Brother AACOOLDRE : History of The Black Panthers

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    AACOOLDRE Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Jul 26, 2001
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    THE BLACK PANTHERS:A true history

    With the rise of police abuse of people of color through out the United States I felt that it's necessary to revisit the history of the Black Panther Party (BPP).

    The Black Panthers was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in October 1966 to primarily combat police brutality and various other problems facing the Black community. Contrary to some historians on the Black Panthers conception, some of the Panthers get philosophic when it comes to the origins of the Panthers existence. Former Black Panther member Afeni Shakur, writing from a prison cell in 1970 said: "Black Panther historians argue themselves over the beginning at the spirit of the Black Panther Party. Some say it had its beginnings around 400 years ago when you first decided that we were not human beings. Others attribute it to the 100 million or so that you killed on slave ships".

    The inner circle of the Black Panther Party comprised of Huey Newton, Minister of defence,Bobby Seal, Chairman,Eldridge Cleaver, Minister of information,David Hilliard, Chief of staff, and Geronimo Pratt,(Tupac Shakur Godfather), Deputy Minister of Defense.I'm told that Kathleen Cleaver played a pivotal role for the Panther Party. She oversaw administrative duties: making and receiving phone calls,checking all correspondence and keeping an eye on money coming in and out. This core group of leaders, along with many Panther followers and sympathizers would have a dramatic turning point in the way police dealt with the black community.

    The media gave the false image of the Panthers as being anti-white,communist and crazy "*******" running wild in the streets with guns, who wanted to kill anyone in sight that opposed them..But the Panthers just wanted Black people to be treated fairly just like all other civilized human beings and have justice being equally applied to everyone. Huey Newton made a powerful statement concerning race that would defeat the notion that he was a racist. Newton said: " We don’t hate white people;we hate the oppression. And if the oppression happens to be white then we hate him. When he stops oppressing us then we no longer hate him". When Huey Newton was in Prison a couple of white radical groups joined the free huey movement. They called themselves "Honkeys for Huey" and (WDHN) whites for the defense of Huey Newton.

    Most young people have only come to know about the Black Panthers because Rap star Tupac Shakur's mother,Afeni Shakur was a member of the New York Panther 21. She gave birth to Tupac on June 16,1971.She was basically pregnant with Tupac her entire stay in prison. Ms.Shakur along with 20 others were accused of trying to blow up banks and department stores. A month after she was released out of prison she gave birth to Tupac. Afeni spoke about her birth: " I had a million miscarriages...this child stayed in my womb through the worst possible conditions. I had to get a court order to get an egg to eat everyday. I had to get a court order to get a glass of milk every day".I believe that most of Ms. Shakur mistreatment from her jailers were do to her political activities with the Black panthers. I'm sure that if she was a White girl pregnant with child all special care would of been afforded to her. But despite all of this remarkably Tupac was born. And I'm pleased that Tupac was born because without his birth and rise to fame maybe the knowledge and interest of the Black Panther Party may have been lost and never been known to our youth.

    In order to educate the community the Black Panthers published a weekly newspaper to help people understand what they were all about. Advice was offered on health care,legal rights,and the paper was also used to attack those who deserted the party by calling them FBI agents. The Panther Party had a ten-point program and rules published for their members to follow. The Panthers were strict in their demand for members to follow their rules. The Panther Party also had a list of demands on the American government. Their demands on the U.S government were as follows:

    What we want what we Believe

    1.We want freedom. 2. We want full employment for our people 3. We want an end of the robbery by the white man of our Black community. 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. 6 we want all Black men exempt from military service. 7. An end to Police Brutality. 8. Freedom for all men held in Prison. 9.All Black people brought to trial court by a jury of their peers. 10. We want land,bread,housing, and education,clothing,justice and peace. What the Panthers want and believe closely resembles those of those of the Nation of Islam. There was a whole list of demands on the U.S government that the Panthers wanted, For the sake of time and space I had to edit the original version.

