The African American people, living in the United States of America, are one of the minority groups in the country that experience terrible situations wherein they are marginalized. This group of people have been often targeted by acts of violence, racism, bigotry, unfair treatment and other acts of injustice. Every once in a while, there are selected individuals who fought for the cause and the rights of the African American people, individuals like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are familiar names from the black Left.
It also included “radical black theologian James Cone, left-wing black civil rights activist James Forman, left-wing black sociologist Robert Allen, 1960s radical black essayist Julius Lester, and James Boggs, black worker-socialist writer and activist (Mc Cartney 133). ” Standing shoulder to shoulder with these individuals who contributed largely to the advancement of the African American cause is one of the very prominent groups that became the vanguard that defended, protected and advanced the cause of the African American people as an organization.
And this is the Black Panther. This paper is focused on discussing several important aspects about the Black Panther as a political organization that influenced the society as much as it influenced its individual members, in the process of establishing the social prominence and influence that the group managed to create for itself since its creation and during the time before it declined to power and social clout. The Black Panther History
To be able to understand the Black Panther Party better, it is important to know how the organization started, what prompted the formation of the group, how it rose to social prominence, how it managed to recruit more members and grow in numbers, the goals and ideas of the Party and how it eventually affected the society. While there are historians who would talk about the chronological development inside the Black Panther Party to attribute to the beginnings of the party, there are those who will explain the beginnings of the party in different manner.
They explain how the party was a result of the efforts of some of the people who believed that it is about time that a group is organized. There is an organized approach towards fighting the social injustice that the African Americans in the country are facing. While other historians point to the date, the founding father of the Party and other data to establish the roots and early beginnings of the Party, others simply refer to the beginnings of the party as more of a collective reaction by the people who cannot take the social injustice and oppression any longer.
“It grew out of the social evils of an unjust, oppressive system (Seale 3). ” Some believed that the creation of the Black Panther Party was a product of a necessity. While others believed that the creation of the group was a result of a calculated scheme undertaken by the founder and early leaders of the group. They foresaw the change coming in the national and international social spheres and saw that such a group with the intentions like the Black Panther party has the potential to prosper and be an important social institution (Seale 3).
Others merely believed that the birth of the Black Panther party traced its roots on similar vein like equally radical group which broke away from the original nationalist organization and decided that it was best to create a group which is more radical to achieve more concrete actions and results; considering the party as something created after the “split” that happened in the ranks and in the strategy of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or the SNCC (Simpson, Yinge 424).
“While it was, at the same time, a very strong sign that a part of the nationalist movement is moving towards radicalizing its actions, its beliefs, its tenets and other aspects of the organization design to accomplish social change (Simpson, Yinge 424). ” The Black Panther Party officially became an organization after founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale created the organization on October 15, 1966. It started with the name Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
This is because the main thrust of the organization was the protection that the African Americans desperately need during the time when most of them believed that they are defenseless from the racist attacks on them. This attack was done by white police officers who came to symbolize the role of the main oppressors in the ideals of the group that would be later known via its shorter name, The Black Panthers Party (Simpson, Yinge 424). The Rise The rise of the Black Panther Party was attributed to the time immediately after the foundation.
Most historians noted that the rise of the group to social prominence happened sometime in the late 60’s and in the early 70’s (followed soon after wards by the steep decrease in popularity halfway through the 70s). The rise to prominence was attributed to the efforts, success and concrete actions that the group has undertaken and achieved through the relatively short influential period that the group had. Many people believed in the ideals of the group, especially the ten-point program and the belief of the leaders that there is no reason why people from different racial background can’t get along with each other.
This was the idea that the Black Panther and its leadership was trying to put forward. Because of the admirable ideology, many supported the group, allowing the group to rise to fame and prominence especially in cities, states and neighborhoods where Black Panther Party chapters are visible and active (Lazerow, Williams 84). The Black Panther Party was successful in achieving prominence because of its presence in many affairs that made them a household name.
Soon, people were already aware of the Black Panther party, especially after numerous incidences with the police and the very active radicalism and activism that the group is not afraid to show in the streets. They were part of the consciousness of the masses, may it be the white or the black. The media and the press contributed to the growth of the Black Panther Party by talking about it in the newspaper, in the television and in the radio (Jones 41). The mass communication tools paired with the word of mouth improved the reputation of the Black Panther party and communicated to the people who they are and what they want to do.
