By: Asata Bamba
The Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center Parlors had many DSU staff, students and visitors from all walks of life in attendance on February 4, 2016.
To commemorate both Black History Month and the daring and legendary Black Panther Party, a panel discussion was opened up for Dr. Charles E. Jones and Dr. Yohuru Williams to give their scholarly perspectives on the black power activist group.
Dr. Donna Patterson, Associate Professor in Delaware State University’s Department of History, Political Science, and Philosophy, acted as the moderator for this event.
Before the program began, the Hornet spoke with Dr. Bonnie Hall, a DSU alumnus and Delmarva native Mrs. Audrey Smith.
Dr. Hall said, “I came because I saw the advertisement for the Black History Month celebration and I was very much interested in the speakers that you have.”
“We never really saw or heard any of them [the Black Panthers]. Whatever they [media outlets] wanted to view they did, and that’s what we believed about them,” Mrs. Smith stated.
In the words of Dr. Yohuru Williams, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University and author of Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power and the Black
Panthers in New Haven,
“I think what we’re trying to do is link the legacy of the Party to the contemporary moment…You can make clear comparisons between the case of “Lil Bobby” Hutton, the first person who was killed in the Black Panther Party (he was 17 years old) to any number of the cases today. From Michael Brown, to Tamir Rice, to Freddie Gray… to put some legs on the fact that this contemporary moment very much resembles the moment that gave birth to the Black Panther Party.”
Dr. Charles E. Jones, Department Head and Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Cincinnati and Editor of The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered], orated first, feeding folks background information on the Black Panther Party and other obscure facts.
After an introduction about the Party and connection to why a group that has been disbanded since 1982 is still relevant, Dr. Jones made this notable statement:
“I see four components to their legacy. One is their commitment to armed resistance in terms of the Black Panther Party representing the institutionalization of Malcolm X’s notion of self-defense… at that time the Black Panther Party was called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense… Another important aspect of that legacy was its commitment to community service. The Black Panther Party served to the masses of people through free breakfast programs, 12 health clinics, liberation schools, SAFE (Seniors Against A Fearful Environment)… they understood if it would mobilize the consciousness of the people, you must serve the people. Another aspect of the Black Panther Party: they were committed to the self-determination of all people regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. They were engaged in rainbow politics on the local level. Then finally, the Black Panther Party served as a model for political action… All these different indigenous people wanted to challenge their oppressed conditions, and looked at the brothers and sisters of the Black Panther Party who had the audacity to challenge the state in what we call ‘the Belly of the Beast.’”
Dr. Williams then delivered a speech elaborating on the many people suffering from historical amnesia, the Black Panther Party to #BlackLivesMatter movement, and people not utilizing their resources strategically.
“In 1982, Bobby Seale spoke at Quinnipiac College… students stood up to ask questions and they said, “what can we do right now?” Bobby Seale replied “if the Black Panther Party was started today (1982) all people would need are computers and not guns.” Bobby Seale recognized that “you’ve gotta fight the battle that is presented to you with the instruments that are to your disposal.”