(The Panther Series) The Black Panthers Speak – Edited By Philip S. Foner

“We owe it to our ancestors to fight for the impossible”

Excerpt p. 167

“Breakfast for Children pulls people out of the system and organized them into an alternative. Black children who go to school hungry each morning have been organized into poverty, and the Panther program liberated them, frees them from that aspect of their poverty. This is liberation in practice…If we can understand Breakfast for Children, can we not understand Lunch for Children, and Dinner for Children, and Clothing for Children, and Education for Children, and Medical Care for Children? And if we can understand that, why can’t we understand not only a People’s Park, but People’s Housing and People’s Transportation, and People’s Industry and People’s Banks? And why can’t we understand a People’s Government?”

Can we not imagine because our imaginations have been systematically destroyed? What if we are taught as children to believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny just to one day be told they aren’t real. Purposeful intent to blunt the imagination.

Part of growing up is losing our sense of imagination, our courage and determination to chase wild dreams right?

Our upbringing instills a way of thinking that if you can’t see it you can’t believe it and what exists now must always exist.

We owe it to our ancestors, who dared not only to be human, but who dared to dream, to imagine, to overcome unimaginable horrors, and fight for a better future. We owe it to them to believe in and fight for the impossible.


“All institutions in a society should be designed to serve the masses, not just a “chosen few.”

Excerpt p. 168

“This program was created because the Black Panther Party understands that our children need a nourishing breakfast every morning so that they can learn.” – The Black Panther, March 26, 1969

The Black Panther Party’s survival programs exemplified the accuracy of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which argued that basic needs such as hunger and thirst must be satisfied before someone can reach self actualization (full potential).

“…we must survive this evil government and build a new one fit for the service of all people. This program is run through donations of concerned people and the avaricious businessmen that pinch selfishly a little to the program.” – The Black Panther, March 26, 1969.

We should demand a lot of these businessmen as we give a lot in the form of our body (labor) and our life (as our time has been commodified).

Excerpt p. 168

“Panthers working the breakfast program get out of bed at 6:00 a.m. every school day. They set tables, clean facilities, cook and prepare the food, they direct traffic to see that the children cross the streets safely. After a day’s breakfast has been completed, the Panthers attend to the constant task of procuring food from the merchants who do business in the community, to see that the program is constantly supplied with necessary food.”

Example of the dedication and sacrifice of Black Panthers.

“The Free Breakfast for Children program is a socialistic program, designed to serve the people. All institutions in a society should be designed to serve the masses, not just a “chosen few.”

Fresh, nutritious food is a right not a privilege.

Excerpt p. 170

“The Black Panther Party is educating the people to the fact that they have a right to the best modern technology and human knowledge can produce.”

Liberation Schools

” How much different would our society be if we rearranged our education?”

“Liberation School is the second of the many socialistic and educational programs that will be implemented by the Black Panther Party to meet the needs of the people.”

“Brunch and a well-balanced lunch is served daily. Three days of the week are spent in class. Thursday is Film day and Friday is set aside for field trips throughout the community,”

How much different would our society be if we rearranged our education? If we taught socialist ideology? If we taught our children that food, shelter, work, and health care are a human right.

What if…

…we instilled in our children that money should be communal, something shared rather than individually wielded to assert status

…we taught cooperation over competition, human kindness and decency.

…we taught our children Independence and self sufficiency via building homes, growing our own food, or making our own clothes.

What is the validity of getting outside the classroom, out into the real world? An education that shows our children that the world is more than what’s contained inside the four walls of their classroom and the best methods for navigating and interacting with our world.

“…collective view of themselves as being part of a BIG FAMILY working, playing, and living together in struggle.”

A means for destroying misogyny, sexism, and racism by learning about women and minorities and the conditions these groups face and their place in society.  

Teaching collectivism by instilling the idea that our children are apart of one big family.

“Being an assistant teacher, I have an opportunity to be among the children and start a conversation,…”

A conversation rather than instruction allowing students to teach one another.

