Yesterday at the Super Bowl Halftime show Beyonce did more than put on a show, she made a statement. Flanked by an all-female group of dancers she invoked the memory of the Black Panthers and the and the Black Lives matter movement. This sparked the ire of scumbags like Rudolph Giuliani who never saw a cop killing of a civilian he didn’t like.
The Black panthers were founded in 1966 with one of their primary focuses being rampant police brutality in California. Huey Newton developed a plan to combat this brutality which began with him extensively studying California gun laws. He then organized police patrols which consisted of Black Panther members monitoring police activity while openly carrying loaded firearms. And his study of the gun laws was to ensure that this activity was all done legally. The party also conducted rallies for an unarmed construction worker who was shot by the police because the lack of an investigation. The police did not interfere with these rallies at which the participants would be armed in accordance with the law.
It’s amazing to me how alive Black history is and events that seem to be in the past are so relevant right now. Consider this headline: Denzil Dowell unarmed black man shot to death by Police, officials refuse to indict officers. You will probably assume that headline came in the last week and you just haven’t seen coverage of it yet, but this event occurred on April 1, 1967. So here we are nearly 50 years later and names continue to be added to the list, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Ousmane Zongo, Patrick Dorismund, Timothy Stansbury and the list goes on.
Instead of the Black Panther Party at the helm of the resistance to continued state sponsored violence we now have the Black Lives matter movement. At present social media is one of the movements most powerful tools to raise awareness but what else needs to be done? The Black Panthers did more than hold rallies they outlined a ten-point program for what they wanted. This has to be a requirement to any movement if it is going to meet with any success. How can we achieve any goals if we don’t have them clearly and articulately delineated?
I think one of the key lessons we have to learn from the Panthers is what undid them. And regardless of external influence contributing to and being responsible for it the violence that occurred between Panthers and Police and other groups is clearly something we need to avoid today. Violent responses to unjustified killings of black men and women will only resort in violent crackdowns from police that will be on much firmer footing than initial actions. I am also firmly of the belief that any successful movement to lessen or eliminate police violence against black people must address and proactively deal with violent crime within the black community. I am not saying this because I am an advocate of the false equivalencies espoused by Fox News. The reason I state this is because one of the best ways to eliminate heavy police presence in black neighborhoods is to remove the pretext for such presence.
Educating ourselves about the law is a necessity, addressing the needs of our community is also an element we cannot ignore. Much like the panthers who implemented a free breakfast program for children we need to address the economic difficulties underlying crime in our neighborhoods. And of course like the Panthers we have to promote respect for black women as central to our advancement. The ability to change our present conditions is within our grasp but we have got to do it for ourselves because how can we trust the very system responsible for the problems we are fighting against to make a real commitment to solving these problems? We can’t and we shouldn’t want to. We have the resources to accomplish this and enough mistakes from the past to learn from in moving forward so let’s start learning.