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British Black Panthers exhibition comes to Brixton to mark Black History Month in October

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An exhibition presenting the legacy of the British Black Panther movement will be coming to Brixton in October.

Taking place at the Photofusion Gallery during Black History Month, the show will feature current portraits of Panther members and archive photographs shot by Neil Kenlock, the official photographer of the British Black Panther Movement.  A documentary film will also accompany the exhibition.

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The show has been curated by The Organised Youth project, a group  of 13-25 year olds who were inspired by the youthful activism of the British Panthers and hoped to present their history to a new generation.

Lizzy King, Photofusion Community Programme Manager, said: “This important project has proven to everyone that young people are more than capable of working with living history. The group have worked together and across generational, social and racial boundaries to produce a sensitive and informative body of work that will stand as an educational and creative resource for their own and future generations. The archived recordings and images will ensure that we are able to appreciate the stories of the racial and social struggle that went before.”

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The young photographers, filmmakers, historians  worked with experienced facilitators to capture the untold stories of the British Black Power Movement through interviews with Panther members and Black Power activists.

Interviewees include Darcus Howe, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Danny Da Costa, Leila Howe, Neil Kenlock, Liz Obi, Kenrick Goppy and Farouk Dhondy with other interviews taking place in the run up to the exhibition. All transcripts of the interviews will be donated to a local public archive, so that the legacy of this project will be free and accessible for future generations.

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A limited edition book of the transcripts and images will also be available. This project has been organised by Photofusion with funding from the Heritage Lottery’s Young Roots Fund.

The Photofusion Gallery is at 17a Electric Lane, Brixton, SW9 8LA There will be a private viewing  from 6pm -10pm on Tuesday 15th October followed by the  public exhibition from 10am -5.30pm on Wednesday 16th October to Saturday 26th October 26th (8.30 Thursdays, closed Sundays).

 

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The Amazing Lost Legacy of the British Black Panthers

By Photos: Neil Kenlock, Words: Bruno Bayley

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While, in the mid-1960s, the Black Panthers – the famous, American, shotgun-toting ones – were scaring the crap out of white America, the British Black Panthers (BBP) were educating their communities and fighting discrimination. Outrightly racist laws that threatened to repatriate entire swathes of the black population were being pushed into place, and sections of the white middle classes were resentful towards the black community. But the BBP – based in Brixton, south London – helped to change all that, educating British black people about their history and giving them a voice to speak out against prejudice.  

However, despite their successes and influence on black communities in the UK, very little is known about the British Black Panthers. Knowledge of the group – which included figures such as Darcus Howe, Linton Kwesi Johnson and the late Olive Morris – and its aims and achievements isn't aided by the fact that they only officially existed from 1968 till 1972. Luckily, Neil Kenlock – one of the group's core members – took it upon himself to become their official in-house photographer, capturing images of their meetings, campaigns, marches and presence in local communities.

This month, a new exhibition put together by Organised Youth – a group of 13-25-year-olds who were inspired by the activism of the British Black Panthers – will profile Neil's work at a gallery in Brixton, alongside contemporary photos, interviews and a documentary film (click here for more information). I had a talk with Neil ahead of that about the Panthers and their legacy in Britain. 

VICE: So, first off, how did you become involved in the the British Black Panther movement? Neil Kenlock: Well, I encountered racism when I was quite young – maybe 16 or 17. I went to a club in Streatham, and when I arrived I was told it was full and that I should come back next week. Which I did, and I was then told they wouldn't let me in because they didn't want "my type" in there. I protested that I didn't see why I shouldn't be let in. There were, of course, no discrimination laws in those days, so there was no one to tell about this. 

And you were never let in?  My friend and I pointed out that we were well dressed, weren't there to make trouble and just wanted to enjoy ourselves like other people, so what was the problem? We were told to go or the police would be called. We wouldn't go, so they called the police, who then told us that we weren't wanted in the club and that we should go home. I pointed out we weren't breaking any laws and the police told us they would arrest us if we didn't leave. I really didn't want my parents to have to come to Streatham police station and bail me out, so I left. But, on my way home, I decided that I was going to fight against unfairness and discrimination in this country.

Neil Kenlock self-portrait. 1970.

