There have been many names and faces associated with the struggle for liberation and equality. As such, it would be impossible to list them all in one post. When it comes to history, a picture is truly worth a thousand words. So, I’ve decided to do a series entitled “Faces of the Struggle”. The series will take us through some well-known and lesser known historical figures and images that represent the struggle for justice and equality. The first volume of this series will focus on the faces of the black panther party.
1) The Discipline of the Black Panther Party- One of the things that made the panthers such a perceived threat to the U.S. Gov’t was its high level of organization and self-discipline. An unorganized and lazy black community posed no viable threat to institutional discrimination, however, these brothers and sisters were definitely not unorganized and lazy!
2) Armed self-defense The Panthers were well aware and supportive of their 2nd Amendment rights. Check out the Black Panthers standing on the California State Capital in Sacramento. Image taken on May 2, 1967.
3) Chairman Fred Hampton– The Deputy Director of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was assassinated by the FBI and the Chicago Police Dept. Dec. 4, 1969. He was only 21 years old at his death and already considered one of the great future leaders of Black America.
4) Kathleen Cleaver– For those in the know, Kathleen Cleaver was one of the most instrumental women in the Civil Rights Movement. She was the first female member of the BPP’S decision-making body, Communications AND Press Secretary, Spokesperson, and the mastermind behind the national “Free Huey Newton” campaigns. She was also the wife of high-ranking party member Eldridge Cleaver. She has organized and founded several political organizations and went on to get a law degree from Yale University. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in African-American Studies and a Senior Research Scholar at the Yale Law School.
5) Dr. Huey P. Newton– Co-Founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. In addition to his activist work and leading the direction of the party, he earned his PhD in the History of Consciousness from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He was the face, direction, and soul of the Black Panther Party.
6) Little Bobby Hutton– “Lil’ Bobby”, as he was called, was the first person to join the Black Panther Party. He was only 16 years of age at the time. At this tender age, he dedicated his life to party ideals and community service. On April 6, 1968, the Oakland Police Department ambushed a carload of panthers on a side street. The Panthers fired back in self-defense and a 90 minute shootout ensued. Bobby Hutton was told by the elder panthers to strip down to his underwear to show he was not armed. After doing so, he raised both hands over his head and surrendered. He was then brutally murdered being shot over 12 times. This was a major event in BPP history and served to galvanize the party even further.
7) Free Breakfast Programs– The panthers were a political organization rooted in community service. Chapters all over the country instituted free breakfast programs. Low income children who couldn’t receive a good breakfast at home were fed DAILY by the Black Panther Party.
8) Free Health Clinics & Ambulance Service– The Panthers were well aware of the health challenges faced by the black community. They provided free health clinics staffed by medical professionals and even offered free ambulance service.
9) Bobby Seale– Co-Founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. He co-authored the BPP’S ten point political platform. At the time, he was known for being an outspoken advocate for the enforcement of blacks constitutional rights. He was charged with trying to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He was denied by the judge his choice of lawyers. After consistently alerting the judge to his numerous violations of his rights, the judge ordered him bound and gagged. He was convicted of 16 counts of contempt and sentenced to 4 years in prison. The sentence was later reversed.
10) Eldridge Cleaver– Minister of Information, Head of the International Section of the Panthers, and Editor of the BPP’S official newspaper. He also was the husband of high-ranking party member Kathleen Cleaver. He authored a series of essays entitled “Soul on Ice” which was heralded a brilliant by many. Cleaver and Newton had frequent disagreements over the direction of the party. Unfortunately, Cleaver was at the scene alongside Little Bobby Hutton when he was murdered. He along with the other panthers at the scene were arrested, however, he jumped bail and spent time in Cuba, Algeria and France. He eventually would come back to America and speak on his times a panther.
Peace and look out for Faces of the Struggle: Vol. 2