By April V. Taylor Feb. 12, 2015
At a time when people all over the country are taking to the streets to protest police brutality and officer misconduct against people of color, it is important to take a look back the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary Black nationalist and socialist organization whose original core practice was armed citizens’ patrols that monitored police behavior and stood up against police brutality. The party was active from 1966 until 1982, shifting its core focus to community social programs in 1969.
While the killing of Panther co-founder Huey Newton Fred Hampton and Illinois chairman Fred Hampton are widely cited in hip-hop lyrics and Black liberation memoirs, many people are unaware of where many of the still living Black Panthers are today. Looking at where these young Black men and women wound up has the ability to speak volumes to the young adults taking to the streets now demanding Black freedom from oppression and long overdue equality.
Panther co-founder Bobby Seale gives lectures all over the country about social justice issues such as voting rights, education, employment and equality, wearing his trademark black beret. Seale, like many activists from the 1960s, feels that the protest that happened during that decade are very similar to what is unfolding in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Several former Panthers have held a political office, including Charles Barron, who sat on the New York City Council, Nelson Malloy, who sat on the Winston-Salem City Council, and Bobby Rush, who served in the House of Representatives. Panther associate Angela Davis has written several books and is a tenured professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Former Panther Chief of Staff David Hilliard is currently serving as a visiting instructor at the University of New Mexico.
Perhaps the Panther young activists across the country seem to identify most with is Assata Shakur, who was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List in 2013 after living in exile in Cuba since 1984. Activists and demonstrators all over the country have chanted Shakur’s mantra at protests and rallies since the death of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in August in Ferguson, Missouri: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”