How did you come across the Panthers, then?  Well, some weeks later, I saw a Panther in Brixton giving out leaflets about police brutality and discrimination. I joined them then.

Had you already been exposed to the American Black Panthers prior to that? I'd seen them on TV and things, but I hadn't taken much notice. It might have flashed across my mind, but it wasn't really in my consciousness. It was all more to do with what had happened to me, personally, and that I felt it was wrong. I saw them giving out those leaflets and thought, 'This is what I want to be – I want to fight against discrimination and racism and all the bad things that happen to us.' So I joined. 

When was that? About 1968, just after I left school.

And at that time how well organised was the movement? Was it a unified group or more ad hoc?  It was fairly organised. They had a building they were working from in Shakespeare Road, Brixton and a house in north London. They were having meetings, talking about history and all the societal systems – capitalism, socialism and all that stuff. They were teaching us things we weren't taught at school. Back then, we weren't taught any black history – we knew we'd been slaves, but there was no information about the struggles we had faced to get our freedom. We were taught to be proud of our history and colour. Black people then weren't clear about themselves; they weren't strong, they were submissive. They believed in the establishment, society and the system.

Was the link between the British Black Panthers and the Black Panthers an official one? Or was the name informally adopted? I know, for instance, that you guys didn't condone gun use at all. It was just an adoption of the name. There was informal contact, but nothing on an official basis. They were a political, radical and revolutionary party. We were a movement – we were never interested in gaining seats in Parliament or behaving like a political party. We were a movement aiming to educate our communities and to fight injustice and discrimination. That was our mantra. America was just coming out of segregation then, while we never had it. So there was a huge difference between our problems and theirs. 

What were the issues that the British Black Panthers were combating, specifically? While we were another large black population, we had no segregation here. But it was difficult for us to get adjusted to this country, and there were cultural clashes for us, too. Our parents weren't given good jobs, only menial tasks, factory jobs – there were no real black professionals in Britian. The challenge here was to get a fair deal, to climb that ladder. 

There was also a cultural issue, and if I was to blame anyone for that it would be the British middle class and the political class, because they didn't educate the working-class British about the history of black people. They weren't told that we were taken from Africa, that we were actually slaves for this country for over 300 years. And at the end of slavery, plantation owners were compensated, while we got nothing, not even an apology. So, in those days, we believed we had a right to be in this country – we had helped build this country and we deserved some benefits from that. We felt we had a right to share in the profits, while British people felt, 'Why are they here taking our jobs?' 

A protester is arrested by police.

So the Panthers were there to educate people about all that? Yeah, the middle and political classes did nothing to explain the situation. That was what we were trying to get across – that we deserved to be here and we needed laws that reflected that. At the time, they were trying to repatriate us. It was outrageous – you can't take us from Africa, enslave us, and after we've built the country up after the war, tell us to go back. No. That's not on. 

How much did you interact with other rights groups? Anti-fascists, for example? Or were you fairly insular at the time?  We had some links with the Socialist Workers and other left-wing groups, and there were many intellectuals who were funding the Panthers – as well as actors and actresses and the like. Left-leaning people were supporting us. We weren't "racist" as such, but we decided that all our members should be black because we were there to educate and advance black people. We felt we needed to be able to sit together and talk about our situation and our history, and to do so in confidence without interruption.

The British Black Panthers eventually dissolved into numerous other groups – what caused that? Was it planned? The British Black Panthers, in my opinion, came into being as a result of the discrimination that many students from the Commonwealth faced. Back then, the best students from the Commonwealth were sent to Britain to be educated. Many of those who associated with the Panthers were those sorts of people; they had never encountered discrimination in their own countries, where they were the sons or daughters of the middle classes. So when they got here for university, they discovered this inequality and decided to fight against that, but they needed support in our communities, so they came to Brixton and met people like me who shared these challenges, and we worked together.

After we'd educated these students and our communities, lots of the students returned to their countries – in many cases to positions of leadership. We were left with lots of the things we'd been campaigning for actually being achieved. The repatriation bill was quashed, the idea of deportation was gone and the movement just dissolved – not in an organised way, but people just stopped coming around and stopped doing things.

