Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Black Panther Party: Heroes and Pariahs

Most bay area natives, especially those over the age of 40, are familiar with the Black Panther Party (BPP) and their legacy. The BPP and the personalities that emerged from it, has captured the imaginations of many. The current BPP refers to themselves historically as:

"a progressive political organization that stood in the vanguard of the most powerful movement for social change in America since the Revolution of 1776 and the Civil War: that dynamic episode generally referred to as The Sixties. It is the sole black organization in the entire history of black struggle against slavery and oppression in the United States that was armed and promoted a revolutionary agenda, and it represents the last great thrust by the mass of black people for equality, justice and freedom."
Others have referred to the BPP as an “African American revolutionary left-wing organization,” terrorists and or community heroes. Regardless of what side of the polemical pole you stand on, the Black Panther Party has left a lasting legacy in the history of America, and its relations to social activist groups.

The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, as the group was initially called, was “founded in Oakland, California by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton on October 15, 1966, the organization initially set forth a doctrine calling primarily for the protection of African American neighborhoods from police brutality. “ Their political leftist leanings and counter-culture ideologies, ensured that the BPP would eventually be put on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. So much so that the FBI, through their COINTELPRO program, attempted to discredit and tear the group apart. At one time, J. Edgar Hoover , the head of the FBI, called the BPP-
"The greatest threat to the internal security of the country..”
But on top of what some saw as negatives, the BPP also did many good things for their communities’ nationwide: free food giveaway programs, community health classes, keeping a watchful on local police forces to cut down on police brutality against Blacks and a free breakfast for children program. If no longer considered one of the greatest threats, the Black Panther Party is an oft-written about entity whose history and legacy will not dissipate anytime soon.


Howard L. Bingham's Black Panthers, 1968
The Black Panthers : photographs
Revolutionary suicide
The Huey P. Newton reader
Assata : an autobiography
Seize the time : the story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton
Black Panther : the revolutionary art of Emory Douglas
The Black Panthers Speak
Black Panther[videorecording] ; San Francisco State on strike
In search of common ground : conversations with Erik H. Erikson and Huey P. Newton
In search of the Black Panther Party : new perspectives on a revolutionary movement
A Panther is a black cat

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Bayard Rustin- civil rights activist, master strategist, counselor to Martin Luther King on techniques of non-violence, main organizer for King's march on Washington.  With such a resume, it is surprising that few Americans have probably heard of Rustin.  Bayard Rustin was also an openly gay man and this is wherein the problem lies.  A few active in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's fought to have Rustin removed as King's advisor, Senator Adam Clayton Powell went as far as to blackmail King with outting him and Rustin as lovers if he didn't remove Rustin.  Even though there was no proof to this allegation, King acquiesced, accepting Rustin's letter of resignation. 
Rustin was later asked back into the fold and became the chief organizer and strategist for the now famous March On Washington.  So Happy 98th Birthday Bayard Rustin


Books and Videos on Bayard Rustin:
Lost prophet : the life and times of Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin : troubles I've seen : a biography
Bayard Rustin : American dreamer
Bayard Rustin : behind the scenes of the civil rights movement
Brother outsider [videorecording] : the life of Bayard Rustin

Monday, March 8, 2010

THIS FAR BY FAITH: religious views throughout the African Disapora

Wherever Africans have traveled throughout the African Diaspora, religion has always played a major role in the ordering of their lives, their worldview and how they ascribe meaning to their lives. Daily, and almost casually, it can be heard, African Americans, saint and sinner alike, when stressed calling on the name of the Jesus. In the movie Kingdom Come, the not-so-religious character Charisse Slocumb played by Jada Pinkett Smith, screams “LORD TAKE ME NOW!” as she falls out at the funeral of her father. This hyper dramatized scene plays out daily in the black community.

Africans have always been adaptable when it came to religion- Vodou, Hoodoo, Candomble, Santeria and other new world traditions are all syncretic religions.  For Africans, tradtionally, faith was imbued in everything they did, Africans carried with them their faith.  Rev. Peter E. Adotey Addo says " ...the private and public life of the African religious rites, beliefs, and rituals are considered an integral part of life.  Life... is never complete unless it is seen always in its entirety. Religious beliefs are found in everyday life and no distinction is made between the sacred and the secular. The sacred and the secular are merged in the total persona of the individual African. Life is not divided into compartments or divisions."

Below find a list of materials housed in the African American Center to speak to the religious views held throughout the African Diaspora.

This Far By Faith: stories from the African American Religious Experience

African Beliefs in the New World

Introduction to African Religion

Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief

The History of the Negro Church

Yakub: the Father of Man-kind

Ifism- the complete works of Orunmila vols. 6 & 7

Botanica Los Angeles: Latino popular religious art in the City of Angels

The Neteru of Kemet

History of Islam in Africa

How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind

How God Became African

Down Up and Over: slave religion and black theology

African Gods: contemporary rituals and beliefs