CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On Sunday night, Lowcountry community organizers put on a celebration to honor the revolution of the Black Panther Party that began 55 years ago this month.
Spot 47 was filled with Charlestonians remembering the legacy of the Black Panther Party, those sharing poetry, music, and notes on racial justice.
The Charleston community and a former member, Althea White, honored the lessons and the foundations of the Black Panther Party. The group recalled that through the foundation of political organization, political struggle, and political education, justice, power, and community can be achieved.
Marcus McDonald, an organizer with Charleston Black Lives Matter said one of the points of the Black Panther Party was monitoring continually increased police budgets and the increased weaponry. All the programs that contributed to the increases in the late 60s and 70s according to McDonald remain in place.
McDonald said notes from the Black Panther Party that have inspired him are that the program has always been basic and to the point so that all can understand the goals. Additionally, the party’s determination of the youth.
He said, “everybody saw the guns, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) saw the guns, but they did not become public enemy number 1 because of the guns, they became public enemy number 1 because of the free breakfast program that showed you don’t have to criminalize these youths if you give them the resources they need, they can do what they need to do in school and succeed.”
Additional speakers at the celebration focused on the many positives that were often overlooked. The Black Panther Party assisted the elderly in getting their medicine, picking up their groceries, the group created art programs, conducted sports leagues, and opened community centers. While they worked to better the lives of those around them, many of the struggles that were faced 55 years ago—remain in place.
Joshua Parks, with the Lowcountry Action Committee, said, “I think that’s the whole point that the Black Panthers were trying to stress was self-determination because they understood that black people were a colony within a colony. You know, we are a nation within a nation, they understood that.”
Parks said another thing that the Black Panther party understood was often said by one of the founders, Huey Newton. Newton spoke of dialectical materialism and that is everything is changing all the time. He said ultimately, you can’t expect to use the same tactics that people have used historically and apply them to the current-day conditions.
Parks said while many can learn from past tactics some have to realize that the conditions are not completely the same.
Shaquille Fontenot with the Lowcountry Action Committee said that when looking at the programs that are established in the communities today, the community must evaluate the sustainability and longevity of those programs while ensuring involvement. Fontenot said if you do not understand the needs of the community, then you cannot advocate on behalf of that community. Noting that the struggle was not just domestic, it was international as well.