Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Short Violent Life of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer: So Young to Kill, So Young to Die.

On Wednesday, August 31, 1994, Yummy “Robert” Sadifier was shot in the back of the head with a .25 caliber pistol at a viaduct at 108th & Dauphin Avenue in Roseland, Chicago, IL. At 12:30 am police found him lying on dirt and bits of broken glass according to newspaper reports. They pronounced him dead at 2:20 am, on Thursday, September 1, 1994. He was the city’s 637th murder victim of the year.

On January 3, 1993, The Chicago Tribune ran a headline, “Killing Our children,” that read: “In 1992, 57 children age 14 or under were murdered in the Chicago area, felled by snipers, sacrificed by gangs, killed by parents. It was a year for burying the young.”

In early ‘94, when I was just in the second grade and we lived in the Robert Taylor Projects on Chicago’s south side, my uncle came to pick us up from school early because the gangs were at war and there was a lot of shooting. We had to run to our building, shielded by our uncle.

This is the kind of environment Yummy’s growing up in.

Robert “Yummy” Sandifer was born on March 12, 1983, the fourth of ten children born to Lorina Sandifer. His father, Robert Atkins, went to prison three months before he was born and Lorina was a prostitute who neglected her children, according to news reports. On January 19, 1986, they removed Robert Jr. from his mother’s home when police found him and his older siblings in the house alone. DCFS, the Department of Children and Family Services, intervened in August 1986 and turned Robert and his siblings over to their grandmother Jannie Fields. But a Cook County Probation Officer, according to Time Magazine, said that Field’s home was not a nurturing place for Robert. The young Robert found refuge in the streets among gang members as most young black males do who grow up poor, no family, no friends, no education and little opportunity. Yummy joined the gang and racked up a record too long for his young age.
  • January, ’92 – Arrested
  • July ’92 – Prosecuted for robbery, case dropped, witness doesn’t show
  • January ’93 – Attempted robbery, trying to steal jacket, witness doesn’t show, case dropped
  • May, ’93 – Attempted Robbery, key witness doesn’t appear
  • June, ’93 –  Robbery Charge, sentenced 2 yrs probation, he is only ten

Yummy was charged with 23 felonies and 5 misdemeanors in his short life. He was prosecuted on eight felonies and convicted twice; sentenced to probation – the most punitive penalty available under state law, at the time, for children under 13. Even for murder, state law barred jailing children under 13 in an Illinois Department of Corrections youth facility.” – https://newafrikan77.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-forgotten-story-of-robert-yummy-sandifer/

Yummy also used guns, allegedly killing Shavon Dean, a 14-year-old girl who lived next door to him two weeks before his own murder.

“Police hunted Yummy, putting descriptions of him in the paper and pounding the streets for the eleven-year-old on the run. By midnight, August 29, 1994, the Chicago Police were working with FBI agents with 20-30 officers involved (Detective Cornelius Spencer). “Dozens of police officers – tactical units, gang crimes officers and detectives –joined by members of the FBI’s Fugitive Task Force fanned out searching for the boy as far away as Milwaukee, nearly two hours away, where Yummy had a relative, Nevels told The Chicago Sun-Times. The case was discussed at roll calls at every police district in the city.” – https://newafrikan77.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-forgotten-story-of-robert-yummy-sandifer/

Grandmother fields also searched for her grandson. She received a call from him asking why the police were looking for him. He was ready to come home. They agreed to meet on 95th Street but when she got there Yummy was gone. She waited until 10:00pm. The boy never showed. Yummy was murdered at 12am, a sad end to a 77-hour boy-hunt that put Chicago on the map for its violence.

Robert had no mother, no father, and no family to nurture him. In fact, he was abused. He was taken to the hospital at 22 months with cigarette burns on his body.

“There were 49 scars,” said Donoghue at the trial of Derrick Hardaway. “I had to use two diagrams.” There were so many scars on Yummy’s body he could not use the one chart typically used by medical examiners.”

He turned to the streets and was said to be an impressionable kid. He looked up to gang members and was a member of the BDs or Black Disciples. Based on the descriptions of the robbery charges and the witnesses “not showing,” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that the crimes Robert committed were being ordered by older and higher-ranking members of the gang. They had to silence him before the police got to him. “Dead men tell no tales,” said a 37-year-old uncle of Robert. “They put him to sleep.”

