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Black Panther Party For Self Defense:Crazy Niggas or Social Reformers? (Part I)

As a white man, how in the hell were you able to become a photographer for the Black Panther Party(BPP)? The exact question I asked world renown photographer Stephen Shames( I highly encourage you to visit his site). Looking at me with a condescending smile-he began to speak-but, before he could answer, an announcer called him to the podium, to present a lecture on his experiences as a photographer for social and cultural awareness.

Knowing that I was unable to stay the entire lecture, he began first, by answering my question. After hearing his in depth explanation of how the BPP's intentions were social reform, and not racial division, I suddenly realized the lack of knowledge I have on the black liberation movement of the sixties. My false impressions of anti-white, pro violence, and racial demagoguery were all thrown out the window. Feeling like a misinformed asshole, I stood frozen for two minutes, drowning in a pool of my own ignorance.

Walking out the lecture hall-with a salty look on my face-I made a commitment to myself: to research the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and make an attempt to defy all myths, misconceptions, rumors, and negative connotations associated with one of the most notorious movements in American history.

As of now, I am relishing in extensive amounts of research( books, news articles, transcripts). Part II of this article will post in a couple of weeks. Have no fear, the real truth is on its way.

-Quintin Wallace


  1. I spent a lot of time with Panthers back in the day, at their offices, participating in their programs as a recipient and as a volunteer fundraiser, and I think the Panthers were both "crazy niggas" by today's standards and also social reformers.

    On the one hand, they refused to submit to police oppression, which Black people today consider to be a "crazy" stance. After all, if you don't submit to police oppression today, the police might beat you, tase you and/or shoot you, as well as prosecuting you. In the face of all of that imminent repression, that clear and present danger, Black people submit to the police for the most part today, and we consider it to be crazy not to submit.

    The Panther's were different. They decided to cast off fear and defend themselves, and that - for Black people - was and is considered "crazy."

    I was recently part of a debate about color-aroused profiling of drivers in South Carolina. It turns out that there's a real scandal there about the color-aroused treatment that Blacks have received at the hands of police.

    And yet, even in the context of this scandal, many Black people believe that this Black woman was unreasonably "mouthy" to the officer who stopped her on her way to work, simply for failing to wear and seat belt, and then tased her when she refused to show her license and registration.

    What I see when I watch this video is a woman engaging in non-violence civil disobedience against a systematically color-aroused police state whose purpose is the subjugation, arrest and imprisonment of one million Black people. (That's how many are in jail right now.)

    And so, I don't see this woman's behavior as "mouthy". I see it in the context of resisting systemic color-aroused police repression.

    As someone who also benefited from the Black Panther's Free Breakfast Program and their weekly Black self-determination newspaper that was the only one available, I can also attest that the Black Panther Party was a party of social reformers, because many of their programs - including free breakfasts, sickle cell anemia screening and lead paint testing are programs that state and federal governments subsequently adopted.

    This was the process called "co-opting" in which government took over key Panther missions in order to relieve pressure for radical societal solutions. But, without the Panthers pressuring the system from outside, our children wouldn't be offered free lunches in schools today, nor would there be lead paint testing programs and the awareness of the sickle cell anemia problem.

    Revolutionaries are a necessary part of the evolution of society.

  2. tru, tru

    between your article and holland's comment, i learned a lot about the panthers. . .i was always made to believe they were just a bunch of gun-toting angry black men. . .

  3. I agree with Mr.Holland, In my research of the BPP, I am gaining a lot of knowledge about their programs, ideologies,etc. They were indeed social reformers, with social programs. The 60's were a turbulent time, and social change was a neccessity.

  4. Black Panther stories are always interesting, Black Salvage don't forget the Invaders in Memphis

  5. The saddest part of this is that the BPP is not as visible as it once used to be. Granted, the vast majority of the original members have been disbanded, but there are still some out there doing what is needed to uplift the African-American community. With all that is happening, the BPP is needed as much today as it was back in the 60's.

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