So the dissolving of the BBP was a reflection of its success, to an extent? Yes. I think we helped to change the way we were perceived in this country. And many of those students who were set to return to the Commonwealth had good jobs waiting for them back home, in government, legal practice and so on – they no longer wanted to risk their future careers by being involved with us.

What do you think the core legacy of the Panthers in Britain was?  The Black Panther movement was a secretive movement, yet it had a great impact on discrimination in this country. The legacy is in all the proposed laws regarding deportation being quashed. We made sure the government were properly educating our children. Lots of black children back then were educated in subnormal schools – those things were quashed, too. There were a lot of successes, but they weren't really attributed to the Black Panthers, even though they were the work of the Panthers. It's a hidden story – that's why it's important that these photos exist. Without them, it would have been difficult to tell this story, especially to young people. The legacy of the photos themselves is important.

Were you aware when taking these photos that they would become an important document in Britain's social history?  It was very conscious. When I joined the Panthers, it was a reaction to how I was treated. I felt that this was what I could do for the Panthers. I could record their meetings, their marches, their efforts. Many of the photos were used in our meetings and so on. It was a conscious contribution to the movement. 

Great, thanks Neil.

Neil Kenlock's photos of the British Black Panther movement will be exhibited at the Photofusion Gallery at 17a Electric Lane, Brixton, SW9 8LA. The public exhibition will run from Wednesday, October 16th to Saturday, October 26th. (Regular opening hours are 10AM till 5.30PM, although you'll be allowed in till 8.30PM on Thursdays. It's closed Sundays.) Click here for more details.

Additionally, 100 copies of a book by Organised Youth – The British Black Panthers and Black Power Movement – will also be available for £20.

Click through to see more of Neil Kenlock's amazing photos of the British Black Panthers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins

 

AFRICAN AMERICA IS AT WAR

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICA

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICANS

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

AMERICA'S RACISTS HAVE INFILTRATED AMERICAN POLICE FORCES TO WAGE A RACE WAR AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

THE BLACK RACE IS AT WAR

FIRST WORLD WAR:  THE APPROXIMATELY 6,000 YEAR WORLD WAR ON AFRICA AND THE BLACK RACE

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Wow!  My memories of the black panthers in America...in my neighborhood back in the day is NOT good.  I never saw them as the heroes for the black community.  It was about power and women.  In that order.   And my question is again.  Where are they NOW?  And where were they during the explosion of crack cocaine and gangs?  How come they didn't come to our rescue then?  Why alllllll know why.    But!

  Yes I'm serious.  I didn't stuttter when I said it.  I don't have to google anything....I was THERE!!!!  What about YOU?  Were you there?  You're so busy trying to throw me under the bus....ANSWER THE QUESTIONS.  Where are the Black Panthers now and where were they DURING the crack cocaine and gang banging explosion in the black community?  Don't fillabuster me. I am very CLEAR on the questions I'm asking.  Got any answers?  Didn't think so. But!  

Last edited by Kocolicious

Because what you are stating is in the main ridiculous. The Black Panthers were smashed for various reasons, mainly external, but some internal before crack cocaine was even invented. Here, some who are still around hold reunions: http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-We-Want-Believe-Panther/dp/B000ILYYPS/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1399471211&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Black+Panther+what+we+say

Contact them. Where I was or wasn't is irrelevant.

Contact them.

 

 I don't NEED to contact them.  As I said earlier?  I was there.  So any other stuff to ME? Is hearsay.

 

Where I was or wasn't is irrelevant

 

Nope.  That's where you are wrong!  It is VERY relevant.  Don't believe me?  Talk to those who were apart of it...thinking in some small way that they were contributing and protecting their community.  But what it really was where I was?  Was total and complete contamination...well the beginning of contamination in our community.  They weren't there to HELP!  They were there to FLEX their empty power and get women.  Bottom line.  And as kneegrows do....they thought they could challenge massa with their plastic guns and leather coats while massa had his bombs, deadly arsenals that were DESIGNED to wipe black folks out.  And guess what?  It DID!!!  Black panthers think just cuz they FED their OWN children BREAKFAST in their OWN community[they didn't have to do that if there were no absentee fathers]....and they thought doing that deed made them HEROES!  Well I'm here to tell ya that it didn't.  What it did was create a dangerous and long term prelude to crack cocaine and gang banging which by the way?  QUICKLY followed.  So unless you were there to see the fatal collapse in the black community[as we were slowing rising up economically, socially and educationally]....everything you're saying is merely conjecture.  But! 