How does one judge the criminal life of an eleven-year-old with no stability? I can only imagine how scared he must have been with the FBI and police looking for him.

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As a kid, Robert was small for his age. He loved to swim, draw, and loved cars. He loved Gyros, Chocolate Chip and Oreo cookies. He loved cookies so much so that it gave him the nickname Yummy. A neighbor interviewed says he was bad, fought and broke into people’s houses.

The mayor of Chicago admitted that Yummy had slipped through the cracks. Just what cracks were those? The sharp crevices that trap children and break them into cruel little pieces. Chicago’s authorities had known about Yummy for years. He was born to a teenage addict mother and a father now in jail. As a baby he was burned and beaten. As a student he often missed more days of school than he attended. As a ripening thug he shuttled between homes and detention centers and the safe houses maintained by his gang. The police arrested him again and again and again; but the most they could do under Illinois law was put him on probation. Thirteen local juvenile homes wouldn’t take him because he was too young.

-Nancy Gibbs, Time Magazine

“Nobody didn’t like that boy. Nobody gonna miss him,” said Morris Anderson, 13. Anderson used to get into fistfights with Yummy. “He was a crooked son of a___,” said a local grocer, who had barred him from the store for stealing so much. “Always in trouble. He stood out there on the corner and strong- armed other kids.” (Murder in Miniature, Time Magazine)

“Everyone thinks he was a bad person, but he respected my mom, who’s got cancer,” says Kenyata Jones, 12. Yummy used to come over to Jones’ house several times a month for sleep-overs. “We’d bake cookies and brownies and rent movies like the old Little Rascals in black and white,” says Jones. “He was my friend, you know? I just cried and cried at school when I heard about what happened,” he says, plowing both hands into his pants pockets for comfort before returning to his house to take care of his mother. “And I’m gonna cry some more today, and I’m gonna cry some more tomorrow too.”

According to Yummy’s aunt:

“He wasn’t violent and he wasn’t bad. The way they talkin bout now, that’s not true. He was this and he was that and I know that he was not. He was very short to be his age, he was real short. He was very smart he could draw, he could read, he could write.”

Gloria, Robert’s Aunt, Weekend TV, September, 1994

According to news reports though, Robert was illiterate and personally, I believe it. I think he was smart (as his friends says he used to invent stuff and at 11 he already knew how to drive cars), but I also believe he had no guidance and no one there to nurture him. I believe his aunt that he was smart but I also believe he struggled in school. Coming from a broken home and struggling as he did goes hand in hand with not excelling academically. I wish there was someone there to nurture his intellect. It makes me sad to think he had no one.

Shavon’s aunt, the teen Robert killed by stray bullet, also says in the same video that she never had a problem out of Robert. “He respects me,” she said in the film. She has even taken him on a trip with her. She says, “I can’t say that he killed my niece because I wasn’t there. It was at nighttime and nighttime has no eyes and bullets have no direction.”

Was Yummy innocent or guilty? Did his age make him innocent or did his murders make him guilty? How does one judge the criminal life of an eleven-year-old who was about to turn himself in when he was shot in the head? And what of the two young brothers found guilty of his murder? They were young too and ordered to kill Yummy by the same gang in exchange for their own lives. This story is sad because ultimately, four babies lost their lives: Shavon Dean (14), Cragg and Derrick Hardaway (16 and 14, currently spending their lives behind bars for Yummy’s murder), and Robert “Yummy” Sandifer.

Only Yah can judge them.

 

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On September 2nd, the Chicago Tribune ran an article called Robert: Executed at 11, calling Yummy a Victim and Victimizer. September 19, 1994, Yummy stared out at the country on the front cover of the September edition of Time Magazine with the headline:

“The Short Violent Life of Robert ‘Yummy‘ Sandifer: So Young to Kill So Young to Die.”

