What We Want, What We Believe? : Black Panther Movement in the USA
One of the most successful movies of recent years is undoubtedly "Black Panther" (2018) and its sequel "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" (2022). These two sci-fi productions have captured the attention of audiences around the world with their futuristic storyline and successful and compelling characters. However, did you know that the movie title - Black Panther - actually finds its origins in the dark history of the US marked by racial discrimination? In fact, long before the movie was released, the name emerged as an iconic figure in the civil rights struggle. This analysis will explore the story behind the name "Black Panther" and its impact on American politics.
A Movement in Struggle for Rights and Justice: Black Panther
The Black Panther Movement was founded in 1966 in Oakland, California, by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The name of the movement refers to the "black panther", in English "Black Panther", a symbol of strength and resistance. At its inception, the movement focused mainly on policing police for discriminatory treatment of black people and distributing food to black people in poor neighborhoods. They also organized armed patrols to protect community members from police harassment. It was a legal right to bear arms in this state at the time. Later, the movement evolved into a political group. It began organizing demonstrations and electoral campaigns for the release of black political prisoners and for economic equality. It also developed educational programs for youth and began organizing cultural events to celebrate African heritage. Among the movement's most recognized leaders are Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis and Fred Hampton. Each of these young men brought his own perspective and vision for the future of the black community. (Newton & the black panther party, 2004, p. 68).
The founding of the Black Panther movement in the turbulent first half of the 1960s and its subsequent transformation into a party in 1966 marked the beginning of a new era for Africans living in the United States. It was both a declaration of resistance to their impoverished living conditions and a stirring cry for action to change them (Bertail, 2021, pp. 1-2). Launched in Oakland, California, and then spreading across the globe from London, through Paris, Alger, Addis Ababa and Accra, to Pretoria, the movement has left its mark on the history of Panafricanism, becoming ingrained in the minds of hitherto unknown numbers of Black people. (Angelo, 2009).
The 10-Point Vision of the Black Panther Movement:
The Black Panther Party's 10-point program is a seminal document outlining the demands and goals of the movement. It was written by the founders of the party, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, and formed the basis of the party. The program covers themes such as freedom, the right to work, education, an end to the unjustified killing of blacks by police, and other social and economic issues affecting African-Americans.
1) We want freedom; we want self-determination for our people!
The first article of the program expresses the desire to end segregation and racial discrimination that prevent African Americans from moving freely in the United States and settling wherever they want, and the need for autonomy for blacks and the ability to make decisions on matters that concern them (West, 2010, p. 74). The Black Panther Party organized marches and demonstrations to protest segregation laws and racial discrimination and to demand equal rights for all American citizens regardless of race. It also supported campaigns for the establishment of black-controlled local governments. (Bertail, 2021, p. 5)
2) We want the right to work!
The second article refers to the right of African-Americans to have access to decent jobs and a decent wage for their work (West, 2010, p. 74). The Black Panther Party campaigned for employers to hire black workers and for the wages of black workers to be equal to those of white workers. It also organized programs to help young people find jobs and established cooperatives to enable African-Americans to become entrepreneurs.
3) We want an end to capitalist robbery!
The third clause refers to the payment of overdue reparations - land and money previously promised by the US government to compensate for the inhumane treatment of slaves by the US government - promised by the racist American government to compensate for years of robbery of Black and other poor communities (West, 2010, p. 74). The Black Panther Party campaigned for federal and state governments to help African Americans buy and own land and to oppose the removal of blacks from their homes and neighborhoods.
4) We want housing suitable for human habitation!
The fourth point is that if the housing lobbies will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then housing and land should be turned into cooperatives so that people can build decent housing with the help of the state. (West, 2010, p. 75)
5) We want comprehensive and fair education!
The fifth point, "We want an education that exposes the true corrupt nature of American society; we want an education that teaches us our true history and our role in today's society," expresses the need for fair and comprehensive education for all black children (West, 2010, p. 75). The Black Panther Party created educational programs for black children in inner-city neighborhoods that emphasized African American history and culture. It also organized reading and writing courses for adults to improve the skills of community members.
6) We want completely free health care for all black people and the oppressed!
Altıncı madde, hükümetin ortaya çıkan hastalıkları tedavi etmekle kalmayıp, aynı zamanda geleceğe yönelik önleyici inisiyatifler alan tıbbi programlar geliştirecek insan ve sağlık tesisleri sağlanması gerektiğini ifade eder (West, 2010, p. 75). Bu bağlamda Black Panter, Siyahilere ve ezilen insanlara gelişmiş bilimsel ve tıbbi bilgilere erişim sağlamak için kitlesel sağlık eğitimi ve araştırma programlarının geliştirilmesi gerektiğini ileri sürmüştür. Black Panter, kuruluşuna takip eden yıllarda “toplum hizmeti”, kademeli olarak misyonunun merkezi haline gelmiştir. 1968’de Parti genel merkezi, tüm şubelerde “halka hizmet” programları başlatmasını zorunlu kılmıştır. İki yıl içinde, tıbbi konulara gösterilen ilgi ve sağlık hizmetlerinin sunumu, Partinin hizmet çabalarında önemli bir rol oynamıştır. 1970 yılında, ücretsiz halk tıbbi kliniklerinin kurulması bir gereklilik olmuştur. Black Panther, kuruluşundan sonraki altı yıl içinde sağlık sorunlarına o kadar dahil oldu ki, liderlik temellerini değiştirmiştir. Hareketin kaydettiği başarı alanların arasında en önemlisi sağlık olmuştur (Nelson, 2011, pp. 47-114).
