Feb. 11, 1970 veteran photographer Ilke Hartmann attended a Black
Panther Party rally in SF. She came across a teenager walking through
the crowd with the words, “Black Is Beautiful” handwritten on his
jacket. It was still a new phrase, and the first time she’d ever seen it
on clothing. As the teen paused for her photo both he and the Hartmann
were arrested. In the ride to the local jail she would learn that the
young man had just written the words on his jacket before attending his
first Panther rally..
At the age of sixteen, Robert James (Bobby) Hutton was the first recruit of the Black Panther Party. He participated in the march on the California State Capitol in 1967, and his death in 1968 became a rallying cry for the Black Panther movement. A literacy campaign was later started in his honor.
Bobby Hutton was born on April 21, 1950, in Jefferson County, the son of John D. Hutton and Dolly Mae Mitchner-Hutton. He was among the youngest of several siblings. The family lived in the Pot Liquor area of Jefferson County. In 1953, when he was about three years old, his family moved to Oakland, California, after being visited by nightriders.
In December 1966, Hutton was the first to join the newly formed Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a revolutionary African-American organization that had been organized by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. At sixteen, he was the youngest member. He joined the Black Panther Party because he wanted to make a difference in his community and because he believed in the Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program. On May 2, 1967, he was present when several Black Panther Party members made national headlines by appearing armed at the California State Capitol in Sacramento to protest the Mulford Act, which prohibited the carrying of firearms in any public place. Hutton and several others were later arrested several blocks away at a gas station. On May 22, 1967, he was again arrested for violating an 1887 law against having guns on grounds adjacent to a jail.
On April 6, 1968, Hutton was in a carload of Black Panther Party members who were confronted by Oakland police officers; two officers were shot. Later, at a home at 1218 28th Street, Eldridge Cleaver and Hutton, in an incident connected to the earlier shooting, engaged in a ninety-minute shootout with police officers. It was reported that Hutton was shot more than twelve times after he had already surrendered and stripped down to his underwear to prove he was not armed. However, police reports stated that Hutton was wearing a long overcoat and that his hands could not be seen when he exited the building. The death of Hutton was a major event in the party’s history, angering the Black Panthers and becoming the rallying cry for the movement.
On April 12, 1968, Hutton’s funeral was held at the Ephesian Church of God in Berkeley, California. In 1968, Country Joe and the Fish dedicated the album Together to Hutton. He is also mentioned in the following songs: Tupac Shakur’s “Ghetto Gospel,” (released posthumously in 2004), Smif-N-Wessun’s “Still Fighting,”(2007), and Bhi Bhiman’s “Up in Arms.” (2007). His image appears on the cover of the single “Star” by Primal Scream (1989). The Commemoration Committee for the Black Panther Party later organized the Lil’ Bobby Hutton Literacy Campaign. Every year in April since Hutton’s death, family and friends have held a memorial service at DeFremery Park, which, in 1998, was renamed Bobby Hutton Park by the City of Oakland, California.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Rally for justice for political prisoner Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, January 8, 2014.
“Supporters of the Angola 3 gathered at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans Tuesday to support Albert Woodfox. A federal judge ruled in favor of Albert, due to racism in the selection of the jury foreperson, but the state of Louisiana appealed. Over 100 people heard the oral arguments and anxiously await a ruling. How dare the attorney for Louisiana say that any racial discrimination was not intentional even if it could be proved? Racism in the South is so interwoven into the criminal justice system, that his statement was a cruel joke.
"FREE ALBERT WOODFOX! FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!”
This is for my mom who’s white mother didn’t know how to “tame” her hair, who was the only brown kid on the block, who never knew where to fit in in here white neighborhood, who found herself when she was a young woman, who handed out flyers for the Black Panthers, who went to rallies and protests, who taught herself how to comb her hair, who fought through every “oh but you’re not like other black people”, who kept fighting when she married a white man, who helped raise her brother’s kids because he was stuck in the ghetto, who kept pictures of MLK and Maya Angelou in the house, who made sure I seen and read The Color Purple (her favorite book and movie), who made sure my white dad read from the book of African American children stories when it came to my bed time, who raised me to love myself and love who I am and where I come from.
This is for her when she was kid and didn’t know where she belonged.