THE REVOLUTIONARY BLACK PANTHER PARTY AN AMERICAN LEGACY REVISITED.

From left to right – Ahamara Mathis RBPP General President, Nathaniel Ward RBPP Officer, James Alexander RBPP member, Dre Dawson RBPP Minister of Information. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

BY:  GEORGE ADDISON

Old Lessons Prompt Fresh  Beginnings.

“We’ve never advocated violence; violence is inflicted upon us. But we do believe in self-defense for ourselves and for black people.”

If you are old enough to remember the Black Panther Party of the 1960’s and 1970’s you recall their members brandishing guns, wearing berets, black leather jackets,  and proudly wearing the Afro hairstyle.  But for people who knew members personally and who didn’t listen to the one sided mainstream news accounts, the black panthers where so much more.  The Black Panther Party worked tirelessly to advance the rights of blacks and the poor primarily through non violent means.

Their members represented black pride, self determination and a willingness to fight the government to correct the wrongs of racism and slavery.

It was in1965, after the Watts riots in Los Angeles that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee known as SNCC  (pronounced SNIK) decided to break its ties with the mainstream civil rights movement. They argued that blacks needed to build power of their own, rather than seek accommodations from the power structure in place.

According to Wikipedia “SNCC sought to coordinate and assist direct-action challenges to the civic segregation and political exclusion of African-Americans. From 1962, with the support of the Voter Education Project, SNCC committed to the registration and mobilization of black voters in the Deep South. Affiliates such as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Alabama increased dramatically the pressure on federal and state government to enforce constitutional protections. But by the mid-1960s the measured nature of the gains made, and the violence with which they were resisted, were generating dissent from the principles of non-violence, of white participation in the movement, and of field-driven, as opposed to national-office, leadership and direction. At the same time organizers were being lost to a de-segregating Democratic Party and to federally-funded anti-poverty programs. Following an aborted merger with the Black Panther Party in 1968, SNCC effectively dissolved. SNCC is nonetheless credited in its brief existence with breaking down barriers, both institutional and psychological, to the empowerment of African-American communities. It is also seen as offering subsequent social and political movement templates for grassroots organizing and, consistent with the vision of the Committee’s early mentor, Ella Baker, for the broad and creative participation of women.”

In many ways this movement contributed to the creation of the “Black Panther Party and now its principles and legacy are seen as one of the reasons RBPP General President Ahamara Mathis felt that the Black Panther Party was needed to inspire and motivate young African Americans to continue the fight for change and a place within the political process.  Mathis said, ” there was a void of young progressive leadership in Louisville and the opportunity presented itself and the timing was right for this type of organization to be front and center. I saw that there was a need and I took it on behalf of people like myself.  I always wanted to be part of a black liberation movement and the panthers brought with it a rich legacy of social and political endeavors.”

Left to Right – Nathaniel Ward RBPP Officer, Ahamara Mathis RBPP General President. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

Mathis further added, “We follow most of the aspirational goals of the original ten point program only making a few adjustments for this day and era.”

The document was created in 1966 (Source Wikipedia) by the founders of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, whose political thoughts lay within the realm of Marxism and Black Nationalism. Each one of the statements were put in place for all of the Black Panther Party members to live by and actively practice every day. The Ten-Point program was released on May 15, 1967 in the second issue of the party’s weekly newspaper, The Black Panther. All succeeding 537 issues contained the program, titled “What We Want Now!.”

The Ten Point Program comprised two sections: The first, titled “What We Want Now!” described what the Black Panther Party wants from what they would describe as the racist leaders of American Society. The second section, titled “What We Believe,” outlines the philosophical views of the party and the rights that African Americans should have, but are denied. It is structured similarly to the United States Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.

“What We Believe” expands on the first section, making demands of what will be deemed sufficient payment for the injustices committed against the Black Community. For example, one section states that, “We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as a restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people”. It continues to state that “We will accept this payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities.” Newton and Seale believed that the Black community had been deprived of these benefits over the years, and that the only way to correct this injustice was in repayment of assets that had been lost to them over many years of slavery.

The ten-point platform was important for the Black Panther Party because it laid out the “physical needs and all the philosophical principles” they expected and that could be understood by everyone. When Huey Newton talked about the platform, he stated that these things were not something new but something that “black people have been voicing all along for over 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and even before that.” This platform was essential to the party, because it allowed for them to state their wants, needs, and beliefs that people could read and easily understand. 

