*Back in October 1968 I was just a 16 year old junior at Centennial High School in when I met a young man named, John Huggins. He was passing out Black Panther Party leaflets as school was letting out, that promoted a big upcoming event that was scheduled to be held at South Park ( located on 51st and Avalon) in which Eldridge Cleaver was to be the keynote speaker.
At the time I was eager to be involved in the movement (like so many at that time) that I just jumped right in, with no questions asked and was willing and able to do whatever I could to be a part of what I thought was the most active and serious movement that existed at the time.
Martin Luther King had been assassinated that year and a lot of us were mad as hell because the violence that he received, was not what he promoted. And when I saw Bobby Seale and 21 other armed Black Panthers march on the California State Capitol and interrupt the state legislators as they were in session, I said to myself this is the movement that I want to be a part of, because these were some bold brothers.
John Huggins was murdered along with Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter (who founded the Southern California Chapter) at UCLA only two months after I met him, and the pain and shock of this event is what kept me involved for the next two years.
I saw quite a number of brothers and sisters get jailed and killed from being in this movement. In the two years that I was in the party there were at least forty Panthers who were killed by the police and or the FBI. And I can’t tell you how many brothers were locked up (some of which have never got out to this day).
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declared that the Black Panther Party was the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States, and he launched a nationwide campaign to destroy it through any means necessary. At a certain point, we had offices and chapters all over the US, and even an international headquarters in Algeria.
Our aim and goal was to liberate our people from being oppressed by the system and to put an end to the police brutality that was being inflicted upon our people. We were organized with guns and we provided programs for the people (like free breakfast for hungry children, and free medical clinics). So as I look back now, I say to myself that I was glad to be a part of that movement. To say that the Black Panther Party was only a militant group would be an incomplete statement.
Yes, we were militant as we were very vocal about issues that effected the black community that dealt with the lack of jobs, the injustice that many of us felt was given to many black men held in city, state and federal prisons, and the many instances in which black men and women were harassed and brutalized by the police.
And we were also very firm in our position of self defense, and no other event could in our history could be told better than what occurred in the early morning hours of December 8 1969. Our local headquarters was located at 4115 So. Central ave. It was there at 4:30 in the morning that the Los Angeles Police Department decided on that date that it could find no better time to try and kick the doors in and raid our facility.
But before they attempted to come in, they evacuated the entire neighborhood between King blvd. (Santa Barbara as it was known then) and Vernon Ave., Compton Ave., and Avalon blvd. They were met with a barrage of gunfire as they came into the offices coming from the nine men and two women that were inside, and a gun battle ensued for the next five hours. At the time the area’s demographics were a whole lot different as it was a mostly black community then.
And in the aftermath of this event, there were no fatalities, although three officers and four panthers were wounded.
The community rallied around the Black Panthers and protested the onslaught by the Police. Those are memories that this writer shall never forget.
Los Angeles has changed a lot since those days, and the young people today don’t have a clue as to where they’ve come a long way from. We have a tall order for us to constantly remind them of their history, and to encourage them to stand tall and to fight back against injustice.
This coming Sunday at the Mayme Clayton Museum in Culver City we’re having an event that we welcome all to come to. We are honoring one of our own brothers, Elder Ronald Freeman who battling cancer. Brother Freeman is a former field marshal of the Southern Calif. Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
The event will get going at 2 p.m. with the screening of the film documentary “41st and Central,” the story of the Los Angeles Black Panthers.
Kathleen Cleaver will be the keynote speaker as well as Emory Douglas the former Minister of Culture who will also have his art up on display for a silent auction. And I too will participate with my art as we try to raise funds to help our brother go to Cuba for medical treatment.
The Museum is located at 4130 Overland Ave., Culver City, Ca. Food will be served at 5:00 p.m. and all are welcomed.