One of the most eloquent voices of the pains, passions, and dilemmas that was (and still is) The Black Experience in a western-dominated world, James Baldwin traveled the globe learning, growing, teaching, and seeking peace. His unfiltered/no nonsense analysis of societal ills to me only can be compared to the level of genius presented to us by Malcolm X (aka El Hajj Malik El Shabazz). Relevant then, and relevant now, we must continue to study the insights Baldwin provided us-and use them as out tools to create the brighter future he surely hoped we would already have by now. So in memory of The Great James Baldwin, on the anniversary of his passing, here are a few quotes and videos to soak up and apply going forward…
Ericka Huggins spent 14 years as a vital force of leadership within The Black Panther Party; and played a highly instrumental role in spreading The Party’s influence across the nation and beyond. Having joined The BPP in 1968, at the age of 18, Ericka Huggins would ascend higher through the ranks of leadership in spite of her husband John Huggins being murdered (along with comrade Bunchy Carter) on the campus of UCLA just one year later. Now unsealed documents and other testimonies confirm that the incident had been instigated by The FBI and local police. The FBI and LAPD had been working feverishly to exacerbate tensions between The Panthers and Maulana Karenga’s US Organization; and this ultimately culminated in an on campus shooting that left the two BPP leaders dead. John an Ericka had just welcomed their newborn daughter into this world, just three weeks prior…
After moving to Connecticut, and opening a new BPP Chapter Office there, Ericka Huggins and Bobby Seale would be arrested on conspiracy to commit murder charged. The government attempted to tie them to the alleged torture and murder of Alex Rackley, who was believed to have been an FBI Informant. Though there was no evidence that could adequately support those claims, both Huggins and Seale would spend the next two years in jail. Ultimately the charges would be dropped in 1971.
Fifty years later, Ericka Huggins continues to work as an activist and educator via multiple platforms. We at The Wandering Eyes Blog salute you!
SOURCES AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Fancying myself as a student of revolutionaries, and revolutionary movements, many times I figured however foolishly that I knew at least a little about them all. But once every few years, I come across the story of another one purposely buried deep in the dark corners of revisionist history. Upon watching a documentary called “The House On Coco Road,” I discovered yet another in Maurice Bishop of Grenada. Greatly influenced by the works of Julius Nyerere and Frantz Fanon, this Aruba-Born Titan of The People would briefly establish what came to be referenced as a “Black Utopia” on the small Caribbean Island of Grenada from 1979 until his execution in 1983.
After earning his law degree from The University Of London, Bishop formed The Movement For Assemblies Of The People or MAP. Shortly thereafter MAP would merge with The Joint Action For Education Welfare & Liberation also known as JEWEL. Together the two united organizations would come to be known as The New Jewel Movement or The NJM. In 1976, Maurice Bishop would be elected to Grenada’s House Of Representatives, and three years later would seize power away from then Prime Minister Eric Gairy of whom the masses believed had only been elected due to illegal tampering with the vote count. Additionally, he reportedly ruled under a campaign of fear via his secret police (The Mongoose Gang) and with the backing of Chile & The U.S. Governments. So in the Spring of 1979 a new People’s Revolutionary Government was launched in Grenada. Bernard Coard was named Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Finance, Planning & Industry. Phyllis Coard was named Deputy Secretary Of Information & Culture; and Jacqueline Creft as Minister Of Education. This bloodless coup led to massive improvements in Education, Healthcare, Housing, Infrastructure, and The Economy. Free Healthcare became recognized as a right, and not just as a privilege. Major resources were launched toward improving literacy, more low-income housing was made accessible to the masses, and unemployment dropped from a reported 49% down to just 14%. New schools were built, agricultural projects launched, and new construction advanced forward. Grenada and its people had suffered through centuries of slavery and colonial exploitation; but now it was poised to become A Black Utopia. The country had only gained its independence in 1974; but Grenada was now all about the people. Even 800 American medical students had now moved there to enroll in Grenada’s Medical School St. George’s University. And this is when the trouble began...
“I think Washington fears that we could set an example for the rest of the region if our revolution succeeds. In the Caribbean region you’re talking about small countries with small populations and limited resources, countries that over the years have been classic examples of neo-capitalist dependencies. Now you have these new governments like Nicaragua and Grenada that are attempting a different experiment.”