Last edited by Kocolicious
Originally Posted by Kocolicious:

  Yes I'm serious.  I didn't stuttter when I said it.  I don't have to google anything....I was THERE!!!!  What about YOU?  Were you there?  You're so busy trying to throw me under the bus....ANSWER THE QUESTIONS.  Where are the Black Panthers now and where were they DURING the crack cocaine and gang banging explosion in the black community?  Don't fillabuster me. I am very CLEAR on the questions I'm asking.  Got any answers?  Didn't think so. But!  

 

Crack Epidemic happened in the late 80s. Black Panthers were disbanded by 1982. The Black Panthers were a flash in the pan by the mid 70s they were on the downhill, due to COINTELPRO, infighting, and outrageous violence.

 

Black Panthers no longer existed by the time the invention of crack.

 

What you have is various offshoots of the Black Panthers and various attempts of revival. 

 

The Crips and Bloods were an attempt to revive the Black Panthers but they descended into a street gang. Crips and Bloods was created to combat White gangs and police brutality. 

 

The Black Guerrilla Family, a prison gang that became compromised of Black Panthers in prison. The Black Liberation Army was a paramilitary organization created by Black Panthers and full of former Black Panthers.

 

 The Black Panthers are important because it was the first attempt by Africans in the USA, to establish a nation state. It has public relations, defense, a form of welfare, and etc. People of African descent in Brazil had us beat by almost a 300 years with their slave republics. 

 

The Black Panther Party experiment didn't work out but at least they were brave enough to try while everybody else sang Cumbaya or was simply talking about a nation state (Nation of Islam), the Panthers attempted to create one. 

 

Last edited by GoodMan

 

Crack Epidemic happened in the late 80s. Black Panthers were disbanded by 1982. The Black Panthers were a flash in the pan by the mid 70s they were on the downhill, due to COINTELPRO, Infighting, outrageous violence.

 

Black Panthers no longer existed by the time the invention of crack.

 

What you have is various offshoots of the Black Panthers and various attempts of revival. 

 

The Crips and Bloods were an attempt to revive the Black Panthers but they descended into a street gang. Crips and Bloods was created to combat White gangs and police brutality. 

 

The Black Guerrilla Family, a prison gang that became compromised of Black Panthers in prison. The Black Liberation Army was a paramilitary organization created by Black Panthers and full of former Black Panthers.

 

  Not where I come from.  The crack epidemic began in the EARLY 80s in conjunction with the gang banging crisis.  The Panthers were having trouble publically in the late 70s and early 80s WHERE I COME FROM.  While they were here?  Didn't do a DAMN thang but make the black community from WHERE I COME FROM...miserable...and created the fear of black on black EYE contact.  So!  As I said before without STUTTERING a word....where I come from?  The Black Panther Party did NOTHING but CONTAMINATE the black community....and we HAVEN'T been the SAME since.  But!

Last edited by Kocolicious
Originally Posted by Kocolicious:

  Not where I come from.  The crack epidemic began in the EARLY 80s in conjunction with the gang banging crisis.  The Panthers were having trouble publically in the late 70s and early 80s WHERE I COME FROM.  While they were here?  Didn't do a DAMN thang but make the black community from WHERE I COME FROM...miserable...and created the fear of black on black EYE contact.  So!  As I said before without STUTTERING a word....where I come from?  The Black Panther Party did NOTHING but CONTAMINATE the black community....and we HAVEN'T been the SAME since.  But!

Panthers were dead by '82. Crack was around '84. Like I said, Huey Newton led Black Panthers died with him. 

 

What you most likely experienced were offshoots and revivals or street gangs affiliated with the Black Panther Party.

 

For the most part, the Black Panthers came from the lowest form of Black life, it wouldn't surprise me if some of their members were in the drug trade or pimping. Or if they were affiliated with those types. 

 

But the BP was dead officially dead in 82. 

