Local Black Panther Party members hit the books, hard

A person wanting to join the Black Panther Party had to first go through a 6-week training period. During that time he or she read most of the books recommended by the BPP and carried the Red Book by Mao Tse-tung with them at all times.

The books and other reading materials were a must in order for the new Panthers to understand the struggle in its present form and the history of struggle in America and the world. We read books from countries that had won freedom from oppression and were now trying to rule and govern themselves in places like Africa, Cuba, South America, and Asia.

We studied how people like Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Mao Tse-tung did it in order to understand some of the problems we had to deal with. We were always looking for solutions to problems in our American communities.

When joining the Party, you had to study two hours a day, be placed in a study group, and attend the study session and political education classes twice a week.

A Panther knew the party's 10-point program as well as its 26 rules. Section leaders checked, often on a whim, on the progress of the Panthers in training. They asked the trainees questions about the material. It was everyone's job to make sure the info and books were studied.

The goal was to have all Party members able to answer questions they were posed while out in the community. We used to say that, "information is the raw material for new ideals." We felt compelled to inform the people and bring their political awareness up.

We knew black people needed to be reeducated, and the BPP saw it as our job to awaken them. However, first we needed to be educated ourselves.

It's important to remember that there where no classes on black history being taught in the schools at the time. With this in mind, some of the first books we had people to read were "Before the Mayflower" by Leone Bennett and J.A. Rogers "World's Great Men of Color." The Autobiography of Malcolm X was popular (It was my first book about a black man) as was Basil Davidson book "The Lost Cities of Africa."

We studied the "Black Book" by Kwame Nkrumah and the Africa leader John Hope Franklin's work, "From Slavery to Freedom." and many other books. As the Party grew, we added books by BPP leaders, such as Bobby Seale's "Seize the Time" and Huey Newton's books "To Die for the People" and "Revolutionary Suicide."

We wanted Party members to have self-knowledge, to know where we came from and how we got here and what to do to free ourselves.

Regional Black Panther Party alumni have organized a reunion and forum from May 13-14 at Seattle Central Community College and the Garfield Community Center. For more information, call 206-268-0557 or visit www.itsabouttimebpp.com.[[In-content Ad]]