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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Dr. Joseph N. Jackson

If you follow me on Instagram, then you are already familiar with this name. You may not, however, be familiar with his legacy. Dr. Jackson is many things: an inventor, businessman, scientist, and humanitarian. He’s the Co-founder of the Black Inventions Museum, Inc. and still invents today. But before we get into Joseph’s life, we must establish some additional facts.

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Lazy Bones Wire Remote

Jackson didn’t invent the remote itself. He improved on earlier inventions, making the TV remote what we know it to be today. Nikola Tesla created one of the world’s first wireless remote controls, which he unveiled at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1898. However, Tesla‘s boat remote was a flop. Another remote version was developed called “Lazy Bones,” and was connected to the television by a wire. The wireless remote control, called the “Flashmatic,”  was developed in 1955 by Eugene Polley.


Joseph was born in Harvey Jefferson Parish, Louisiana the fourth of eight children. At 17 he worked as an oil field tool maintenance help and police. He also went to school while he worked learning how to repair televisions and later owned his own repair shop for seven years.

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In 1961, Joseph received his GED and went to television repair school at night. He also owned and operated a radio and television service shop part-time in Fayetteville, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg where he was stationed.

I found it fun to discover that he was stationed in Fayetteville near Fort Bragg because it was the same place my husband was stationed when he was in the military as an engineer and equipment operator. Also, like hubby, Joseph was honorably discharged from the Army. Great men think alike 😉

After being honorably discharged in February 1968, Joseph re-enlisted in June 1970, working as an engineer equipment technician in Korea. Joseph graduated from the Army Recruiting and Career Counselor School in 1971 and transferred to California in 1973. He was an Army Recruiter and Career Counselor until his retirement in July 1978.

Before his retirement, Joseph also completed his degree in Business Administration at Columbia College and holds a Doctorate in Applied Science and Technology from Glendale University.

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As an inventor, Joseph invented what led to the precursor of the V-Chip, the technology that is used in the television industry to block out violent programs and the creation of the TV Remote Control. Joseph still invents today and has founded Protelcon, Inc., in 1993 to market and distribute, the TeleCommander, the first empowerment television accessory designed to give parents control over the viewing content of children.

Dr. Jackson has had numerous appearances on local television, and several articles published in the “Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, The Los Angeles Sentinel, The Wave” and other local newspapers. He also appeared in “Jet Magazine,” on January 19, 1978. He is a member of The Black Business Association of Los Angeles, The Hawthorne Chamber of Commerce, and served on the Advisory Board at Cal State University of Long Beach School of Engineering.

Dr. Jackson now serves as Patent Consultant to many potential inventors throughout the country.


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Yecheilyah on The Source, WURD Radio, 8/24, @onWURD #onWURD

This week, Black History Fun Fact Friday is going live!

Join me and host Stephanie Renee on The Source, WURD Radio this Friday, August 24th @ 10:25a EST. I’ll be discussing my Black History Fun Fact Friday article series (which is returning soon with some new fun facts, find previous articles right here on the blog. Click here) and the Legacy of Dunbar, the first Black Public High School in the United States. The Source airs on WURD Radio, 96.1FM and 900AM in Philadelphia or online at http://www.WURDRadio.com. You can also download the free app @ WURD Radio. Chat soon! @onWURD #onWURD #Onward #EachOneTeachOne #educhat

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Black Wall Street and the Power of Community

On June 1, 1921, in Tulsa Oklahoma, occurred just one of the worst catastrophes to ever grace the communities of Black people. It was then that the systematic destruction of years of building had made manifest in less than 24 hours. Also known as “Little Africa”, the black business district of north Tulsa lay fuming—a model community destroyed, mansions melted down to the ground, hope stretching its mournful arms forward in a desperate attempt to hold on to its dear Greenwood.

Greenwood is a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was one of the most successful and wealthiest black communities in the United States during the early 20th Century, popularly known as America’s “Black Wall Street” due to its financial success that mirrored Wall Street. During the oil boom of the 1910s, which gained the town such titles as “Oil Capital of the World”, the area of northeast Oklahoma around Tulsa flourished, including the Greenwood neighborhood. Home to several prominent Black businessmen, the neighborhood held many multimillionaires.