Exactly as I was trying to say GoodMan. The Black Panthers were gone by the mid 70s even if unofficially they weren't disbanded till 1982. There were a lot of good people in the early carnations and they did a lot of good in promoting black pride and with breakfast clubs etc. The reasons for drugs and gangs in all communities and especially the black ones are complicated and stem mainly from poverty and desperation which the Black Panthers were attempting, perhaps naively, to end. They were an interesting phenomenon and the real issue is why were the authorities so keen to destroy them? COINTELPRO and the allegation (backed up with some evidence) that the CIA/authorities helped flood the ghetto with drugs to stop them organising. How much truth is in that we will probably never know though they did find it to be partly true (blaming rogue agents). 

 

Also the above article was actually about the British Black Panthers who were a completely different organisation if you read the article.

I live in the UK and went to the exhibition which was marvellous.

Last edited by Adrian

That was part of the COINTELPRO plan/policy. That isn't conspiracy theory either it's well documented now.

 

Also we can speak about the FBI collusion in the assassination of the very eloquent Fred Hampton in 1960 in Chicago.

 

The Black Panther Party was a broad church with many good and many bad people associated with it.

 

To blanket condemn them or blame them for the problems in black communities of the 80s and 90s (as was done by Kokolicious is very lazy and ignorant thinking which is why I felt the need to counter it). There is amble research out there to draw on that would refute that almost entirely. There have always been severe problems in 'ghetto' communities, and they are to do with lack of opportunity which come from poverty and racism, poor education, bad housing, etc. etc. You find that in the UK also, where I am from, which never had the Black Panther Party (certainly not in the form of the US version anyway).

Last edited by Adrian

To blanket condemn them or blame them for the problems in black communities of the 80s and 90s (as was done by Kokolicious is very lazy and ignorant thinking which is why I felt the need to counter it). There is amble research out there to draw on that would refute that almost entirely. There have always been severe problems in 'ghetto' communities, and they are to do with lack of opportunity which come from poverty and racism, poor eduication, bad housing, etc. etc. You find that in the UK also, where I am from, which never had the Black Panther Party (certainly not in the form of the US version anyway).

 

First of all.  My name is spelled. K. O. C. O. L. I. C, I. O. U. S.  Since you are soooooo smart that won't be DIFFICULT for you to remember.  Secondly....Excuse me sir!  Don't minimize my EXPERIENCE with the black panthers in my neck of the WOODS. Who are YOU?    Don't give a fock about RESEARCH by academic scholars who were tooo scared to step foot in BLACK NEIGHORHOODS that the black panthers contaminated.  I was THERE!  Were YOU?    

 

Additionally, I don't NEED documented HEARSAY to justify what I'm saying.  All one has to do is look at what HAPPENED to my community-which was up and rising before the civic interference of the so-called black panthers.  Yes there were poverty, housing problems etc....but!  The civil rights movement just occurred less than a decade before.  So how long do you think it would take to move forward from the Jim Crow era? Maybe you don't know but black LIFE is not a five minute commercial.  It takes TIME to evolve out of HELL.  And no matter what YOU say the black panthers didn't have what it TOOK to get us out that by funding breakfast.  All they did?  Was inspire gangs and drugs that was mandated by massa.   .

 

But my main QUESTION.  Who ARE you?  To step to me and call me LAZY and ignorant?  You don't KNOW me.  I can easily CALL you an arrogant steppin fetchin asshole with no REAL balls to protect your OWN community and only responded to the black community AFTER the fact.Were there first hand?  . Were you?  And by what I read here?  It's clear you were NO WHERE near it when it was occurring.  You are going by what others are saying[from books videos etc].  It just the polar opposite of how there are those who wasn't there believe it wasn't a holocaust-even though there were pictures and films.  But the empathy level regarding the both events were at a low level sprinkled with the "stinking thinking" syndrome which says "I believe what I wanna believe and not believe what may or may not be true."  .   