    The Rules

    The Black Panther party also adopted many rules for their followers to adhere to. I found it contradictory that many of their top leadership,including Huey Newton, found hard to follow in their personal lives. The rules are: 1.No drugs while doing party work or being drunk. No use,point or fire a weapon of any kind unnecessarily or accidentally at anyone. No party member can join any other army force other than the Black Liberation Army. No guns in possession while drunk or loaded off of narcotics or weed. Commit no crimes against any other party member. When arrested Black Panthers members will give only their name,address and will sign nothing. All finance officers will operate under the jurisdiction of the ministry of Finance.Political education classes are mandatory. All branches must implement first Aid and /or medical cadres. Everyone in leadership position must read no less than two hours per day to keep abreast of the changing political situation. No chapter shall accept grants,poverty funds,money or any other aid from any government agency without contacting the National Headquarters. 8 points of attention. Speak politely,pay fairly for what you buy,return everything you borrow,pay for any damage,do not hit or swear at people,do not damage property of the oppressed masses,do not take liberties with women,dont ill-treat captives.3 main rules of discipline.Obey orders in all your actions,do not take a single needle or a piece of thread from the poor,turn in everything captured from the attacking enemy.

    The Panther Symbol

    Huey Newton got the Black Panther symbol idea from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee( SNCC). They were devoted to protesting all forms of discrimination of Black people in society. Their members included Stokely Carmachiel,H.Rap Brown ,who were their main spokespersons and Julian Bond ( now NAACP chairman) as their communications director. At one point in time for a short period the SNCC had an alliance with the BPP but this coming together quickly discinerated over the SNCC insistence on white people joining Black groups. Newton felt that there could be no White/Black unity until there was first Black unity. Newton didn't mind forming alliances with whites he just didn't want them to join his party.

    The Panthers Solutions to the Race Problem

    The Black Panthers felt that the race problem in America was an economic one. They felt that the only way to go after the corporate monsters was to attack the police who defended their actions and policies. Huey Newton wanted to incorporated different thoughts of people like Karl Marx on economics,Malcolm X on black unity and Frantz Fanon ,a black psychiatrist who felt violence was necessary in order for the oppressed to be psychological healthy.

    Panthers felt Black politicians were absurd because we didn't represent political power,economic power or industrial power. Black people didn't even have the power to own the means of production. Newton felt that whites were oppressing Black people not only for racist reasons,but because it is also economically profitable to do so. He wanted to develop a strategy that would make racism non-profitable. In my opinion the solution to the problem could only lead to socialist form of government.. Huey was on track and rightfully felt that the solution was to take away the means of production from the capitalist swine and place it in the hands of the People.That's what Panthers meant when they said: Power to the People",which many took as anarchy with a call to a violent insurrection.

    The Black Panthers felt that their shouldn't be any conflict of interest with the people and the police. Newton felt that the police should serve the interest of the people,which should be one and the same. When this principle broke down the police were viewed not as friends but an occupying military force. Panthers thought that America's racist program can't be implemented without guns, the Army or the police. The Panthers plan on attacking the corrupt exploiters (corporations) were to deal with his protection,which to the Panthers were the police who take orders from the Business cartels of America..

    Many other Black organizations like the Nation of Islam,(who Cleaver was a former member to)only took a self-defense policy against white peoples oppression. The Nation of Islam felt that the Whites (Devils) were too power and would have to wait on God's judgement day to take them out. NOI felted you had to have economic power before you could get military or political power. Huey knew that Black people lacked the knowledge of how to make weapons to overthrow the capitalist swine and this is probably one of the reasons why he wanted the people to own the means of production. But their display of guns were mainly to get the peoples attention of their views of the problems blacks faced in America rather than fermenting a revolution with a people who out gunned them. The path to power was education then economic development which would then lead to political and military power. How could you really say "Black Power" when you don’t even know how to read a book or know how to manufacture a bullet?