Greenwood boasted a variety of thriving businesses that were very successful up until the Tulsa Race Massacre. Not only did blacks want to contribute to the success of their own shops, but also the racial segregation laws prevented us from shopping anywhere other than Greenwood, forcing us to be in support of our own people and thus contribute to the success of our own people.

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Due to the fact that Blacks could not shop anywhere else, Greenwood became the mecca of opportunity to build up what they had been shut out of. Instead of complaining that they were not included in the all-white Newspaper, they created their own (two). Blacks were discouraged from using the new Carnegie Library downtown for example for whites, so they built their own smaller all Black branch libraries instead. Not stressing over being left out of restaurants, grocery stores, and public schools, they simply built their own on the backs of a drive toward honest entrepreneurship.

Clothes bought at Elliot & Hooker’s clothing at 124 N. Greenwood could be fitted across the street at H.L. Byars tailor shop at 105 N Greenwood, and then cleaned around the corner at Hope Watson’s cleaners at 322 E. Archer. The dollar in this community rotated 36-100 times, taking as long as a year before it left the community (today the dollar leaves the black community in less than 15mins).

These were not people who started out wealthy; they were neither businessmen nor businesswomen, but being locked out the whole of society (stripped from employment in the oil industry and from most of Tulsa’s manufacturing facilities), these men and women toiled at difficult, often dirty, jobs. They worked long hours under trying conditions, but nonetheless, it was their paychecks that built Greenwood and their hard work that helped to build Tulsa. In fact, following the massacre, the area was rebuilt and continued to thrive until the 1960s until integration came along and allowed blacks to shop in areas that were restricted before.

Let this be an example of the power of support, not just for black businesses, but entrepreneurship in general. While liking social media posts is nice, it is financial support, dedication, and consistency that ultimately helps small businesses to grow into larger businesses, to support and hire its own, to thrive and to possibly, empower an entire community.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Anna Murray Douglass

Today, we are taking a look at a woman whose husband we know well. Frederick Douglass is well-known but his first wife is not. For the sake of time, I am combining sources from various articles since I have not had the chance to put something together for you this week. Enjoy.


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Anna Murray Douglass

Frederick and Anna met in 1838, when he still went by the surname Bailey and she by Murray. The daughter of enslaved parents in rural Maryland around 1813, Anna was the first of her siblings to be born free after her parents were manumitted (set free). She lived with her parents until the age of 17, at which point she headed for Baltimore and found work as a domestic helper. Over the years she managed to earn and save money; the vibrant community of more than 17,000 free blacks in the Maryland city organized black churches and schools despite repressive laws restricting their freedoms. When she met Frederick—historians disagree on the when and where their acquaintance occurred, but it may have been in attending the same church—she was financially prepared to start a life with him. But first, he needed freedom.

By borrowing a freedman’s protection certificate from a friend and wearing the disguise of a sailor sewn by Anna, Frederick made his way to New York City by train (possibly spending Anna’s money to buy the ticket, says historian Leigh Fought). Once there, he sent for Anna and they were married in the home of abolitionist David Ruggles. According to Rosetta, Anna brought nearly everything the couple needed to begin their life together: a feather bed with pillows and linens; dishes with cutlery; and a full trunk of clothing for herself.

– Source: The Hidden History of Anna Murray Douglass

In 1837, Frederick met a free Black woman, Anna Murray, who was born in 1813. Her parents had been freed before she was born, and Anna worked as a laundress and a housekeeper. Anna used her savings and sold a bed to pay for train tickets for Frederick, which he used to escape to freedom. She also sewed a sailor outfit for him, which he wore as a disguise. Fredrick had tried to escape before, but it was not until Anna helped him that he escaped successfully.

Once Frederick got to New York, Anna joined him and they married and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. They had five children together. When they moved to Rochester, New York, she turned their home into an Underground Railroad stop, providing shelter for runaway slaves en route to Canada.

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Frederick Douglass

As Frederick became more involved in activism, their relationship became more strained. Anna could barely read and write, and felt out of place among Frederick’s friends. His friends, most of whom were highly educated and intellectual, openly looked down on Anna (to his credit, he vigorously defended her against any who suggested she was not a worthy wife). Anna enjoyed being part of the Black community in New Bedford, but in 1847 Frederick moved the family, and as his circle of friends widened, hers diminished. Anna was also tormented by rumors that Frederick had affairs during his many travels. On two occasions, Frederick had women he was rumored to be sleeping with move into Anna’s house, causing controversy between the couple and within Frederick’s political community.

