By: Jasmine Saunders & Rick Jackson
Last week from February 3rd to the 4th was the symposium Black Lives Matter: 50 Years of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
Bobby Seale was the keynote speaker for the symposium; he explained the misunderstood goals that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was trying to accomplish.
“[We] set out to capture the imaginations of the people so that [we] could better organize the people into a political, electoral machine in their community, in our black community, so we can take over political seats, so that we could have some political power.”
He also revealed that he was the sole organizer of the Party, and had not co-founded it with Huey P. Newton; he actually allowed Newton to become a leader in the organization.
The Black Panther Party never died out; it remains in the 79-year-old beating heart of the feisty Seale.
That is why he is so adamant about talking to the up-and-coming youth on college campuses about the Party and what they did to help their communities that can still be done by this generation.
Bobby Seale wanted to “make sure [college students’] ideas, beliefs, and understanding corresponds as much as possible to reality.”
To elaborate this point, he shared a personal anecdote about his Aunt Zelma.
When he was younger, he was interested in science, and he shared with his family about the information he read about, specifically that the Earth was round.
His aunt swiftly dismissed this fact saying he was going “straight to hell,” later showing him a horizon and stating that it did not curve, therefore the Earth was flat.
This story was an example of what Seale is trying to avoid; misinformed people.
That is why he is critical of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
The Black Panther Party was all about giving back to their communities.
Seale believes that the BLM needs to “work on developing programs in all community areas they exist in,” meaning that the movement needs to find issues that they can mobilize on and support.
That is why they were a force to be reckoned with; they were becoming self-sufficient. Men and women were working together for the advancement of the Party.
As Seale shared, they provided numerous programs like free breakfast programs —children can’t hope to do as well in school if they aren’t well fed— healthcare clinics, a sickle-cell anemia program (a disease that is highly prevalent in the black community), a free pest control program, a free pharmacy program, a free ambulance program complete with doctors and equipment and more.
Black Lives Matter needs to go down in their communities to create and support “something tangible.”
When asked what would he have done differently as he reflects on his past as it pertains to the Party, he simply replied “None.”