Many of the improvement initiatives launched under the new People’s Revolutionary Government were made with financial assistance from Cuba and The Soviet Union. Fearing the spread of Socialism, and that more US-backed puppet regimes in the region may soon see similar changes, then-President Ronald Reagan’s regime began seeking to undermine Grenada’s progress. And by 1981, U.S. Military exercises had been initiated simulating an invasion of the tiny island. In 1983, Ronald Reagan would go on live television alleging that The Soviet Union had begun construction of a military base in Grenada. The assertion was positioned to instill the fear that this would be a base to launch terrorist attacks and ultimately lead to a Communist Invasion into America. In all reality, the construction project was Grenada’s first ever airport. Prior to this the island simply had a small airstrip into the mountains, that had been deemed too dangerous to use. Nevertheless, on October 25th, 1983, “Operation Urgent Fury” was launched. Just weeks prior, a power struggle had erupted within the government leading to Prime Minister Bishop being placed on house arrest. Bishop’s own childhood friend, Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard had betrayed him and seized power. And only days later, Coard would be deposed by General Hudson Austin. On October 19th, a large crowd of people would stage an uprising to restore Bishop to his power. Bishop was released from imprisonment, and the crowd would then descend upon the island’s military complex Fort George. The military would respond with gunfire to squash the uprising. Maurice Bishop, Jacqueline Creft, and several other members of the government would be executed via firing squad. Though much of the chaos was the result of American Covert Activities, even General Austin would find himself out of power after the U.S. Invasion. Austin would be sent to prison for the murders of his former comrades; and would remain there until 2008. Herbert Augustus Blaize would be elected Prime Minister in 1984, and Grenada returned to its status as amongst nations with the boot of Imperialism firmly pressed on its throat. Ironically, the very airport that was used as the catalyst to end the regime of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and The People’s Revolutionary Government would be re-named Maurice Bishop International Airport in 2009. Others attempted similar moves to install governments that were truly For The People and By The People; but like Maurice Bishop they would also become targets to be eliminated via American Obstruction. Their memories will live on forever though; and hopefully the next wave will finally succeed long term.
THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY FREE BREAKFAST PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN...
In January 1969, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense launched the FREE BREAKFAST PROGRAM For CHILDREN. As the Party's community survival programs, the BPP consulted with Nutritionists to determine exactly what should be included in a Proper Breakfast for community Youth; and utilized local Church contacts to facilitate certification from Health Department & Fire Marshall approval.
This was the first nationally organized breakfast program in the United States, either in the public or private sector." It marked not only the first program of its kind in the US, but indicated a sharp shift in the political direction of the Black Panther Party. For its first few years the Party had been focused on armed self-defense, and patrolling the police. The shift toward survival programs was meant to address the inadequacy of community based services in their neighborhoods, and seeing the need to connect more deeply and practically with the community.
The Free breakfast Program was based on a Socialist Revolutionary Platform to provide an alternative to the existing systems in place at that time. The prevailing idea was that all institutions in a society should be designed to serve the masses, not just the privileged classes of people.
The Free Breakfast Program was the centerpiece of The BPP’s “Survival Programs,” put in place to begin building a platform or example of what a new Post-Revolution American society would look like. It would also ensure that the masses were served, regardless of the tyranny to be handed down by the ruling class in the midst of the struggle for Independence.
According to the writings of Chairman Huey P. Newton: “All these programs satisfy the deep needs of the community but they are not solutions to our problems. That is why we call them survival programs, meaning survival pending revolution. We say that the survival program of the Black Panther Party is like the survival kit of a sailor stranded on a raft. It helps him to sustain himself until he can get completely out of that situation. So the survival programs are not answers or solutions, but they will help us to organize the community around a true analysis and understanding of their situation. When consciousness and understanding is raised to a high level then the community will seize the time and deliver themselves from the boot of their oppressors. If they have a need we will serve their needs and attempt to get them to understand the true reasons why they are in need in such an incredibly rich land." *Source - To Die for the People (Book of Essays) – Huey Newton*
This shift immediately raised the status of the BPP’s threat Level in the eyes of J. Edgar Hoover & The FBI. Hoover feared that the BPP would now gain a measure of legitimacy with individuals that would not normally support more militant organizations like The BPP.
In response to the threat, Public authorities made efforts to undermine BPP programs by requiring compliance with previously un-required state regulations.
These efforts-combined with the routine & often violent harassment of Panther Members, violent raids on BPP Offices, Infiltration of local chapters, assassination of leadership, and false imprisonment of others members & leaders would spell the demise of the Party programs. With the core leadership of The Party imprisoned or in exile, the weaknesses of the party were exploited and internal strife eventually brought the movement to an end.
The Black Panther Party’s Survival Programs, and most specifically the Free Breakfast Program, would later be copied by State & Local Governments-which led to the development of the current Head Start & Breakfast programs that our children enjoy today.
We at The WANDERING EYES BLOG salute the Black Panther Party for its Leadership & Intellectual Revolutionary Ideals. While most imagery of the Party centers around pictures of them posing with guns, there were many POWERFUL Intellectual & Calculated Political Paradigms put in place that stand to this day. I recommend that you do some reading & research on Huey P Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Fred Hampton, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Elaine Brown, and Kathleen Cleaver. You WILL be inspired…