War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (1980)

In the days since an ebullient Back 2 School 2 Party, I’ve had the privilege to rest and restore myself from the frenzy of so much organizing. One of the key activities in this “decompressing” process has been getting back to los beloved libros. In an effort to spread the joy of reading then, and to share as I so often enjoy doing with the spirit of Los Angeles, I’m happy to finally publish another brief book review. This time, on a little-known story by another major organizer in American history: Huey P. Newton’s War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (1980).

I can only imagine how demoralizing it was for Mr. Newton to describe the harrowing experience that led to the publication of this work, which describes how in less than ten (10) years, Newton’s entire life was uprooted, distorted and destroyed by a branch of government whose authority was never approved by Congressional Hearing (see FBI), but which would nevertheless work “behind the scenes” to eradicate the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) efforts to free Black and other minorities from the second-class citizenship they’d been relegated to over a hundred (100) years after the Reconstruction period that followed the US Civil War (1861-1865). As Mr. Newton points out in the opening pages of his analysis:

“By 1966, the United States had experienced a recent series of disruptions in several of its major urban Black population centers—Harlem, Watts, Chicago and Detroit. Numerous organizations and leaders representing groups of Black people—e.g., SCLC (Martin Luther King, Jr.), the Black Muslims (Elijah Muhammed and Malcolm X), CORE (James Farmer), NAACP (Roy Wilkins)—had repeatedly articulated the causes of these riots or urban rebellions: high unemployment, bad housing, police brutality, poor health care, and inferior educational opportunities.”

That same year, the Party would be founded in Oakland, California. It wouldn’t last more than 14 years. But during its lifespan, the BPP served as a “vanguard,” to borrow one of Newton’s terms, which would not only extend the spirit of Black Liberation Theory passed down from the blood and ashes of Malcolm X and MLK Jr., but which would “evolve” that spirit to meet the needs of a new “postmodern” world dawning after the “radical sixties” era in the United States. A world which would nearly leave the Black community and other minorities completely behind, if not for the revolutionary spirit and action of thinkers like Mr. Newton, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, and other major intellectual and social figures of the times.

To be sure, War Against the Panthers is not a “tell-all” expose of the BPP and its legacy, but it’s a close and fact-based look at the methods of infiltration used by institutions such as the FBI, CIA and even the IRS and others, which set out to destroy the party’s Breakfast and other ‘Survival’ programs in Oakland, Chicago, New York and many more major cities across the U.S. For this same reason the dissertation is a very brief read containing a handful of facts, figures, and memorandums obtained through litigation by attorneys for the Panthers in cases against the FBI and its counterparts for violating the Panthers’ rights to privacy, freedom of speech, and other political freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

In 2019, “privacy” and the right to privacy is a word and phrase I read mostly when articles are referring to the internet, and more specifically, when they’re referring to which companies are spying on Americans’s phones and web browsers (virtually all of them, though one might ask: does it still count as spying if we clicked “yes” in the disclosure agreement?).

Yet Newton’s dissertation is an example of just what kind of actions can be taken against any American when the major power players deem them a “threat to national security,” or even just expendable or collateral damage. The analysis is therefore also instructive in the matter about why ‘[the] people’s’ rights are still worth defending; the issues of privacy and the right to organize oneself privately, politically or otherwise are not just legislative or “abstract” issues, but truly personal ones affecting every American today. As Mr. Newton points out, if even just one power player can deploy their leverage against any one group or person to destroy the rights of their citizenship, then it follows that all power players are given permission to misuse their leverage against all [the] people:

“…governmental efforts at destruction of the Party, successful in varying degrees, were only thwarted or held in abeyance when they reached their logical consequence: destruction of the right of dissent for all groups, a right indispensable to the functioning of a democratic society.”

I salute Mr. Newton and his comrades for their invaluable bravery in living, breathing, and exposing this parable. At least for JIMBO TIMES, the people will know: these are legends not far at all removed from our time. The text is free online for any one to read, and has full approval from The L.A. Storyteller.

J.T.

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A 7th Grade Student’s Poem for Black Lives in Los Angeles

Black Potential

by Te’Aunee Turner

We are BLACK, We are BROWN and we are even more than what they make us seem.

They make us seem weak, worthless, and they use us as scapegoats.
But the fact is
We are
Preachers,
Teachers,
Singers,
Fighters, and
Leaders.

Don’t you try to put US down because they already tried,

They insulted us like HARRIET TUBMAN
They abused us like EMMETT TILL
They disenfranchised us like MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
THEY EVEN TRIED TO MAKE US SLAVES,
BUT WE BROKE THEM DAMN CHAINS.

WE are BLACK
I am BLACK
I AM BLACK
I am BRAVE, COURAGEOUS, and DETERMINED
And let it be known,
I ain’t no BURDEN.

So do not UNDERESTIMATE our potential,
MY POTENTIAL
My BLACK POTENTIAL.

