October 20, 2021




All these walls that keep us from loving each other as one family or one race: racism, religion, where we grew up, class, socioeconomic status. What makes us be so selfish and prideful? What keeps us from wanting to help the next man? What makes us so focused on a personal legacy as opposed to the legacy of an entire race?

Kanye West

According to the Cambridge dictionary, legacy is “something that is a part of your history or that remains from an earlier time.”

The truth is that for many black and brown people in America that description is only the tip of the cultural and intellectual iceberg. As descendants of the enslaved, brought to this land in shackles and forced to work without the economic, social, political and humane benefits afforded Europeans, the path itself has proven to be an arduous one to rediscovering and redefining our legacy as a people.

The survival of black people in America has been tied to the black church, which consisted of christian congregations and denominations. The church’s main purpose was to minister to black parishioners. It was a source of unity and shared sacrifices and ultimately led to the creation of other organizations like the Pan African-ism Movement of Marcus Garvey, the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference , SNCC (Snick), the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party

The Black Panther Party’s legacy is what this article will reflect on today. The Panthers became a defining force for the protection of black neighborhoods and communities in the 1960’s. Although much attention was being focused on Jim Crow laws and police violence in Southern cities, the Panthers focused on the national impact of systemic racism, reorganizing the police, prison reform and it’s Ten-Point Program.

Their fight against police violence was coupled with a free breakfast program, healthcare clinics, child development centers and food pantries. Even pest control, free shuttles for people to visit incarcerated family members and community organizing all helped lay the foundation for many of the services people take for granted and often crediting the government for creating them.

The Panthers’ Ten-Point Program still has relevance today (source: Wikipedia)

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.”

In 1970, Newton shifted the focus of his political activities from Black Nationalism to “intercommunalism,” seeking to unite and empower all disenfranchised groups. In 1972 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.

Revolutionary Black Panther Party of Louisville, Kentucky, Food Distribution Program. PHOTO 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

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black and oppressed communities.

We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.

2. We want full employment for our people.

We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and 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 want an end to the robbery by the capitalist of our Black and oppressed communities.

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 were promised 100 years ago as restitution 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 American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.

4. We want decent housing, fit for the shelter of human beings.

We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.

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.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.

6. We want completely free health care for all Black and oppressed people.

We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventative medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide ourselves with proper medical attention and care.

7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people, other people of color, all oppressed people inside the United States.

We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against Black people, other people of color and poor people inside the United States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces, and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self-defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.

8. We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression.

We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desires of the U.S. ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the U.S. government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars that it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.

9. We want freedom for all Black and poor oppressed people now held in U.S. federal, state, county, city and military prisons and jails. We want trials by a jury of peers for all persons charged with so-called crimes under the laws of this country.

We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in U.S. prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the U.S. military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial that they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trials.

10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people’s community control of modern technology.

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands 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 the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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 to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such 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 shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Overall, the Black Panther Party is one that deserves a second look.. It appears that the uncertainty of the role of black and brown people in America requires them to revisit the history of this organization as they redefine themselves, their culture and their future aspirations.

The Black Panthers Source: YouTube
Vanguard of the Revolution Source: YouTube
Black Leaders Discussion Source: YouTube
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