“…choosing articles and writing about them or giving an oral report about an event that happened in the world, she smiled with pride; she said, “their work shows that they can relate to what is happening to them and other poor people.”

How often did you learn about current events in school?

It’s important to know what’s going on and how to relate to other people in the world.

How do we make time for this in our school day and help our children to understand its importance.

“Monday is Revolutionary History Day

Tuesday is Revolutionary Culture Day

Wednesday is Current Event Day

Thursday is Movie Day

Friday is Field Trip Day”

Example of Liberation School Curriculum.

“We may have small fights and arguments, but when they do occur we sit down and discuss the matter and come to a conclusion, a unity of will, because we know that if we don’t solve the problem then and there, the children will be holding grudges against each other.”

Although this quote may be related to academic disputes among classmates, what do we do when children physically fight in school? What is the validity of more of a restorative justice approach. Sitting down with students and attempting to get to the root of the issues. Do our administrators guide our children and show them the advantages of unity? What are the benefits and disadvantages of suspending and expelling students from school for bad behavior? Are we not reinforcing the idea that we put society’s “undesirables” on the periphery of our own existence? (School to Prison Pipeline)


“Without controlling the media, others can easily manipulate our image and our story.”

Excerpt p. 173

“…scant attention has been focused by the establishment press on the Panther programs aimed at serving the people.”

“The only publicity the center has received came when city authorities attempted to close it a few days after it opened in December, charging numerous building and Board of Health violations.”

This quote highlights the importance of controlling media.  Without this control people can manipulate our image and our narrative.

People’s Medical Clinic

” examination, treatment, and prescription are all free.”

Excerpt p. 173

“…the center…regularly treats more than 100 patients every week.”

Emblematic of the success and relevance of the Panther Survival Programs.

“We have ten doctors, twelve nurses, and two registered technicians who officially serve in the Free Medical Center.”

“We are training some of the young people to do laboratory urinalysis and blood tests, and teams of people from the community are organized to canvass the neighborhood and bring the center to the people.”

“Our teams take their blood pressure, medical histories, and in general determine if there are people suffering from illness.”

“If illness is discovered whether chronic or just simple ailments, the person is urged to visit the center, where an examination, treatment, and prescription are all free.”

Black Panther Survival Programs were socialist in practice

“In a typical evening of duty, Mrs. Wood may help to treat 20 or 30 people.”

“When Ifirst worked for the Joslyn Clinic in Maywood, these examinations cost at least $10. But at the Panther center, they are absolutely free.”

“The center opens at 6 o’clock in the evening.”

Doctors would work at the Panther Centers in the evenings after working their full time job during the day. Symbols of the sacrifice in labor and time of the many individuals involved in the normal functioning of the center.

“The people’s advocate makes the center more able to deal with the entire range of people’s problems.” Mrs. Wood said. “After being examined, the patient and his or her parents if a minor discuss any other problems they may have with the representative of the Panthers. The people’s advocate will try to find out if the patient has any difficulties at home, such as paying the rent, finding clothes for the family, food, or whether they may be having trouble studying, or in school–almost any kind of problem is relevant.”

Example of holistic care.

“Whenever possible, the Panthers will help with the problem, no matter what it is. For example, we discovered that many of the school children, aside from problems like going without breakfast, faced serious strain from the difficulty of finding a place to study or play, safe from the hazards of the street. So we opened up the center to them during the afternoon, before the regular hours, where they can play, or study, paint or do whatever they wish.”


” those whom the police should serve will be able to set police policy and standards of conduct.”

Excerpt p. 178

“Existing police forces should be replaced by a new police force responsible to the Black community and consisting of men who live in that community.”

Bias can not be removed right?

The people outside the black community have had their ideas informed by a racist media. Therefore current police should be replaced by people of the same race, economic background, and geographic region so that issues are responded to with understanding rather than violence and misunderstanding.

Excerpt p. 179

“This amendment to a City charter would give control of the police to community elected neighborhood councils so that those whom the police should serve will be able to set police policy and standards of conduct.”

“All police officers must live in the department they work in, and will be hired accordingly.” – The Black Panther, June 14, 1969

If policing is a service job then should police not have to answer to those they serve?