This act of reaching out to the people and reaching out to the government through violent and non-violent actions gained nationwide support and catapulted the organization into new and greater heights never experienced before by the Black Panther Party (Jones 41). An important note that serves as proof of the rise of the Black Panther Party in the society is the rise of the position of the organization particularly in the American left wing movement during the height of its social influence.
Many believed that there was actually a time that the Black Panther Party was the leading organization that controls the leftists in the country, that the group is actually armed with a high level of clout and influence to go with a high number of Party members including soldiers who are armed and are willing to resort to acts of violence through the use of lethal force to defend its claims and social rights which it believed was, for the longest time, denied to them (Simpson, Yinger 424). “For about five years, the left wing of the black protest movements was occupied by the Black Panthers.
Reference to the period when they were subjects of public attention and controversy may be of value in suggesting some of the consequences of harsh confrontation as a way of trying to increase interracial justice (Simpson, Yinger 424). ” Even if the authors believed that the Black Panther Party ruled the American left for half a decade, their influence and role in the civil protest action for the African American rights and privileges extended a few more years before the perceived height of their power and a few years later leading to the decline of the influence of the organization.
The Fall But just like any other good thing, the fervor that was the flame of the organization was soon consumed, and just like any other organization, the Black Panther Party was vulnerable to internal strife and external pressure. There are those who believed that a large part of the fall of the group was attributed to the negative publicity that the group had during the time when its founder Huey P. Newton was put under trial after he was apprehended as a suspect for manslaughter. Of course, there was also other internal instability that contributed to the collapse of the organization.
With the changes that are happening inside and outside of the party and how the party was responding to it in return, it became clear through the signs that were displayed by the Party and its members that it would not be long before the group completely loses the breadth and depth of public support, social prominence and popularity that it once had, leading to the chapter in the life of the Black Panther party known as their fall from social prominence. One day, the group stopped becoming the leader of the American revolutionary left (Jones 286).
Another possible reason why the Black Panthers lost its influence and power and the hold of the sympathy of the masses is because it disintegrated from within and imploded eventually. It was because of the problems that the Black Panther Party has to face internally, particularly the friction that was created after some of the women members asserted more and more power and influence and tried to be independent and authoritarian individuals themselves. It resulted in the subjugation of some of the male members of the Party, a development which is not in line with the thinking and dogma of the Party (Jones 286).
“It is female chauvinism and Black women’s complicity in the castration of Black men primarily through the receipt of an alleged economic advantage that destroyed relationships and families in the Party and elsewhere (Jones 286). ” What happened was an ironic and odd twist of fate. In the pursuit of equality and justice, the Black Panther Party made it a point that inside the group no, form of injustice would happen. That is why, they did not try to undermine or put the women members in a lower echelon.
But this move proved to be one of the sources of confusion because some women had a distracted and distorted view of the essence of women empowerment inside the party, living the Party ideals about women members somewhat differently and counter to what the male Party members expected of them (Jones 286). “Obviously influenced by the pseudo-historical analysis of Black woman as domineering matriarchs and was seemingly unaware (or unconvinced) of the revised Party rhetoric highlighting the significance of revolutionary comrade sisters to the movement (Jones 286).
” Perhaps, the most notable reason for the fall of the Black Panther Party – aside from allegations of internal strife, the participation of its members in illegal activities and the negative image it has been generating through continuous acts of violence directed against law enforcement agents some of whom are fellow African Americans – is the trial and eventual death of Newton. Newton was considered as a charismatic, intelligent and powerful leader that held the group strongly together during his time.
But when he started losing control of the group, the group faltered and failed (Mc Cartney 133). “Newton was undoubtedly the most forceful, the best-known, and the most ambitious theorist-practitioner of left-wing Black Power, and for these reasons alone his profile is a small-scale representation of the entire Black Power left (Mc Cartney 133). ” The Ideas There is a saying that the leader or founder of the group and what he or she stands for greatly describes the ideas and the general ideologies of the group.
In the case of the Black Panther Party, understanding the ideas of the groups can be made by understanding its founder Huey P. Newton. Analysts believed that Newton symbolized what the group is all about, including the leanings of the group towards what John T. Mc Cartney explained as counter-communalism or the idea that the civil rights advocates demanded not a separation by the African Americans from the rest of the US, but a change in the system that can improve the lives of the African Americans in the country (Mc Cartney 133).
