Get past the basics for Black History Month

Taking a look at what the Black Panther Party was really designed to do

Black Panthers (Photograph by Mark James Powers, Black Panthers, 1968 SMITHSONIAN)

Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks… Every year the same few names are mentioned “ in honor” of Black History Month. But there are so many other people- other groups- that contributed to helping change American culture, specifically treatment of Blacks in America. The Black Panther Party is one of these groups. Black Panthers existed long before Wakanda. (No shade, Chadwick. You’re still the G.O.A.T. Rest in peace.) After the murder of Malcolm X, this group came out to bring awareness and improve the treatment of Blacks in America. Yet, not everyone saw them as a positive force.

A lot like now, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, people of color were treated unfairly. This group emerged from three young Black men who met at Merritt college in Oakland, California. They marched, they fought, and, YES they killed. They did it all for their people. Yet very many outsiders saw them as angry terrorists, or mad black people that wanted to destroy lives. But who were the real Black Panthers?

“In order for people to understand the Black Panther Party better, first explain the struggle Black people have been through and have to go through,” said ROMS Lifetime Nutrition and Wellness teacher Bryson Lewis .

The Black Panther Party was a group of people whose key goals were getting more people of color in political office, protecting their community, and mainly just making a change for their people. Now this group was not always peaceful. In fact they were never strictly peaceful at all.

“Whenever other alternatives don’t work you have to do something,” said ROMS eighth grade History teacher Heidi Yuhanna.

And the Black Panthers did just that. Many times the group caused disturbances to communities, and even caught the attention of the FBI for some of these acts.

Doctor Examines Baby at Health Clinic Run by the Black Panther Party, Chicago, 1970 (Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture 1970, printed 2014)

Considering the fact that they were a patrol group “copwatchers” of the Oakland Police Department, they caught the eye of the FBI quickly. FBI counterintelligence aimed at weakening the group, and caused many tensions between members. Some leading to deadly shootouts resulting in the death of Black Panther Party members and law enforcement. This led to the group dissolving in 1982, following their peak in 1968.

Not many years later, in 1989, The New Black Panther Party was founded in Dallas, Texas. This group frequently engages in armed protest, and is a Black separatist group (they want people to be separate). They were quickly disowned by The Original Black Panther Party as a “Black racist hate group.”

Now this group isn’t all bad news; they do constantly fight for Black power. They truly believe that Black people should have their own nation. They’ve taken the “10 Point Platform” from the Original Black Panther Party and demanded that Black people have their own country or state within which they can make their own laws. They dreamed making this a comfortable place for fellow Black people to feel connected, and be able to relate -with a government they could trust not to betray them.

The Black Panther Party made a great effort to “hold it down” for Black people for many years. In this (chaotic) year, protection for anyone is truly appreciated. So, even with their flaws, they’re highly valued to many in the Black culture.

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