Mathis says she and other revolutionary black panther party members across the nation believe that the ten point platform still has relevance today because of the great racial disparity that continues to be prevalent among black, brown and poor communities on every level.  This is still evident from the medical response these communities suffer during the Covid19 crisis.

The ten point platform read’s as follows:

What We Want Now!

  1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community. Also freedom from the psychological oppression but know that’s something you have to do for yourself.
  2. We want full employment for our people.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the white men of our Black Community. (later changed to “we want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our black and oppressed communities.”)
  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.

Left to Right – Ahamara Mathis RBPP General President, Dre Dawson RBPP Minister of Information and Kirk Owens visit Kentucky Capital to monitor a bill dealing with the placement of armed police officers in schools. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

What We Believe:

  1. We believe that Black People will not be free until we are able to determine our own destiny.
  2. We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the White American business men will not give full employment, the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
  3. We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as redistribution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities: the Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered 6,000,000 Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over 50,000,000 Black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make. We want our own city state.
  4. We believe that if the White landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make a decent housing for its people.
  5. We believe in an educational system that will give our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
  6. We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized by the White racist government of America. We will protect

    These bags of groceries represent a continuation of a legacy of service to feed those in need. Picture courtesy: RBPP

    ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.

  7. We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States gives us the right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm themselves for self-defense.
  8. We believe that all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
  9. We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peers. A peer is a persons from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical, and racial

    Left to Right – Dre Dawson RBPP Minister of Information and original Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

    background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of “the average reasoning man” of the Black community.

    10. When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, and that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such

    Left to Right – Dre Dawson RBPP Minister of Information and Dr. Mfundishi Baba Serikali receiving a lifetime achievement award for holistic health and martial science. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

    principles and organizing its power in such a form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accused. But when a long train of abuses and usurpation’s, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, and their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards of their future security.

The Black Panther Party came to prominence during the Vietnam War, so the “What We Believe” section also included a demand that Blacks be exempt from military service to a “racist government that does not protect us…WE will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America.”

Legacy

Left to Right – Ahamara Mathis RBPP General President and Eddie Davis Community Activist and RBPP Photographer. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

Left to Right -George Addison Beenetwork Media Group CEO, Nipsey Green RBPP member and Chimel the 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival Poster Artist. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

The Ten-Point Program formed the basis for the Black Panther Party and was seen as the governing document that defined the actions of the Party. In addition, a highly symbolic photo of Huey P. Newton was circulated alongside the Ten Point Program. He is wearing the famous Black Panther black cap, tilted to the side, and covering his right ear, and dressed in the standard Black Panther uniform. “He sits comfortably, but alert, his feet positioned, ready to stand.”

Black Panther Co-Founder, Huey P. Newton. Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress

In 1972, Newton shifted the focus of his political activities from Black Nationalism to “intercommunalism,” seeking to unite and empower all disenfranchised groups. The Ten Point Program was modified to reflect this changing focus—for instance, adding a demand for completely free health care — leading to tension within the party. The Party had changed from merely focusing on Blacks themselves to now focusing on more minority groups and how to improve their lives. Focusing on injustices, they began to see their struggle as one that many people faced.

Left to Right – Black Panther Co-Founder Bobby Seale and Ahamara Mathis RBPP General President ponder the future of African Americans in today’s challenging political environment. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

The Ten-Point Program was ultimately unsuccessful, though it played a meaningful role in the development of the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1950s and 60s. The Ten-Point Program also influenced the political outlook of those who came of age in the post-civil rights era and the hip-hop generation. Notably, Tupac Shakur, the son of former Black Panther Afeni Shakur, loosely based his philosophy of T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E.—”an attempt to codify practices that could reduce violence in the Black community and restore dignity to humiliated, disrespected, and disowned Black men”—on insights from the Ten-Point Program.

Mathis says the struggle is still a generational one adding, “Its my destiny to take this blueprint and pursue the political aspects and black agenda which many politicians seldom talk about anymore.  That’s what is different in our current strategy.  The positive response to our message is growing because our past image of Afros, berets and guns are non threatening today, and the violent perception of the past with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies has fallen away.

The stigma is still there but it is gradually changing and the older generation have embraced the effort because of their familiarity with the challenges of a past era.  Black people need to know they are blessed and they have within them the ability to create change by valuing who they are.  Read and learn who you are!”

Left to Right – Participating in the Mindful Monday panel discussion during black power week festivities.  Jasimena Harris, Mahogany Livers, Ahamara Mathis, Frank Stoner and John Yah. Picture Courtesy: RBPP

 

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