This was one of the important aims of the organization and its founder represented what the group was aiming for. “In the 1960s, certainly the most visible, if not the most articulate, advocate of Counter-Communalism was Huey P. Newton, the leader of the Black Panther Party (Mc Cartney 133). ” The Goals and Aims The main goal and aim of the group is to influence social and political spheres. The leadership provides sufficient and equal attention to the needs of the African American population and not subject this particular minority group in further acts of discrimination and marginalization.
The Black Panther Party, like any leftist group, talked about giving the people what they deserve, what they need, what was deprived of them in the past, what they need in the future, pressuring the government to yield to their demands and using the power of the strength of their number as leverage to gain prominence and voice that can help the government hear their demands and act upon these demands efficiently and in a just and satisfying manner (Simpson, Yinge 424).
The Black Panther Party, no doubt, was a different group compared to the other groups for African American civil rights advocates that came before. After its time, historians, critics and analysts believe that at some point, the Black Panther Party, despite its reputation for violence and police clashes, also shares some similarities with other groups, organizations and movements in the US that looked after the welfare of African American.
One of the similarities that the Black Panther party shared with other groups is the aim which the Party and the other organizations wanted to accomplish (Simpson, Yinge 424). Although there are little differences, all in all, the aim of the Black Panther party was very much similar to the aims of the nationalist movement and groups in the US during the time of the Black Panther Party. “The aims of the Black Panther were similar to those of other Black Nationalist groups, except perhaps for the explicit demands that the government furnish jobs and decent income for all (Simpson, Yinge 424).
” The Members The Black Panther Party is composed of male and female African American sympathizers and activists. They recruited heavily. The group was full in ranks in no time, establishing its presence in areas that included Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and other key cities and states. These same locations are where the group’s newspaper which goes by the same name was printed in large scale and heavily distributed for information dissemination. Like any other organization, the Black Panther assigned individual and group tasks.
The duties and responsibilities of each member were, in detail, different from each other but in scope similar since they all worked to achieve one single goal (Lazerow, Williams 37). The higher echelon members of the Black Panther Party membership were the ones responsible for the role of the party as a spokesperson of the African American communities who, prior to the creation of the Black Panther Party, was speechless and was not heard by the local and national leaders.
Some of the members of the party were tasked with gathering information about the grievances of the African American communities; while some are tasked in double checking these facts so that they are credible and real (Lazerow, Williams 37). The leaders of the group are the ones who present this information to the government officials who are responsible for the different aspects of the grievances that the African American citizens are laying out for the government to address and take action on.
“Party activists also defined their anti-colonial politics in terms of pushing onto the municipal political agenda the concerns of local residents – who needed jobs, better health care, improved schools, and repaired streets (Lazerow, Williams 37). ” Contrary to the belief that all Black Panthers did was instigate and involve themselves in violent protests, they also have political maneuvers that included talks with leaders so that reform is achieved. An important characteristic of the Black Panther Party members is its role not just in activism but also in pro-active vigilance.
At the time of the rise of the Black Panther party to prominence, the lives of most African American (particularly male) involves violence, sometimes resulting from individual or gang-related violence or even from acts of violence committed by white police officers and law enforcement units (Lazerow, Williams 37). The Black Panther Party tried to answer and remedy this problematic situation by actively moving towards police monitoring of acts of harassment and unjustified physical assault towards African Americans.
This is a part of the overall strategy to remove the presence of injustice in the country which is centered among African American minorities and is reflected through acts of wanton violence and unchecked aggression by the white police officers towards African American males (Lazerow, Williams 37). “The Panther’s famous ‘policing the police’ drew attention to the spatial remove that white Americans enjoyed from the state violence that had come to characterize life in black urban communities (Lazerow, Williams 37).
” The members of the Black Panther Party were unafraid to go head-on with the white cops. Their boldness somewhat pushed the white cops back to a more acceptable sense of self control and self regulation. This is an important victory for the Black Panther Party and its members. The Effects they had on Society The Black Panther Party became popular and significant not just because of how the party managed to recruit so many members in a short period of time.