 

But the bottom line my friend....I don't give a sweet fock what YOU think about I say about my EXPERIENCE and KNOWLEDGE.  You come here on board and insult me and you DON'T EVEN KNOW ME.  We have NEVER engage in a convo.  So you aint gonna come in here and wipe your focking BOOTS on me with YOUR side show bullshyte.  And by the way, don't care if you believe me or not-wasn't talking to you in the first place....AND most importantly YOU ARE NOT THE LEADER IN MY LIFE...so I really care less what you think about what I've said.  But I had to let you know....ONE: how to spell my name cuz apparently you think you can MISSPELL IT while attempting to dismiss what I said about the black panthers at the same time-NOT and TWO you have the GAUL to try to MAXIMIZE what you say as if you have some BIG BRAIN that knows everything while corralling to minimize and dismantle what I say as if you are an AUTHORITY of black panthers 101-which you are NOT!  

 

So don't get it twisted my brotha.  I ain't the ONE!   As a matter of fact, it is REAL apparent what kind of person YOU ARE!!!!  A disrespectful below the curb FOOL!!  That's you.  .   By the way, you can FEEL the need whenever you want.... JUST know I have a voice...and will USE it anytime you feel the sensation to disrespect ME and talk out the side of your focking mouth about anything I say here on this board. It's MY experience.  Not yourn.  So let's be clear so you won't EVER get it twisted...your opinions about my commentaries means zero to me cuz the fact is?  You are nothing to me and will NEVER be anything to me but mere words on a message board.  Just so you know.  But! 

I said it was lazy and ignorant thinking. Nothing you say there makes me think I am wrong. Proper research is not hearsay. The fact all you will believe is your own experience shows you are not open to reasoned debate on the subject. First off the article you add your comments to has nothing to do with the US Black Panther Party. So it's not relevant. Then you write condemnation of an organisation it appears you know little about. Perhaps some elements of the BBP were involved in wrong doing. That does not condemn the whole. They are an important part of black history. To dismiss them in this way was lazy. I am not the only person pointing that out. Go find out for yourself by reading up on the subject. 

 

Who are these Black Panthers from your neck of the Woods? They disbanded in 1982. So to who to you refer?

 

 

Last edited by Adrian

Huey Newton led Black Panthers died with him. 

 

 

  Huey newton died in 1989.  If the black panthers dismantled in 1982 how could they have collapsed seven years later?  Can't be both, my brotha.  Get it right...now.    Or...do you mean it collapsed with Huey started smoking his own crack?    If so?  That's completely DIFFERENT scenario.  But!

Last edited by Kocolicious
How many emoticons can one person put in a post? To answer the above question. Yes Huey died in 1989. What I presume they meant was by the end of the 70s the leadership of the Panthers was not what it had been. The original earlier carnation did achieve a lot. The whole thing died in the mid 70s when that leadership was killed, put in prison or fled abroad. By 1982 it was officially dead, but it was dying from the early 70s onwards.
 
They achieved a lot. To overthrow 500 years of oppression won't take 10 years. And whilst the economic system stays the same most of the problems will remain.  
 
I notice you don't posit any remedies yourself? They at least did something. They gave pride to some who never felt it previously.

  Check this out!  Just cuz you say it's so?  Doesn't mean that it is.  You can SAY whatever the hell you want.  It will NOT however CHANGE my perceptive.  Not one bit.  So go kick rocks whydontcha.  Cuz I see you don't KNOW the first THING about RESPECT. And to answer your question as to how many emoticons one can put in a post?  As MANY AS ONE  WANTS!!!

 

P S I don't have to  PROVE anything to YOU.  I am VERY....EXTREMELY comfortable with the contribution I gave my community!  What about YOU?  What have you DONE to mitigate the MESS the black militants brought to our ALREADY broken community?    I mean since you're throwing stones.  

Last edited by Kocolicious

Kocolicious

 

“Yes I'm serious. I didn't stuttter when I said it. I don't have to google anything....I was THERE!!!! What about YOU? Were you there? You're so busy trying to throw me under the bus....ANSWER THE QUESTIONS. Where are the Black Panthers now and where were they DURING the crack cocaine and gang banging explosion in the black community? Don't fillabuster me. I am very CLEAR on the questions I'm asking. Got any answers? Didn't think so.”

 

 

The Black Panther Party and what they stood for were long gone by the time of the crack epidemic and murderous gang proliferation in California. In fact, Huey Newton himself fell victim to crack cocaine. Today, the Black Panther Party is barely a shell of what they once were.

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