-Source: Real Life Romance: Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray, and Helen Pitts

While Frederick began his climb as an abolitionist orator, Anna cared for their children, born between 1839 and 1849: Rosetta, Lewis, Frederick, Charles, and Annie. In 1847, they moved to Rochester, New York, where Frederick began publishing his newspaper, the North Star.  The gulf between Anna and Frederick widened over the years; she could barely read and write and was rarely a part of his activist life and growing circle of prominent white and black abolitionist colleagues.  After the death of their youngest child, Annie, in 1860, Anna’s health steadily deteriorated. She died on August 4, 1882 at their home, Cedar Hill, across from Washington, D.C.  She was carried back to Rochester, New York, where she was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

– Source: The Black Past Remembered

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Helen Pitts Douglass

One year after Anna’s death, Frederick remarried. His second wife was Helen Pitts. She was born in 1838. Her parents were abolitionists, and she was an ardent abolitionist and suffragette. In 1880, her family moved next door to the Douglass family, and Helen assisted Frederick with his work. She also worked as a clerk and co-edited a women’s rights magazine.

Their marriage was quite a scandal. Helen was white and twenty years younger than Frederick. His children felt the marriage disrespected their mother. Frederick and Helen’s friends were shocked because they felt the marriage was too sudden and because they were worried about the race and age differences. Helen’s family cut off contact with her altogether, and their local society was appalled that a black man and white woman were married at all.

Helen Pitts’ response: “Love came to me, and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color.”

Frederick’s response: “This proves I am impartial. My first wife was the color of my mother and the second, the color of my father.”

-Source: Real Life Romance: Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray, and Helen Pitts


EC thoughts: I feel kind of sad for Anna and I can’t help but to wonder why Frederick, intelligent as he was, did not teach her to read and write. Did she not want to learn? Or did he not want to teach her? We can only speculate.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Dr. Sonnie Wellington Hereford III

Its late but Friday is not over people! Well, not for some of us anyway so we’re going to squeeze this article on in.

Today, we have a special fun fact for you. My maiden name is Hereford and I have a mother, brother, and sisters who still carry this last name. In fact, I’ve met very few people with this name I was not related to. Unlike Johnson, Brown or Jackson (no shade to those with these last names), Hereford is not as common. So when I came across this man online, I was noticeably interested. My mother says that my grandfather, her father, is from Alabama and that Sonnie looks like her dad. This has prompted me to do more research on the man and to plan a visit to Alabama to discover more. It’s possible we had a Civil Rights Activist in the family and didn’t know it. In 1961, Hereford was one of the plaintiffs suing the Huntsville school system to end segregation, and in 1963, his son, Sonnie Hereford IV, was one of the first four black children to enroll in a previously all-white public school in Alabama. But, let’s start from the beginning.

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Dr. Sonnie Wellington Hereford III was born on January 7, 1931, in Huntsville, Alabama. The family had no running water or electricity and Sonnie had to walk seven miles to school. The school, next to a garbage dump, didn’t have a library or cafeteria, much like most black schools at the time. Hereford was a farmer but developed a love for education. Even though his school had no library, the teachers were invested in him as they were in all their students. Though lacking in resources, black schooling at the time was exceptional, involving a strong community spirit and discipline. Teachers took on more than just a role as a teacher but they were also mothers, fathers, and mentors. For this, Sonnie received a good education and decided he wanted to become a doctor.

Sonnie graduated first in his class and applied to the University of Alabama for their pre-med program. However, Sonnie’s application was denied because of his color so he enrolled at Alabama A&M University instead. Hereford graduated from A&M in 2 years and went on to receive his medical degree from Meharry Medical College. He began his career at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville Alabama and went on to play important roles in the struggle for Civil Rights. Not only was he a doctor but he also helped to aid men and women attacked during the Selma to Montgomery march, welcomed Martin Luther King Jr., to the city in 1962 and helped to integrate the city at various establishments. In fact, school desegregation is what Sonnie became most known for.