More importantly, it became prominent because whether the detractors of the Black Panther Party accept it or not, the organization managed to accomplish something and actually had significant influence in the society especially during the height of its power. It convinced many people to believe and join their cause, which lead to the creation of a Black Panther Party that is filled with many members who are idealists who finally found an organization to which they can affiliate themselves with and actually expect to do something concrete about the current situation of African Americans in the US (Rabinovich, Reinharz 235).
Perhaps one of the important social relevance that the Black Panther Party achieved and what other people actually believed they did was the ability to identify important points of concern present inside the society; one of which is the pertinent and relevant information concerning the presence of discrimination in the particular localities where localized Black Panther Party units operate.
Wielding credible information, and managing to send this information not just to the authorities who need to do something about it – who should do something about it – but to the public who needs to know about it and who is inspired and at some point agitated by what they learned from the Black Panther Party, is one of the things that it managed to effectively do especially during the height of its power and social prominence. “The Black Panthers of Detroit or Chicago had no difficulty in pinning down the exact points at which there is discrimination (Rabinovich, Reinharz 235).
” In some ways, what made the Black Panther different is its synthesis of many different aspects that involved the left-leaning movement that it has managed to assemble and establish (Rabinovich, Reinharz 235). The Black Panther has taken key concepts from the past and the future and moved from national to international analysis of social issues that made them a significant group during their time and in the height of the group’s power and social influence.
“By reclaiming the tradition of black radicalism that the Cold War had suppressed and linking it to the concrete concerns of black communities, the Party joined the black rights struggle in the United States to a global analysis of capitalism and imperialism (Lazerow, Williams 37). ” The Black Panther Today But despite the presence of Black Panther and the task that it set about in accomplishing, oddly, the Black Panther itself as an organization was nonetheless victimized by the same problem that it is trying to solve – to have the African Americans be treated equally as how the society treats the white American citizens during its time.
Then, and now, the Black Panther experienced the stigma of the African American people which it represented. Proof of which is the fact that the Black Panther as a group was still viewed or presented by the media and the rest of the society in a way that sometimes creates misconceptions about the group. Due in some part because those which talks about the Black Panther, like the media and the historians, somewhat leaned towards white Americans. That is why even now, several African American historians, writers and critics still make it their responsibility to ensure that the contemporary public is correctly informed.
IT is because of the belief that there are many anti-Black Panther and anti African American propaganda that circulated in the past which may have influenced the thinking, attitude and perception of the modern day people about the Black Panthers. “There are a lot of misconceptions about the Black Panther Party. I wanted to write this book so people could have a better insight into the inner workings of the Party, so that people would have a more true understanding of the Black Panther Party – what it really does, the kind of people who are in it, their everyday lives, the things that have happened to the Party (Seale, p3).
” Conclusion The Black Panther Party will always be an important name in the analysis of the different US-based African American social rights advocacy groups. In retrospect during the height of the influence of the Black Panther Party in the society, it can be noticed that the Black Panthers became a success and earned the sympathy of the people because of what it managed to accomplish, what it managed to integrate in its essence as the group improved and developed through the years, what it managed to include in its collective fight for the cause and need of the African American people in the US.
The group touched concrete and critical layers of social concerns especially those which affected the African American people. It managed to balance political dialogue with immediate and simplistic social needs without being vague or general. The group proved critical as well as constructive in their pursuit of answers and in providing solutions that can benefit the African American citizens.
“At the heart of the Panthers’ anti-colonial politics was an analysis of the relationship between urban black communities and the post-war American metropolis and a critique of the concept of liberal free markets in urban property, employment, and housing, on the other (Lazerow, Williams 37). ” Works Cited Jones, Charles E. Black Panther Party Reconsidered. Black Classic Press, 1998. Lazerow, Jama and Williams, Yohuru. In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement. Duke University Press, 2006. McCartney, John T. Black Power Ideologies: An Essay in African American Political
Thought. Temple University Press, 1993. Rabinovich, Itamar. Israel in the Middle East: Documents and Readings on Society, Politics, and Foreign Relations, Pre-1948 to the Present. Brandeis University Press, 2007. Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. Black Classic Press, 1991. Simpson, George Eaton E. , and Yinger, J. M. Racial and Cultural Minorities: An Analysis of Prejudice and Discrimination. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1985. The Black Panther Organization. 2008. 23 November 2008 <http://www. blackpanther. org/>.
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