Berkeley receives $100K to 'honor the legacy' of the Black Panther Party
The radical Marxist revolutionary organization from the 1960s, the Black Panthers, will be the subject of an academic study conducted by the University of California-Berkeley to discover and honor the group's legacy.
The study is being funded by the American taxpayer via a grant for about $100,000 from, curiously, the National Park Service.
"This cooperative research project between the National Park Service (NPS) and the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) on the Black Panther Party (BPP) is anchored in historical methods, visual culture, and the preservation of sites and voices," according to the funding announcement. "The project will discover new links between the historical events concerning race that occurred in Richmond during World War II and the subsequent emergence of the BPP in the San Francisco Bay Area two decades later through research, oral history, and interpretation."
"Committed to truthfully honoring the legacy of BPP activists and the San Francisco Bay Area communities they served, the project seeks to document the lives of activists and elders and the landscapes that shaped the movement," the government said. "Producing an annotative bibliography that includes scholarly texts, newspaper, and magazine articles will be useful for future scholars of the movement. Equally significant, the project will document how the BPP impacted the visual arts, music, dance, and styles of the 1960s, 70s and 80s [and] will underscore the vastness of its impact on American culture."
"Bay Area sites that shaped the BPP will be identified in an effort to memorialize a history that brought meaning to lives far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area," the agency added.
Request for comment from the National Park Service was not returned.
The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 and originally championed self-defense and the arming of African Americans in California. The party quickly moved to the left, advocating for "revolutionary intercommunalism" and for abolishing capitalism.
Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton introduced a 10-point platform that called for "an end to the robbery by the capitalists of the black community" and for all black men to be immediately released from prison.
The FBI labels the Black Panther Party as advocates for "the use of violence and guerilla tactics to overthrow the U.S. government."
The group dissolved in 1982. The New Black Panther Party was the subject of a voter intimidation case when two of its members stood outside of a polling station in Philadelphia wearing paramilitary clothing and holding a billy club during the 2008 presidential election. Original members of the Black Panther Party say the new group, which identifies as a Black Nationalist organization, has no connection to their party.
Needless to say, the National Park Service should stick to managing campsites and creating Smokey the Bear commercials. I'm sure that 100 grand could be better used to run our beautiful national parks.
U.C. Berkeley can study whatever they want. If they want to "honor the legacy" of what several commentators have referred to as a "glorified street gang," that is their right.
But why use taxpayer money? Can't they get one of their rich, far-left alumni to give them the cash?
Of course they can. But that's not the point. The answer to why they want to use taxpayer money is that they can. Several agencies are standing in line to fund nonsense like this, so why not take advantage?
More to the point is who the Black Panthers were, what they did, and why "honoring" them is such a travesty.
There have been many critiques written about the Panthers – some looking to condemn them, others to excuse their "revolutionary" activities. It's true that the Panthers tried to organize some of the poorest neighborhoods in America, setting up community centers, food banks, medical centers, and what they referred to as "Learning Centers." As David Horowitz explained in his amazing memoir, Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey, the Learning Center in San Francisco doubled as a front for criminal activities.
Those criminal activities included murder. In fact, Horowitz explains that the killing of a couple of close friends by the Panthers started the intellectual process that took him from radical leftist to conservative intellectual.
Horowitz dates the onset of his disillusionment to the time when he used his clout to get a job at the Learning Center for an acquaintance, a white accountant named Betty Van Patter who had worked with him at Ramparts. Weeks into the job, she disappeared; a transparent lack of curiosity among the Panther leaders made it clear they knew where she was. In fact, she had been murdered; her body soon washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay.
Around the same time, Fay Stender, Huey Newton's former attorney, had become the target of a Panther vendetta for her refusal to smuggle a revolver into prison to help the gunman George Jackson escape. One day, a hit man arrived at her door, forced her to sign a "confession," shot her five times, and left her for dead. A year later, paralyzed and hiding from reprisal in Hong Kong, Stender took her own life.
If Horowitz's conscience began to gnaw at him, his colleagues took a different view; for them, curiosity about Van Patter's or Stender's fate was tantamount to disloyalty to the cause. Horowitz recounts how, at Stender's funeral,
speaker after speaker went up to the platform to remember Fay – lawyers who worked with her, comrades who had served with her, friends who loved her. They were political activists who would normally have made a political symbolism out of the most trivial occurrence. Yet ... they had nothing to say about the sequence of events that had ended her life.
It was this silence that shattered Horowitz's world. "If we [progressives] actually succeeded in making a revolution in America," he recalls thinking, "and if the Panthers or similar radical vanguards prevailed, how would our fate be different" from that of the victims of Stalin's purges? "Our injustice, albeit mercifully smaller in scale, was as brutal and final as Stalin's. As progressives we had no law to govern us, other than that of the gang."
The leader of the Black Panters, Huey Newton, met his own violent end in 1989, shot dead in the street by a drug dealer.
The real "legacy" of the Black Panthers is not what Berkeley or the Park Service would like to hear. The left transformed a street gang with ultra-violent tendencies, masking their criminal activities in the rhetoric of revolution and radical chic anti-capitalism. If that sounds familiar, think of Black Lives Matter. Giving a patina of respectability to street thugs began with the Black Panthers in the 1960s and continues today.