I have a confession to make. I know little to nothing about The Black Panthers outside of what I have heard in the media. What I “know” or have heard is that they are terrorists, violent, or extremists.
I also know that I don’t know shit about any of that. I also knew it was likely not true.
If you’re like me, a privileged white male, who for all intents and purposes didn’t need to know much about the Panthers outside of your own curiosity, there is hope.
The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution (Nation Books), will becoming an eye-opening experience. Not only was the book masterfully written and edited to keep you engaged, it was truly awakening to what The Black Panthers were, or are.
Outside of the media vilification, justified in some cases or not, outside of amazingly charismatic leadership, stood everyday people. Black men and women fed up with the police violence, racism, oppression, bigotry, hate, you name it that they faced every single day. These men and women stood up and took action. Their names are unknown to you and I and to many in the party itself, but they made a difference and they made up what The Black Panther Party really was and is.
Party members like Ducho Dennis, who worked tirelessly for worker’s rights, union rights, for all workers, not simply African Americans, but for white, or Mexican workers. Dennis organized buses of people to help the United Farmworkers and worker’s rights leader Cesar Chavez. I found a direct connection immediately to my work with the Democratic Socialist of America and Socialist Party USA labor and living wage coalitions.The Panthers ran effective political education campaigns against capitalism and colonialism. They made the Panthers a revolutionary party that fought to end oppressive economic and social programs that hurt everyone. Their political drive was not to only benefit blacks in the US or around the world but to improve the lives of everyone. Throwing out everything I had been taught about the party and their mission of some form of black supremacy.
The Panthers ran free medical clinics for those in need. Stepping in to help those the government had left behind.
Reading The Black Panthers has changed a lot for me. The photos, the essays, the information found in this volume have now made my education on the Party paramount. Their movement will now be part of my activism, their fight, which sadly still rages on, is my fight.
If you’re a lifelong follower of the Panthers, or you, like me, have a limited knowledge, I encourage you to pick up this book as it will satisfy everyone. This book will be of historical significance and will be remembered for putting The Black Panther Party back on the pedestal of amazing social and political movements that will have forever changed the fabric of our nation.