Because Harriet Tubman helped free her people from chains,
So Rosa could sit,
So Martin could march,
And finally, so Obama could lead.

I can be the next Michelle
I can be the next Harriet
I can be the next Maya Angelou,
This is because of African-American leaders who fought for our Rights.

Now, I fight for my Rights.

About the author: Te’Aunee Turner is a 7th grade student in Los Angeles. In Te’Aunee’s own words, she hopes her poem shows others “[that] being equal is not treating someone with an advantage because they’re in a higher class, or taking advantage of others because they don’t have money. This is how our great African American leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nipsey Hussle got killed. The whole point of this is for people to see others for who they really are so we can treat each other more equally.”

Te’Aunee’s sister, Dasia, and Language Arts teacher, Ms. Morales, also provided support for this poem.

J.T.

Bernie Sanders

I know politics are ugly, but there’s no way I can actually avoid talking about politics. In 2016, J.T. will have to, and in fact, I guess it starts here.

Bernie Sanders’s camp is said to have rallied a mass of supporters at the L.A. coliseum earlier tonight, which is great to hear in a city that elected its current mayor with only 12% of its registered voters.

Yet if Bernie Sanders were serious about change, he and his camp would recognize that their campaign will ultimately win and change nothing, and they’d thank the women of Black Lives Matter for honoring his podium with their movement, and join forces with them in lending attention to the failure of both democratic and republican parties to serve in the interests of The People’s History of the United States each time they’ve had the chance to honor (Black) Liberation Theory.

From Lincoln, to FDR, to Obama, ‘progressive leaders’ have never actually cared to institute meaningful policy for the success of ‘the minority’, perhaps figuring it just doesn’t make much political or mathematical sense since their constituents are self-interested and reductive of any policy seeking to build the whole country rather than a select group of it.

Opponents of those BLM members interrupting Bernie cite his ‘civil rights’ record as reason to let him speak, but let’s have the conversation with some integrity: a lot of ‘civil rights’ records look good on paper, but they mean nothing on the ground to the black and brown youth who still occupy openly segregated neighborhoods, classrooms, prison cells, and even segregated graveyards because of the legacy of poverty their parents and grandparents come from.

Until Bernie and his supporters acknowledge this, his campaign is vaguely reminiscent of ‘hope’, ‘change’, and other empty campaign slogans that I recall hearing this one other time I got excited about a presidential candidate.

Ultimately though, regardless of whether Sanders or his supporters acknowledge this, the truth is that the power dynamic in this country will simply never honor the people en masse.

Whether the advertisements don blue or red stripes, only one thing’s for sure: what the power dynamic will do is make great commercials about change, and design and execute great campaign rallies about change.

They will deliver this special effect through awesome stereo and television systems, and as the audience, we will (reluctantly) buy into these ads or illusions. Why? Because it’ll be simpler and maybe even more natural for us to do than to actually work towards change as a society. We’ll also buy the ads because it will just feel good, and because nothing will be able to beat a good feeling.

That is, until another ad comes along, compelling us toward another good feeling. By the time we’re disappointed with that false advertisement (Clinton/Bush/Whatever), it won’t matter, since we’ll have another movie –err– campaign rally to attend. This is the U.S.A after all, and if there’s one thing we do best in this country, it’s buying into illusions of power and grandeur.

I’m even doing it now, as I write this. In publishing this, a part of me believes it will change something, and that it’s going to rally people for some real transformation of the world. A bit farther in, some other part of me even thinks of this ‘piece’ as my own bid for the presidency. In fact –the hell with it– I’m just going to go for it:

This message was brought to you by JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller. Vote for JIMBO TIMES, because it will just feel good, and because unlike the other candidates, J.T. promises to do nothing more than make you feel it.

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Dear Sisters: Black Lives Matter

Your pain, and the bravery in your hearts to share what you feel, are embers of light in a world that insists on living in darkness.

Your endurance through chaos, and your will to survive through its reams, are layers of strength for those who will follow in your footsteps.

You’ve heard before that you have to keep fighting, and that you have to keep pushing,

And you will hear this again.

But tonight, I encourage you to put your arms down, and to lay your heads back.

Tonight, I encourage you to simply find somewhere to rest.

And to reach out to one another, to hold one another, and to assure each other of one thing, if only just one thing:

That you are not alone.

And that your pain will not be in vain.

Your struggle is the world’s struggle, as it is humanity’s struggle, and as it is the struggle of the future.

And in your fight to bring light to our society, you reflect the orbit of a world fighting to survive in a galaxy full of darkness.

Thank you for shining so brightly in this journey, and for your resilience through its tremors.

And know that you are seen.

That you are heard,

And that you will always be acknowledged and appreciated.

From the center of the earth,

To the edges of the universe,

Through time and space,

And even beyond,

Thank you once again, dear sisters; indefinitely.