So, it’s Black History Month, and it feels time to revisit some ideas from my time at EMCC.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is most famous of the black radical groups that emerged during the sixties. The Panthers “patrolled the police” to ensure that Oakland PD (which has had a longstanding reputation for odious community-law enforcement relations) did not trample the rights of citizens in their interactions with black residents.
Huey Newton, one of the group founders, left us with an interesting revolutionary ideology. He publicly exercised his 2nd amendment rights and argued for armed self-defense against state agents who victimized the black community. Maoism (a third-world variation of socialism) influenced the Panthers’ politics and they successfully related civil concerns of Black Americans with the North Vietnamese fighting American imperialism.
Our library was limited, and I did not want to burden students with book expenses, so we used underground resources to learn about the Black Panthers. These sources are no longer accessible, as seen in these dead links below. This fifteen-minute clip is from “Eyes on the Prize” but PBS blocked it on copyright grounds:
We used a copy of Revolutionary Suicide from an anti-imperialism website published in American prisons. That being said, it also has been taken down due to copyright.
I leave these dead links here not to disdain intellectual property, but show what barriers make it difficult to teach radical history in marginalized communities. My students were young, colored, or both, so I wanted to impress that the Black Panthers were just like them. I asked my students to focus on the 10-point plan and discuss these ten points in depth and ask questions like: why these issues; why this language; is it feasible, etc? But I also focused on how education played a role in the formation of the Panthers. We used these materials because it was what our community could afford to provide. Similarly, the Panthers created a liberatory praxis with the tools their community could provide. Our ingenuity to learn reflects their ingenuity to develop revolutionary resistance.