Undeniably, Beyonce’s polarizing Super Bowl 50 Halftime show sparked a massive interest in the Black Panther Party (BPP) . Beyonce’s dancers paid homage to the Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary in San Francisco, CA which then opened the door to critical conversations about the truth of the (BPP). Hearing the conversation and the perspective of some white and black people who were unaware of the essence of the organization compelled me to document all of their incorrect theories of the (BPP) and give the truth about the organization’s purpose. Below are 9 misconceptions about the Black Panther Party correctly answered by founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal and members Erika Huggins & Kathleen Cleaver.
The Black Panther Party was pro-violence.
A common misconception is that the BPP was pro-violence because they utilized their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. They weren’t for violence. They did believe in self-defense against the violence being inflicted on them and the black community as a whole. At its core the BPP’s mission was simple: establishing social, economic, and political equality across race and gender lines.
The Black Panther Party was a hate group.
BPP member Erika Huggins, emphasized,“We were not [a hate group]. We loved the people closest to us, nearest to us. We immediately formed coalitions of Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asian Americans, American Indians. We formed coalitions wherever we could because people of color in the United States at that time, and still now, were suffering [from] the same harm.”
The Black Panther Party was mostly men.
Huggins explain that mostly women ran the BPP because the men were “routinely arrested, incarcerated, and/or killed.” Those unsung sheroes like Elaine Brown, Kathleen Cleaver, Barbara Easley-Cox, and even Charlotte Hill O’Neal are who Beyoncé paid tribute to. They were mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, educators, business women, leaders, activists, and students. They were humans who wanted a better future for us all.
The Black Panther Party can be compared to the KKK.
Huggins denounces this theory by stating, “There’s no way to compare the two [the BPP and the KKK]. We didn’t seek to hurt anyone.”
In fact, according to Huggins, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton founded the BPP in October of 1966 because they were tired of seeing people die. “The Black Panther Party was not created just to end police brutality, but to uplift communities of people who were suffering from the inequities and imbalances of a government who valued some lives more than others,” Huggins recalls. It sounds eerily similar to why today — still — we have to declare that black lives matter.
The Black Panther Party was a “terrorist” organization.
One of the main reasons the Black Panther Party was formed was to combat the extreme racism toward the black community by law enforcement in urban areas. The tactics used to combat police violence shocked many across the country. Kathleen Cleaver states: Oakland’s Black families, like poor working people stuck in other ghettos, felt a deep anger at the way the local police treated them. The Black Panthers initiated patrols to observe and prevent abusive police behavior. Newton believed it was essential to capture the imagination of the people to spark their resistance to oppression. The weapons these disciplined young men and women wearing black leather jackets and black berets openly carried on their patrols immediately drew attention. The bold new organization quickly attracted recruits, and its growth brought the Black Panthers directly into the crosshairs of police sights. Their armed patrols were legal under the laws then in force, but Oakland’s police pressured the state legislature to pass a law to ban their open display of weapons, and by July 1967, the patrols ended.
The Black Panthers’ 10-Point Program, October 1966: What We Want. What We Believe.
1) “Freedom; the power to determine the destiny of the Black and oppressed communities.
2) Full Employment; give every person employment or guaranteed income.
3) End to robbery of Black communities; the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules as promised to ex-slaves during the reconstruction period following the emancipation of slavery.
4) Decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings; the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people can build.
5) Education for the people; that teaches the true history of Blacks and their role in present day society.
6) Free health care; health facilities which will develop preventive medical programs.
7) End to police brutality and murder of Black people and other people of color and oppressed people.
8) End to all wars of aggression; the various conflicts which exist stem directly from the United States ruling circle.
9) Freedom for all political prisoners; trials by juries that represent our peers.
10) Land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and community control of modern industry.”
The Black Panther Party was an antiwhite organization?
The Black Panther Party was an antiracist and anticapitalist (or socialist) organization. According to Kathleen Cleaver, “Although the Panthers remained an all-Black organization, we forged coalitions with other radical groups, including whites, Latinos, Indians, and Asians. Joining forces with the predominantly white Peace and Freedom Party, founded in Berkeley, became controversial. The necessity of repeatedly explaining the new coalition to crowds energized by Black Power pushed the Black Panther Party into articulating an across-the-board antiracist position. Over and over, I heard Bobby say in his speeches, ‘We don’t hate white people, we hate oppression’” .
Raising the fist for black power meant blacks are the superior race.
The phrase “black power” named by US Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael, caught on as the rallying cry of a younger, more radical generation of civil rights activists. The term also resonated internationally, becoming a slogan of resistance to European imperialism in Africa. In his 1968 book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, Carmichael explained the meaning of black power: ”It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.”
The BPP movement was purely revolutionary and violent.
In areas of support the BPP created a Free Food Program to feed those who could not afford to do so for themselves; Free Medical Research Health Clinics to provide basic health care for those who could not afford it and an Intercommunal Youth Band to give community pride to the movement. In a book of his essays called “To Die for the People”, Huey Newton wrote that these were exactly what the African-American community wanted and that the BPP was providing its own people with something the government was not. Such community projects have survived in other guises, but after the demise of the BPP their lost their drive for a number of years.