“Like men we’ll face the murderous cowardly pack – pressed to the wall dying… but fighting back.”
The vision of the BPP was to serve the needs of the oppressed people in our communities and defend them against their oppressors. We did not expect the U.S. government, its agencies and hired hands to stand by idly while the BPP went forward to the goal of serving the people, educating and organizing the masses. We expected repression. We knew, as revolutionary vanguard, repression would be the reaction of our oppressors, but we recognized that the task of a revolutionary would be difficult, a long, protracted struggle, and that a slip, a moment of weakness could bring the blow that kills.
When the BPP raised from within the communities and became the most visible and viable threat to the U.S. suppression of rights and the claim to human rights, the F.B.I., under J. Edgar Hoover, implemented COINTELPRO, its counterintelligence program, to neutralize the BPP. COINTELPRO not only targeted leading members of the Party for harassment and arrest, but extended to the Panther general body who were visible beacons in the daily community efforts of the BPP.
Once the BPP announced that it would stand BETWEEN our oppressors and the black and poor communities; after we demonstrated that we would defend our inviolable human right to life and liberty, the powers of the U.S. government personified in J. Edgar Hoover embarked on a mission dedicated to search and destroy, and members of the BPP were number one on their Most Wanted List.
We were assailed in the news media as “a gang of militant blacks”, criminalized by legal agencies as “niggas with guns” but the source of the BPP grew from our 10-Point Program and Platform and the belief and support of a hurt and desperate people who cried out ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, WE’RE TIRED OF THIS STUFF, WE WILL NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT.
One tool that caught the imagination of both the media, government agencies and those in our communities was our armed position against the violence of the state. Yet those intent on undermining and eliminating the BPP did not factor in our community survival programs, that were the FOCOMOTOR, the engine that moved the BPP while you the community of people were the fuel for ideas and actions that have since brought about some changes as the oasis of true liberation and freedom is still a distant image on the horizon of our hopes.
During the course of the BPP, as we reached across America, into Europe and third world countries, there were confrontations between members of our Party and the legal arms of American oppression. As our programs became Life Rafts for our people, free breakfast programs, free clothing, free medical clinics, bussing to prisons, and our newspaper, the voice of the people, and offered alternatives to government neglect, members of the BPP from Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale all through our membership were in the bullseye of American agencies and groups hell bent on keeping quiet the foothold of fascism, the repression of rights and the oppression of black people in particular and people of color in general.
When a government or its agencies resort to assassinations, to undermine, defame, isolate and vilify just causes, and the men and women and children participating, then those same forces are guilty of atrocities against the human spirit. They are guilty of crimes against humanity, as those forces of repression, ignorance and arrogance have taken away some of the best that humanity HAD to offer.
From 1968 to 1977, 30 members of the BPP died serving the people. Their belief in survival pending revolution, armed with the ideology and philosophy of the BPP, the conception of freedom, was their statement that affirmed the will, the spirit and the still unleashed pow of the people. They were among our most advanced comrades, ox for the people to ride, their deaths weigh heavier than the mountains and their memories will always shine among the brightest of stars in the sky.
Let us look and remember as we continue to believe that an organized people will roll like a mighty storm.
In Oakland, Lil’ Bobby Hutton, first to join the BPP, was the first to die at the murderous hands of the Oakland police. Cindy Smallwood, Bruce ‘Deacon’ Washington and Louis ‘Texas’ Johnson fell, as they served here in the cradle of the BPP.
In Seattle, comrades Welton Armstead and Sidney Miller were murdered. The Sidney Miller Free Health Clinic was established in his memory.
In Chicago, base of the Illinois State Chapter, states attorney Edward Hanrahan and the F.B.I. orchestrated the murders of comrades Larry Roberson, Babitunde Omawali and Spurgeon ‘Jake’ Winters. On the morning of December 5th, 1969, Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton and Peoria Defense Captain Mark Clark were assassinated. F.B.I. collaborator Eugene O’Neal had drugged Fred Hampton, provided information that allowed state and federal agencies to conduct a search and destroy mission against the Illinois Chapter leadership that silenced on of the most visible and charismatic comrades of the BPP.
The Southern California Chapter, based in Los Angeles, came under assault from the elite L.A.P.D. SWAT teams and its combined city and federal agencies, as the first BPP chapter outside of the Bay Area. Its members endured the constant surveillance and repressive treatment only endured in other world territories that would be classified as a War Zone.
Those comrades were Arthur Morris, Steve Bartholomew, Robert Lawrence, Tommy Lewis, John Savage, Sylvester Bell, Nathaniel Clark, Frank ‘Captain Franco’ Digs, Walter Toure Pope and Fred Bennett. And on the campus of U.C.L.A. Deputy Minister of Information John Jerome Huggins and the mayor of the ghetto, Deputy Minister of Defense, Alprentice ‘Bunchy’ Carter were assassinated on January 17, 1969.
Our Party members were dying here on American soil for their world beliefs and hopes, for ideas and the ideal, of a world where ones humanity was bigger than the oppressive machinery of American prestige and its fals claim as leader of the free world, but with the support and love of eh many people of the oppressed communities that continued to sustain us. Joseph Waddell from the Winston Salem Chapter died at the hands of prison authorities. The murder of New York Panther Alex Rackley led to the arrests of comrades of 13 New Haven Chapter comrades and Chairman Bobby Seale and Sister Ericka Huggins. In Houston the chairman of Peoples Party II, which grew into the Houston Chapter of the BPP, comrade Carl Hampton, died defending his community.
While in service as National Distribution Manager of our news paper, Comrade Sam Napier was murdered in Queens, NY. As the BPP newspaper was the voice of the people, Sam was the voice of our newspaper.
The prison movement raised George Jackson to a revolutionary level of political consciousness. And his younger brother, Jonathan Jackson moved along sharing the visions of his imprisoned brother, sharing those same ideas. Jonathan died at the hands of Marin County sheriffs. Days before his trial was to begin, Comrade George Jackson, Field Marshall of the BPP, was assassinated at San Quentin prison. George helped shaped the consciousness of prisoners from one of criminal mentality to that of a revolutionary mentality. George brought a message to others in prison ‘while some see only the bars, I and we must see up and out, to the stars.’
The loss of any life for the just causes that impel us beyond what we will realize or have yet to understand is part and parcel of the legacy of these fallen comrades. We now, from the trail of tears and trials and attributions of the BPP, are witness to yesterday and torchbearers for the many tomorrows to come. Let us hold tight to our humanity and remember those who died in the belief of revolutionary change, a change in conditions that would, and will some day, find all of us on that common ground where men, women and children can embrace each other in the words of an old African greeting…I AM WE.
Until then, Remember Our Comrades, that their supreme actions of sacrifice resounds today and echoes through the tomorrows, until there is that time and place where all of humankind can realize and participate in that singular vision of
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Steve D. McCutchen/Lil’ Masai
BPP 45th Anniversary and Reunion