Considering the unceasing attacks that African-Americans have been subjected to by law enforcement agencies and American racial/ethnic groups, it is predictable that the spirit of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the vanguard of America’s sixties protest community, would be called upon by contemporary activists.
The tenuous position of American race relations makes it somewhat predictable that contemporary activists groups such as the New Black Panther Party and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club would seek to replicate the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. If nothing else, contemporary activists respect Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and Lil’ Bobby Hutton and the Black Panther Party for their decision to ‘pick up the gun’ and confront the Oakland Police Department regarding police brutality. The alluded to community service project, the Panther Patrols, was the application of Point #7 of the Ten-Point Platform and Program;
We Want An Immediate End To Police Brutality And Murder Of Black People.
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 to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm themselves for self- defense.
Within today’s activist community, it appears that beyond an adoration for Panther guns and rhetoric there are very few similarities to be found between the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the innumerable upstart groups that have claimed to be heirs to the Panther legacy.
Ironically, the vast majority of contemporary manifestations of ‘Panther Power’ are making the same mistake that many aspiring Panthers made during the sixties; that being, they have become enchanted by the power that they perceive as flowing out of the barrel of a gun. Apparently this adoration of the gun is comprehensive as it has caused the alluded to individuals to ignore Huey P. Newton’s admonishment that the community must be stabilized or it would either disintegrate prior to the revolutionary moment or be incapable of successfully executing the revolution. In many ways, there is nothing more frightening than the prospect of those solely focused upon ‘picking up the gun’ running a society after a revolutionary overthrow as there is so many facets of a functioning society that they have failed to even consider the workings of.
Unfortunately for the African-American community, contemporary expressions of ‘Panther Power’ have exclusively attempted to implement Point #7 of the Ten Point Platform and Program while ignoring other relevant points that deal with community service activities that are critical to the Black community’s survival. Such selective application of the Panther Party program leaves contemporary manifestations of the ‘Panther Party’ nearly unrecognizable to the original Panthers as we approach the organizations 50th Anniversary this coming October.
Although I seriously doubt that contemporary manifestations of the ‘Panther Party’ would consider such matters, it may be time for them to de-emphasize ‘picking up the gun’ and turn their focus toward other aspects of the Panther Party’s program that were aimed at stabilizing and uplifting the community. There is no doubt that initiatives aimed at housing, education, and health are much-needed within our community. If contemporary manifestations of the ‘Panther Party’ are determined to ‘pick up the gun’ it may be time for them to add Black-on-Black homicide, along with police brutality, to their docket. Failure to do such in many ways betrays the Panther legacy and denotes them as ‘counter-revolutionary’.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
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Author, Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense
Author, ‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian
Author, O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?