This kind of organization would create true accountability.

Excerpt p. 204

“…we never asked (Black people) if we consented to having them as our laws.”

“And we (Black People, etc.) have never had the right to decide if we wanted to be governed by laws which we had no part in making.”

“ In fact, a leading criminologist, Dr. R. R. Korn of Stanford University, has noted that 80% of the people now in prison were put there illegally according to your own law. (Strange that the overwhelming population is Black and non-white?)”

If we evaluate the constitution alone, based on its promise to provide an accused person a jury of their peers and a speedy trial, then how many people have been imprisoned illegally

“The record clearly shows this, when not clouded with the mist of racism.”

In what ways are our visions clouded? In what ways have we been rendered incapable of seeing other people’s viewpoints as valid?


“Without taking an autonomous role in your own education you leave yourself open to be under-informed, mis-educated, or totally uneducated. ”

“In a period of two years–December, 1967 to December, 1969–the Black Panther Party expended in bail-bond premiums alone…a sum in excess of 200,000! How many breakfasts or lunches for hungry children, how much medical attention sorely needed in the ghetto communities would that 200,000 have furnished?”

“In the same period, twenty-eight Panthers were killed.”

“Between May 2, 1967 and December 25, 1969 charges were dropped against at least 87 Panthers arrested for a wide variety of so-called violations of the law. Yet these men and women were kept in prison for days, weeks, and months even though there was absolutely no evidence against them, and they were finally released.”

“Huey Newton’s conviction has been reversed. But already he has spent over three years in the penitentiary for a crime for which most people would have to spend six to nine months at most.”

“Eldridge Cleaver…will have to spend the rest of his days–unless a radical change occurs–in exile.”

“David Hilliard had to spend an additional four days in a cell block in the Oakland courthouse where the only ventilation comes through a small vent underneath the cage. This is the same cell in which Huey Newton was confined for seven months. Eldridge Cleaver, who spent four hours in this same cell, told the court in Alameda County that in all of the twelve years he had spent in prison, this was the worst hell-hole he had ever known.”

Where would we be today if the Black Panther Party had been allowed to thrive? Allowed to see their programs and leadership come to fruition without interference from the oppressive military wing of our government.

Excerpt p. 276

“People constantly thought that we were security guards and community police or something like this. This is why we dropped the term “Self Defense” from our name…”

Self education is important. Before reading about the Black Panthers in-depth, this too was my belief. Without taking an autonomous role in your own education you leave yourself open to be under-informed, mis-educated, or totally uneducated.


“Take a look at the extent to which the slaughter of Negroes has been killed in our language…”

Excerpt p. 216

“I thought I knew something about Negro America because some of my intimate friends are Negro professionals who have been accepted partially in our great white society. I thought I knew them and we exchanged visits back and forth and we were buddies. It wasn’t a week or two weeks after I got into this case and I came to the conclusion that I knew absolutely nothing about Black America. I was ignorant–as ignorant as any white could be and I am a person that thought I was informed. I have had to educate myself. I have had to read everything that I could get a hold of.”  -Charles R. Garry (Defense Attorney for many Black Panthers including Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, Co-Founders of the Black Panther Party

This quote illustrates how we live in separate worlds divided by race. We will continue to exist in this way until we make a serious effort to get to know and understand each other.

“Take a look at the extent to which the slaughter of Negroes has been killed in our language, in our vocabulary.  White denotes charity, simplicity and candor, innocent truth, and hope, while black is sin, synonymous with sinful, inhuman, fiendish, devilish, infernal, monstrous, atrocious, horrible, nefarious, treacherous, venal.”

“A white lie is one made with the best of intentions while a black one is deliberate, harmful and inexcusable. We wish to eliminate a person from favorable consideration, we blackball or blacklist him. We are able to whitewash anything except a black mark, not even magic can overcome the preface black.” -Charles R. Garry (Defense Attorney for many Black Panthers including Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, Co-Founders of the Black Panther Party)

Importance in the use of words to predestine the treatment of an entire group of people based on skin color.

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