    Newton's Problem with the Police

    Huey Newton was fearless when it came to dealing with the police (Pigs),a name he loved to call them .Newton wasn't a punk or a coward and was not afraid to die or kill for what he believed in. Some people say that his violence was a way of him coping mechanism for him to deal with his name he disliked . He hated being called "Baby Huey" in his childhood and later in life would kill a prostitute (Kathleen Smith) for calling him baby. But,anyway back to the police story. The Black Panthers often drove 4 deep in their cars at night patrolling and policing the police to make sure they weren't killing and beating the hell out of black people. While the Panthers were on patrol they often carried with them lawbooks,tape recorders,and cameras and of course guns. They wore black leather jackets and berets. They were mean,tough and ready for whatever the police would confront them with. The police frequently stopped and pulled over the Panthers for minor reasons asking them why they were carrying guns. Newton responded one day to their inquiry: "We have a constitutional right to carry the guns" .Then the police ask Newton what the Panthers were going to do with the guns they were holding. Newton shot back: "What are you going to do with your gun? Because if you shoot me,or try to take this gun,I'm going to shoot back at you,swine...if you draw that gun,I'll shoot back at you and blow your brains out...You want to draw your gun. You big fat racist pig,draw your gun,draw it you cowardly dog. I'm waiting". All of this was said in front of a huge crowd that was inside the Panthers office watching the show . It it wasn't for the crowd being there somebody would of got killed that night. This was 1966 officers that didn't give a **** about black people. The only reason they didn't try to kill the Panthers with guns was due to fear of a riot,plus the Police do not like witnesses creeping around when they want to beat the hell out of you or when they want to kill you. After this stunt was over the Panthers reputations boomed and sky rocketed in the Black community. The Panthers now had total respect for standing up to the often feared police.

    Panthers go off to Congress

    The power structure of the white business cartel wanted an end to the Panthers ability to expand their network. Beefed up police harassment, letter forging,wire taping ,telephone voice impersonations,black maling,Kangaroo courts and new laws designed to weaken their power base were cooked up to destroy the Panthers .Included in their bag of tricks were Congressman Donald Mulford bill proposing that no loaded firearms in public places. The California legislature was to start debate on this new law on May 2, 1967. Newton thought up a plan to have the Panthers march up and go into the state capitol with their guns to protest this infringement on the constitutional rights to bear arms. Newton agreed with his members not to go to the state capital because if anything went wrong they wanted the leader of the party to remain free. As the Panthers were marching on the capitol lawn,the governor of California Ronald Regan was there too giving a speech before a youth group. Reagan was hustled away to a secure location in fear of the Black Panthers. Many of the Panthers had to go to jail for the government claims of conspiracy to disturb legislative business. The charges were eventually dropped but they spent many days and nights in jail for their march on congress. This march on the state capital put the Black Panthers in newspapers and television across the world. They receive international attention for this stunt they pulled off. And as a result of the publicity they received for their march on congress, Panthers were able to set up offices in almost every major city in America.Now the tide is turning for increased group membership and a national world wide support for their efforts. Now people everywhere wanted to know just what those Panthers were where up to now.

    Newton shoot out with the Police

    On October 28, 1967 Huey Newton had a shoot out with a police officer John Frey. Officer Frey was known as a racist and one that would be tough on black people. But Huey Newton wasn't having any of it. Newton was traveling in a car with Gene McKinney when the police stopped to pull over Newton.He order Newton out the car and over to his police vehicle. Officer Frey told Newton: "You can take that (law) book and shove it up your *** ******". Seconds latter they were wrestling on the ground and Huey and the officer ended up getting shot. When the smoked cleared up Huey was up dashing away with ,gunshots wounds, from the scene and lying on the street dead was officer Frey. Newton's big wish had finally come true he finally killed himself a pig.

    From 1967 -1970 Newton was in prison fighting appeals on his murder conviction. Newton was finally freed on a technicality because the trial judge failed to instruct the jury that it could rule that Newton had committed either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Only hours after Huey was set free their Oakland office was shot up. By who? I think the police did it in protest of a cop killer getting away with it.

