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Thread: Forty years later, Black Panthers look back and remember

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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    Arrow Forty years later, Black Panthers look back and remember

    www.kcal.com

    Forty years later, Black Panthers look back and remember

    Wednesday October 11, 2006
    By MICHELLE LOCKE
    Associated Press Writer

    BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Bobby Seale never expected to see the 40th anniversary of the Black Panther Party he co-founded with Huey Newton.

    ``A lot of times I thought I would be dead,'' he says.

    The Black Panther Party officially existed for just 16 years. But its reach has endured far longer, something Seale and other party members will commemorate when they reunite in Oakland this weekend.

    ``Grass roots, community, programmatic organizing for the purpose of evolving political, electoral, community empowerment,'' he says. ``This was my kind of revolution. This was what I was after.''

    The Panthers were born on Oct. 22, 1966, the night Newton and Seale completed the Panthers' 10-point program and platform. At the time, Newton was a law student and Seale was working for the Oakland Department of Human Resources as a community liaison.

    When they were done, they flipped a silver dollar to see who would be chairman. Seale called heads. Heads it was.

    Later, when he saw Newton looking sharp in a black leather jacket, he decided that members should wear something similar as a kind of uniform. They added berets after watching a movie about the French resistance in World War II.

    Of course, the Panthers' most controversial accessories were the (then-legal) weapons they carried when they began monitoring police activity in predominantly black neighborhoods.

    In 1967, when state legislators were considering gun restrictions that eventually passed, armed Panthers showed up at the state Capitol in protest, grabbing national attention.

    The militant approach, which frightened many white Americans, set the Panthers apart from other activist groups.

    ``They filled a critical kind of void in the civil rights struggle,'' says Charles E. Jones, chairman of the Department of African-American Studies at Georgia State University. ``At a time when folks began to reassess the utility of nonviolence and turning the other cheek, the Black Panther Party offered an alternative.''

    The Panthers are often remembered for gun fights with police that left casualties on both sides.

    Still, former Panthers point out that they were about more than guns. They ran breakfast programs for children, set up free health clinics, arranged security escorts for the elderly and testing for sickle cell anemia mainstream concepts these days, along with police conduct review boards.

    At its high point, the party had about 5,000 members across the country, says Seale.

    Looking back, he still thinks the guns were necessary. A year before the Panthers were founded, he says, another group called Community Alert Patrol had tried monitoring police activity armed with tape recorders, walkie-talkies and law books.

    ``After a month of them doing this, they in effect got their law books taken and torn up, their tape recorders and their walkie-talkies smashed up, with billy clubs their heads were cracked up and drug downtown and locked up,'' he says. ``That's what happened to them.''

    A number of factors led to the party's demise, starting with government opposition, says Jones. In 1967, the FBI launched a counterintelligence program COINTELPRO against what it termed ``black hate groups'' as well as other activists.

    Internal disagreement on tactics and leadership weakened the party further and, ``ultimately, people just got burned out. It's hard being a full-time revolutionary in the United States,'' says Jones.

    Several Panthers were arrested on a variety of charges and some still remain in jail.

    Seale and others were charged with conspiring to murder a party member who was believed to be a police informant, but those charges were later dropped. Seale, who turns 70 this month (the party was founded on his birthday), moved back to Oakland in the 1990s and keeps busy with speaking engagements.

    Newton was convicted of manslaughter in the 1967 death of an officer shot when police stopped a car Newton was driving. That verdict was overturned. Newton struggled with addiction and was shot to death by a drug dealer in Oakland in 1989.

    For their reunion, which runs Friday through Sunday, former Panthers plan a mix of events including workshops on topics ranging from Hurricane Katrina to ethnic studies in higher education as well as presentations on party history.

    Continued interest in the Panthers is ``a fascinating phenomenon,'' says Jones, editor of an anthology, ``The Black Panther Party (Reconsidered).'' For him it comes down to ``a certain kind of boldness. It really stems from their community organizing, their commitment to serving not only black folks but all oppressed people.''

    On the Net: http://www.itsabouttimebpp.com/

    (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    In the interest of timeliness, this story is fed directly from the Associated Press newswire and may contain occasional typographical errors.
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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I'd like a really good book on the Panthers that gives the whole story. Anyone know of one?
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Gold Member Reptillycus's Avatar
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    Stab from the past...I lived a few blocks from Panther Headquarters when they started and for six years afterwards, all I can say is that the neighborhood became much safer and saner with their presence, and professionalism. Although word had it that Huey Newton was a bit of a player, they were together, and the "guns" thing that scared so many "white folks in charge", to put it "politely", was a cognizant demonstration of and for the American citizens's Right to Bear Arms.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    They murdered a young woman, who turned out NOT to be an informant. I have trouble glamourizing/holding them in high esteem.

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