Monday, October 01, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Black Panther Party!

The core of the organization at its inception in 1966 were close friends Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and Richard Aoki in the city of Oakland, California. The three had been witness to a radical ferment in the Bay Area and the United States, taking part in protests against the Vietnam War and having an interest in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Like many people of color of their generation, Newton and Seale had been frustrated by the doctrine of nonviolence as espoused by mainstream civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as the inaction of the white-dominated radical groups. They looked instead to the black nationalism of Malcolm X as well as the discipline shown by its paramilitary organization, Fruit of Islam. They also looked to proponents of armed self-defense within the civil rights movement, such as the Deacons for Defense and Justice as well as exiled former NAACP chapter president Robert F. Williams for example, and they were particularly inspired by Williams's book Negroes with Guns.

Contemporaneous to this rise in America's domestic radicalism was an interest in Marxist-Leninist Third World liberation movements, across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Seale, Newton, and Aoki held a great interest in the philosophies and writings of Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, and Steve Biko.

After doing a stint in prison for assault, Huey Newton returned to the campus of Oakland City College where he had matriculated. He became fed up with the intertia of the Afro-American Association, the student group to which he and Seale belonged. Seale and Newton discussed the need for militancy in the face of an oppressive system. The two came to an agreement over the specifics, and the 10 Point Program and Platform was born. Continued on Experience Festival!

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