Back in October 1968 I was just a 16 year old junior at Centennial High School in when I met a young man named, John Huggins. He was passing out Black Panther Party leaflets as school was letting out, that promoted a big upcoming event that was scheduled to be held at South Park ( located on 51st and Avalon) in which Eldridge Cleaver was to be the keynote speaker.
At the time I was eager to be involved in the movement (like so many at that time) that I just jumped right in, with no questions asked and was willing and able to do whatever I could to be a part of what I thought was the most active and serious movement that existed at the time.
Martin Luther King had been assassinated that year and a lot of us were mad as hell because the violence that he received, was not what he promoted. And when I saw Bobby Seale and 21 other armed Black Panthers march on the California State Capitol and interrupt the state legislators as they were in session, I said to myself this is the movement that I want to be a part of, because these were some bold brothers.
John Huggins was murdered along with Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter (who founded the Southern California Chapter) at UCLA only two months after I met him, and the pain and shock of this event is what kept me involved for the next two years.
I saw quite a number of brothers and sisters get jailed and killed from being in this movement. In the two years that I was in the party there were at least forty Panthers who were killed by the police and or the FBI. And I can’t tell you how many brothers were locked up (some of which have never got out to this day).
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declared that the Black Panther Party was the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States, and he launched a nationwide campaign to destroy it through any means necessary. At a certain point, we had offices and chapters all over the US, and even an international headquarters in Algeria.
Our aim and goal was to liberate our people from being oppressed by the system and to put an end to the police brutality that was being inflicted upon our people. We were organized with guns and we provided programs for the people (like free breakfast for hungry children, and free medical clinics). So as I look back now, I say to myself that I was glad to be a part of that movement. To say that the Black Panther Party was only a militant group would be an incomplete statement.
Yes, we were militant as we were very vocal about issues that effected the black community that dealt with the lack of jobs, the injustice that many of us felt was given to many black men held in city, state and federal prisons, and the many instances in which black men and women were harassed and brutalized by the police.