Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Black Panthers

Today in class we had a speaker whose name is Ashanti. He was a former Black Panther member who was arrested numerous times and tried to fight for justice. He talked about the founders of the Black Panthers, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, and he also talked on how he started off reading books when he got into the Black Panthers instead of using a gun. The Black Panthers used nonviolence in some cases and used violence only to defend themselves. Ashanti showed pictures on how cops were thought to have been pigs, and the government and police force is only meant to keep the colored people oppressed and down at the bottom. All the Black Panthers tried to do in Ashanti's view was watch the police and make sure that blacks got treated the same or as equal as whites.

Back in California we watched a video about the Black Panthers in my AP US History class and I was inspired in numerous ways. I was inspired so much that I made my own group called the Brown Bears. The Brown Bears is an underground organization that I made a couple months ago and we don't have weapons or anything. The Brown Bears is a group of 20-30 friends, and counting, and we meet every Saturday at the local bookstore or park to discuss problems, help with homework, tutoring, community problems/ needs, and I try to do what I can to think of ways to fix those problems and help out. I also try to inform my peers about special opportunities and programs that they can do, so that they can fill up their time with bettering themselves as people and making sure they become successful instead of ending up on the streets. The Brown Bears were made in California and so were the Black Panthers. I made the Brown Bears in order to help out my fellow peers and help them find opportunities and programs to help push themselves and realize their full potential.


Don Gosney said...


I’m sorry but perhaps you misheard your speaker when he told you that the Black Panthers “used violence only to defend themselves.”

Before making statements like that, Zack, you REALLY need to investigate things more thoroughly. Having been around Black Panthers and living in the Bay Are during their heyday I can tell you that there were plenty of Black Panthers who subscribed to violence as their normal operating mode.

The Black Panthers did many things to improve living conditions for Blacks but there were some factions who felt that violence against white people—especially against white police officers—was excusable.

Perhaps you’ve been cut off from the news these past two weeks o you may have missed where two Black Panthers have admitted their guilt in the murder of a San Francisco police officer where they walked into the police station, stuck a shot gun through the hole in the glass partition and assassinated the police officer. This happened more than 35 years ago but they’ve just now extracted confessions from two of the culprits. This was a coordinated effort to murder police officers in cities across the country.

Maybe you can explain how this was self defense.

Did Ashanti show you the Black Panther emblem which was a raised back fist clutching a rifle? Do a Google image search of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton and count the number of photos of Huey clutching a rifle just on the first page.

Zackery Taylor said...

Well to tell you the truth I did not mishear anything that Ashanti said yesterday. Quite frankly everyone has different views on this subject and yours is just another view.In my class my teachers even said everyone has views saying that the Panthers used violence as a defense tactic, and others like yourself believe that this was not the case. You can have your views, but other people also have different ones, and I was just expressing what Ashanti felt about the whole self defense thing being that he was an actual MEMBER of the Black Panthers, instead of a viewer from the sidelines.

Also, I have not been cut of from the news and I do know about the San Francisco 8 trial. Charges against four of the defendants were dismissed for lack of evidence, and yet one may still face trial. Also Jalil Muntaqim pled no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter. So I do know about this case, and even though I didn't live back then and supposedly saw what you "saw" I still think that the Black Panthers fought for things they knew were unjust.

By the way, I did the google search and counted the number of photos of Huey P. Newton holding a rifle, and it turns out on the first page, there are only two. Just multiple edited copies of the same photo. But do any of them show him actually using the gun? That's the real question.

Don Gosney said...



You make some very valid points.

No, I was not present when Huey Newton killed the police officer so I have to rely on the accounts told at the time and by others who were there. Could the Oakland police officers have had it in for Huey Newton after he shot Officer Frey? Of course. We’ve seen things like this before. Considering the lengthy history of violence and drug use/dealing associated with Huey Newton before his violent death after a drug deal gone bad, perhaps there’s reason to suspect that he might not have been as saintly as some make him out to be.

And no, I never saw Huey Newton use a firearm against anyone. Surely you must understand that it’s rare that we ever see photos of people firing their weapons during the committing of a crime so I’m not sure that’s a response I would want to use to validate my arguments.

When I referenced the argument of violence ONLY as a self defense mechanism, I used your own words written in the blog. You didn’t attribute them to Ashanti and made this as a statement of fact and not opinion or conjecture.

I can appreciate that you might want to reject opinions from contemporaries who were a part of the community when history was being created. Most of our young people seem to learn their history from the Hollywood versions they see in movies and on TV. We’ve seen examples of revisionist history from time to time where survivors try to rehabilitate their image so people’s perceptions of them and their actions might be altered. We certainly saw that with Richard Nixon as he spent the rest of his life after resigning the Presidency trying to remake history so people might forget or reject what really happened. He actually did a pretty good job of it, too, to the point where a lot of younger people think he was an outstanding President.

As an individual you’re welcome to believe what you want. If you want to believe that the Black Panthers, in their entirety, were non-violent and that Huey Newton was innocent, then you go right ahead. In some communities your viewpoints will be embraced but in most your credibility will be non-existent.

Don Gosney said...


Being an actual member of the Black Panthers, Ashanti surely knows more about what was happening inside the organization than I ever could. I’m sure that even though he was only 13 years old and living in New Jersey when Huey Newton shot and killed Officer Frey in Oakland, his recollections are far more accurate than mine so by all means take his word as gospel, Zack.

If your instructors told you that “everyone has views saying that the Panthers used violence as a defense tactic”, they may have overstated what “everyone” thinks. There will always be people in every part of society that use violence as an everyday means of fulfilling their desires and some will even try to excuse it and justify it by associating it with a noble cause.

Those Black Panthers that admitted their part in the killings of the police officers in San Francisco and elsewhere 38 years ago might get some people to believe that their actions were defensive in nature but I’m not sure a jury of their peers would agree. I’m sure that in your studies you’ve learned and understand the legal differences between murder and voluntary manslaughter and can appreciate that both are the unlawful taking of a life. Because of the time that has passed between the killing and when the case might go to court, it’s sometimes better to take a plea to a lesser charge rather than risk losing in court. Witnesses and evidence after such a long time are difficult to hold up in court, so it’s not unusual for plea deals to be struck. Prosecutors often try to avoid lengthy and expensive trials when the outcome is not assured or when the punishment will not make a difference.

Efforts are still being made to have Anthony Bottoms’ life sentences for the murder of two New York City Police Officers be commuted or for him to be paroled so you might have to question why he would plead guilty to conspiring to murder another police officer. Wouldn’t this seriously hurt any chance he might have at being released in New York?

Well, enough of this tit for tat. You’re learning from guest lecturers and videos and I’m basing my opinions on having lived through it when and where it was happening. Each has their own bias, I suppose.