7) We demand an end to police brutality in the US!
The seventh article, "We demand an immediate end to police brutality and massacres of black people, other people of color, and all oppressed people in the United States," calls for an end to police abuse of power to kill black and oppressed people (West, 2010, p. 75). The Black Panther Party organized street patrols to monitor police activity in black neighborhoods and protect citizens from police misconduct. It has also organized campaigns to demand investigations into police killings of black people and to secure the conviction of perpetrators. It has also created programs to help victims of police violence and their families.
8) We want an end to wars; we want everlasting peace!
The eighth article, "We demand an immediate end to all wars of aggression; we want everlasting peace", states that wars and violence that destroy black communities must end (West, 2010, p. 76). The Black Panther Party organized campaigns to protest the wars in Vietnam and Latin America and to promote peace and non-violence. It also created programs to help young people stay away from violence and crime.
9) We want freedom; we want a fair trial!
The Ninth Amendment states, "We demand freedom for all black and poor oppressed people held in Federal, State, County, City and military prisons and jails. We demand that all persons charged with "so-called" crimes under the laws of this country be tried by a jury of our people." It states that the equality before the law guaranteed by the constitution must be fully implemented (US National Archives, 1970; West, 2010, p. 76). The Black Panther Party organized campaigns to secure the release of black political prisoners and to improve prison conditions for all prisoners.
10) We want social rights to integrate into modernism!
The tenth article, "We demand land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace, tranquility, and control of the people's society by modern technology," expresses the need for equality for all children regardless of race, economic equality, and an end to poverty in black communities (US National Archives, 1970; West, 2010, p. 77). The Black Panther Party campaigned to provide decent jobs and equal pay for black workers and to create programs to help lift black families out of poverty. It also undertook activities to improve schools and educational programs for black children and to combat racial discrimination in education.
In summary, the Black Panther Party's 10-point program focuses on ending inequality and racial discrimination against all oppressed peoples, especially African-Americans, and establishing a just and equal social and political order. It is important to note that despite the Black Panther's achievements, it faces many challenges and obstacles.
Despite intense pressure from the FBI and the American police, it has persevered and been effective for a long time. The reasons for its resilience in the face of great obstacles and challenges lie in the people-communities that sustained the Party with their heartfelt contributions, their time and energy, their dedication and love (West, 2010). Contrary to misleading stories and scandalous misrepresentations, the Black Panther did not simply emerge as a violent response to police brutality and murder. Black Panther is a movement that offers a futurist vision of a balanced and just world, not just a "global African family".
In conclusion, the Black Panther movement has had a major impact on the history of civil rights in the United States. The Black Panthers inspired many groups to stand against injustice and fight for equality. Although the movement is no longer active today, its legacy lives on in many social movements that pursue the same goal. In the 1970s, the Black Panther movement experienced a decline due to a variety of factors, including government repression, internal divisions and the arrest of many of its leaders. The remaining members continued the struggle, but their influence diminished significantly. In 1972, the movement began to lose influence when Huey Newton was imprisoned for a murder he did not commit. This led to internal divisions and power struggles. The movement was finally banned and disbanded in 1982. But its ideas and actions had a significant impact on the history of civil rights in the US. Today, the Black Panther movement is still studied and celebrated in many academic and cultural circles. Films, books and documentaries about the group continue to raise awareness of its ideals and legacy (West, 2010, pp. 91-100).
Angelo, A.-M. (2009). The Black Panthers in London, 1967-1972: A Diasporic Struggle Navigates the Black Atlantic. Radical History Review, 2009(103), 17-35. https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-2008-030
Bertail, T. (2021). Du Black Power au mouvement Black Lives Matter. L’art au service de la lutte pour la visibilité et la revendication d’une identité collective. Siècles. Cahiers du Centre d’histoire «Espaces et Cultures»(51).
Nelson, A. (2011). Body and soul: The Black Panther Party and the fight against medical discrimination. U of Minnesota Press.
Newton, H. P., & The black panther party. (2004). Prison, où est ta victoire? Cultures & Conflits, 55(3), 67-70. https://doi.org/10.4000/conflits.1574
US National Archives, R. A. (1970). Black Panther Movement. New York: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/research/african-americans/black-power/black-panthers#bpintro
West, C. (2010). The Black Panther Party: service to the people programs. UNM Press.