    Other Panthers Activities

    While Newton was in prison there was many things going on with the Panther Party. The police had a plan to effectively wipe out David hillard,chief of staff was indicted in 1969 for saying "We will kill Richard Nixon" ,Bobby Seal was going to court for conspiracy of riot at the democratic Convention in 1968, Eldridge Cleaver was in exile in Cuba then to Algeria for parole violation when he and a group of Panthers decided to attack police officers on April 6,1968 in retaliation for Martin L. King being assassinated two days before. Geronimo Pratt was charged with murdering a white girl in 1968. Despite convincing evidence that Pratt was no where near the scene of the crime. Pratt was finally freed in 1998 with the help of former O.J.Simpson defense attorney Johnny Cochran.All of the inner circle of Panther leadership were in trouble.

    Sympathy rose for the Black Panther Party when Huey was in prison and when Bobby Seal was in court for the Chicago 8 conspiracy. Actor Marlon Brando even appeared at a court hearing for Bobby Seale and also went to Bobby Hutton (Panthers first recruit) funeral. Seal fought it out with the court because he wanted to defend himself.

    Bobby Seal vs. Judge Hoffman

    Under the sixth amendment of the constitution people have the right to defend themselves. This right was denied to bobby Seale.Here are brief experts of the long trial transcripts.

    Mr.Seale: I still demand the right to defend myself.
    The Marshall: sit down,Mr seale
    Mr.Seale I would like to request to cross-examine the witness.
    The court: You have a lawyer here
    Mr. Seale That man is not my lawyer.
    The court: I’m warning you that the court has the right to gag you. I don’t want to do that. Under the law you may be gagged and chained to your chair.
    Mr. Seale: Gagged? I am being railroaded already.
    The court. Mr. Seal is being cited for contempt. Mr. Seal now you have a right to speak. I will hear from you.
    Mr. seale How come I couldn't speak before?
    The court : this is a special occasion.

    Worldwide sympathy was achieved for the Panthers when Bobby Seal was chained to his chair and his mouth gagged so he could not speak. Eventhough Seale was restrained he still kept on shifting in his chair and grunting. Because the court kept seale mouth sealed they lost in the eyes of public opinion and one more point was scored for the Panthers. From all of the publicity from this trial helped the party membership rise tremendously. Even the Hollywood circle wasn't immune from wanting to help the Panthers cause out. Hollywood would later run a movie on Seals episode documenting his problems in court. It seems that the more oppression the police and government inflicted on the Panthers the more they grew. Eventually the Bobby Seals's case was thrown out of court. How could Bobby Seale conspire with 7 other people he hardly knew. How could he want a riot to develop in Chicago when he spent only 12 hours there?

    Soul on Ice & my Soledad Brother

    Eldridge Cleaver book Soul on Ice published in 1968 helped promote himself and the Panthers efforts. Soul on Ice was a collection of essays written while in prison. Cleaver became famous for his literary style of attacking James Baldwin for being homosexual. Another book "Soledad Brothers" written by George Jackson was willed to the Black Panthers. Huey Newton was blamed for not helping George Jackson escape from prison in 1971.There was speculation that Newton didn't want any rivals and wanted money from his book if he was to die.

    Panthers fighting it out Eachother

    Huey Newton expelled the New York Panther 21 shortly before their trial on conspiracy charges after the FBI led him to believe that they were plotting with Cleaver to take over the party. Newton also believed a planted story that Geronimo Pratt was a police agent. Huey's hit squad tourted and killed Pratt's wife. When Huey returned back to prison in 1988 (a year before he was killed in a crack deal gone bad)he met Pratt in prison. They embraced eachother because they knew there was a secret invisible hand (FBI) that caused them and others to fight eachother. The efforts of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI had on the Black Panthers downfall. But the Panthers own individual faults are to blame to,which I will get into in detail.

    Cleaver and the Panther 21 wrote an open letter to Huey criticizing him for his mismanagement of the Panther Party programs. Huey retaliated by suspending all of them. And Cleaver formed the East Coast Black Panthers.The end result manifested itself with a bloody war between each faction. The two groups fought and killed eahother over simple power and prestige.

