armed self defence

USA. California. Oakland. 1971. Mojo mows the lawn as Black Panthers (and Mojo’s dog) stand in the yard of the Black Panther National Headquarters. 1048 Peralta Street, West Oakland.

The Black Panther Party was one of the most influential responses to racism and inequality in American history. The Panthers advocated armed self-defence to counter police brutality, and initiated a program of patrolling the police with guns and law books. Their enduring legacy is their programs, like Free Breakfast for Children, which helped to inspire a national movement of community organising for economic independence, education, nutrition, and health care. Seale believed that “no kid should be running around hungry in school,” a simple credo that lead FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to call the breakfast program, “the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralise the BPP and destroy what it stands for.”

Photograph: Stephen Shames/Polaris

“Malcolm X pointed out in the 1960s that no civil rights statutes will give Black people their freedom, and asked if Africans in America were really citizens why would civil rights be necessary. Malcolm X observed civil rights had been fought for at great sacrifice, and therefore should be enforced, but if the government won’t enforce the laws, then the people will have to do so, and the movement will have to pressure the government authorities to protect democratic rights. To unite the masses of people behind a working class anti-racist movement, the following practical demands, which are a combination of revolutionary and radical reformism, to ensure democratic rights, are necessary:
1. Black and white workers’ solidarity. Fight racism on the job and in society.

2. Full democratic and human rights for all non-white peoples. Make unions fight racism and discrimination.

3. Armed self-defence against racist attacks. Build mass movement against racism and fascism.

4. Community control of the police, replacement of cops by community self-defence force elected by residents. End police brutality. Prosecution of all killer cops.

5. Money for rebuilding the cities. Creation of public works brigades to rebuild inner city areas, made up of community residents.

6. Full socially useful employment at union wages for all workers. End racial discrimination in jobs, training and promotions. Establish affirmative action programs to reverse past racist employment practices.

7. Ban the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and other fascist organisations. Prosecution of all racists for attacks on people of colour.

8. Free open admissions to all institutions of learning for all those qualified to attend. No racial exclusion in higher education.

9. End taxes of workers and poor. Tax the rich and major corporations.

10. Full health and medical care for all persons and communities, regardless of race and class.

11. Free all political prisoners and innocent victims of racial injustice. Abolish prisons. Fight economic disparity.

12. Rank and file democratic control of the unions by building an Anarcho-Syndicalist labour movement. Make unions active in social issues.

13. Stop racist harassment and discrimination of undocumented workers.”
- Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, Anarchism and the Black Revolution

USA. Massachusetts. Boston. 1970. A boy affiliated to the Black Panthers Party posing with a gun. The Black Panthers believed in armed self-defence and had adopted a militaristic style. The group had notably developed as a response to police brutality, amongst other reasons.

Photograph: Stephen Shames/Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery