History Room, the West Oakland Branch Library, the Martin Luther King
Jr. Library and the Oakland Museum. Call (916) 455-0908 for information about
all the BPP History Month events.
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