    The Decline & fall of the Black Panthers

    Money,drugs,women and crime brought down the Black panthers in general and Huey Newton in particular. Huey Newton wanted to be like Malcolm X in symbol but failed in its substance. He had rules he wanted his followers to follow but couldn't do it himself. Malcolm X went to prison for committing crimes but when he got out he did crime no more. Newton was supposed to be an example for his members and community to follow. I hate to bring the bad news on this important saga in our history but the story would be incomplete with its absence.

    In 1989, after Huey was killed in a drug related matter, Tupac Sakur said he wanted to form a New Black Panther Party but wanted to learn from the mistakes they made. Shakur desire to start up a new panther movement never got off ground and I'm displeased that it didn't. But through my writing along with others we can share our critiques of the many errors the Panthers made. I've outlined several personal mistakes that Huey Newton and the Panther Party made.

    A. Black Panthers started running a protection rackets on convenience stores.
    B. Shooting at and killing police officers, (Officer Frey), not in self -defense.
    C. Embezzlement of state and federal money for a school program Black Panthers operated.
    Huey admitted to embezzling $14,000 dollars.
    D. The wide use heroin, crack and excessive drinks
    E. Raping women.
    F. Murdering Kathleen Smith just for calling him "baby Huey". He shot her point blank range in the jaw for it.
    G. Newton dramatically beat Bobby Seale with a bullwhip and sodomized him so violently that his anus had to be surgically repaired.
    H. He beat a woman up for reading Tarot cards to members.
    I. Beat Preston Callins almost to death. He hit him over the head several times with a 357 for calling him baby. Callins had a habit of using the word baby when he talked to people. Huey went into exile in Cuba . He came back after buying off Callins with $6,000 dollars but was arrested again for the shooting of Kathleen Smith.He jump bail and went back again to Cuba.Newton eventually came back and beat the case.
    J. Newton allowed Panther men to date outside organization but not women.
    K. Allowed FBI reports to influence his behavior.
    L. Newton said it was okay for men to have more than one girlfriend.
    M. Panthers got into gun battles with local drug lords because they wanted a percentage of money they were taking in.

    All of the above were elements that contributed to the destruction and downfall of the Black Panthers.

    The Panther's Good side

    Well the Panthers activities were not all bad. The Panthers ran liberation Schools,a free breakfast program for kids. They tested over 1 million black people for sickle cell ameneia with their neighborhood clinics. They signed up 30,000 people to vote. They helped Oakland elect their 1st Black Mayor. At the request of the PLO Newton visited Israel to help the cause of the Palestinians (eventhough he had a grandparent who was Jewish). When Newton was in exile in Cuba he allowed a woman, Elaine Brown, to run the party.Eldridge Cleaver ran for President of the United States in 1968 under the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP) and received 200,000 thousand votes. The Party gave free legal advice to the poor,won street traffic lights where several children were killed. In 1980 Newton received his Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness from UC Santa Cruz. The Panthers also published a newsletter then a newspaper that had a circulation of about 150,000 readers.

    Final thoughts

    With the rise in police brutality cases against black peple in the 1990's, I think that it might be time to start up another Black Panther group. Newton had the right idea but he made to many fatal mistakes that allowed the government to shut them down. Community police review boards are not tough enough to put police abuse in check. We need direct action against anyone black or white who attempts to brutalize innocent citizens in our community. The police must be brought to account for all of their illegal actions. And politicians like the Mayor of New York,Rudi Giuliani,shouldn't be giving the police the blessings to crack black people skulls or to be sticking plungers up peoples ***** either. Nor should the police be shooting unarmed Black men 41 times cause they thought he had a gun or shooting Black women lying sleep in their own cars. Even in the hometown where I live we got White male police officers strip-searching Black females out in public. Something gonna have to be done to stop all of this madness.

    Has the tide turned for another rise for the Black Panther Party for self-defense? Do I hear another call for the Panthers to the rescue? For it seems to me that history is always repeating itself. It may come another time and another day when we will be finding ourselves being invaded with a swarm of Black cats in our own back yards!


    Rebel for the hell of it: The life of Tupac Shakur by Armond White
    The Black Panthers Speak edited by Philip S. Foner
    The Shadow of the Panther by Hugh Pearson