When the Black Panther Party emerged in northern California, Oct. 1966, the images that were projected from that early period were arresting.
Young, attractive Black men and women, armed for self and communal defense, openly cracked through almost all the images that came before, and set a new way of seeing Black people.
Before, we saw Black people praying, marching, weeping or being savagely attacked by the armed forces of the state.
This was, undoubtedly, largely a result of Huey Newton’s conscious planning, for he knew well how media portrayals shaped consciousness. Thus, the Sacramento demonstration, led by Bobby Seale, when armed Panthers entered California’s capital building, hit with the power of a thunderclap. That event, perhaps more than any other, made millions aware of the party, and spurred the first phase of organizational growth in that early period.
This was a breakthrough that charged tens of thousands of young Black people, and attracted them to the party, and marked the emergence of the Black Liberation Movement, a distinct formation from the civil rights movement.
The BPP was an expression coming deep from the hearts of Black people, and it took monstrous state repression to beat it back down, perhaps best reflected in the assassination of Fred Hampton on De. 4, 1969, literally while he slept in his bed.
That’s America in action.
That’s America’s truest face.
That’s how the so-called ‘land of the free’, reacted to the rise of a Black Freedom Movement.