Sonnie IV was among four children chosen to desegregate schooling in Alabama and on September 3, 1963, Hereford took his six-year-old son to school but they could not get in. Instead, a mob waited for them and none of the other children were admitted to the other schools either. Sonnie didn’t give up, he returned but the school was locked down and guarded every day with armed troops. Eventually, Hereford contacted the federal judge and over time an order was issued to desegregate the schools in Huntsville. On Monday, September 9, 1963, Hereford successfully enrolled his son at Fifth Avenue School making Sonnie Hereford IV the first African-American student admitted to a previously all-white public school in Alabama. That following week, Sunday, September 15, the church bombing occurred in Birmingham killing four little girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Sonnie Hereford continued to go on to inspire change and even co-authored a book, Beside the Troubled Waters: A Black Doctor Remembers Life, Medicine, and Civil Rights in an Alabama Town.

Sonnie died at 85 years old, two weeks before the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Sonnie Hereford Elementary School in Huntsville Alabama, named for him by the Huntsville board of education. The school ranges from Pre-K to sixth grade.

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Learn more about Sonnie at the informative video below!

https://www.facebook.com/drsonniehereford/

http://wjou.org/huntsville-revisited-dr-sonnie-wellington-hereford-iii/

Hundreds attend funeral for Dr. Sonnie Hereford III, Huntsville civil rights pioneer

Huntsville City Schools breaks ground on new Sonnie Hereford Elementary

 

Black History Fun Fact Friday – 3 Facts You Should Know About the Black Panthers

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With the success of the Black Panther movie based on the super-hero comic, I am re-posting this Black History Fun Fact from two years ago based on real life super-heroes for those of you new to this blog (or who missed it the first time around). To understand our present, we must understand our past so that in the future we do not make the same mistakes. The Black Panther Organization actually did more community-outreach than they did protest. The protest is what we saw the most on television however it is not the bulk of their work. They were not a hate group, they were not supremacists and they were not a “black only” group. The Panthers promoted ALL POWER to ALL PEOPLE with an organization comprised of many nationalities of people.


Has history been accurate in its portrayal of the group affectionately known as The Panthers?

In Whitewashing the Black Panthers, Michael Moynihan argues that PBS’s documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard for The Revolution, tries to excuse a “murderous and totalitarian cult” saying, “Almost anything that reflects poorly on the Panthers is ignored or dismissed and no critics of the party are included. The story is told entirely through the testimony of former Panthers and sympathetic historians.”

(Umm, so is every European, Western focused story ever made, but we won’t go there).

Often portrayed as a militant, black supremacists hate group, it’s amazing to me that this group of people wrote a ten-point program outlining the details of their belief system and there are still misconceptions about who they were and what they stood for.

For the record, I did not set out to write about The Panthers based on Michael’s article (I actually came across it much later), or because of the documentary. After doing some reading I decided today’s Black History Fun Fact Friday will focus on three basic principles that everyone should by now, understand about The Panthers. But first, we must cover some additional facts.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – 3 Facts You Should Know About the Black Panthers

The Freedom Movement have always been portrayed as a southern only movement on television and even in some books. Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia are states where trees no doubt bore the remnants of strange fruit. We could see it on the news, the newspapers, and from the mouths of relatives who grew up there. If we didn’t see it, the whole world did when Chicago native Emmett Till went down south and never came back and the whole world saw the ugly face of America. In that time, I am sure, we all had the same consensus on our hearts (among other things): “If only he’d stayed home, this would not have happened.”

This is because seldom did we then, and even today, hear about the racism and discrimination that took place in Northern cities like New York, Chicago, and California. Many blacks, no doubt, escaped the southern states for better opportunities in the North. Still, even this part of history is only a half-truth as not all blacks left because they did not have.

There were many African American’s who, after slavery, suffered tremendously economically but not all of them. Not every black family sharecrop or endure poverty but many families started their own businesses, educated their own people, and founded their own communities. From the Mound Bayou in Mississippi, Blackdom of New Mexico or the famed Black Wall Street in Tulsa it is clear, not all blacks were financially incapacitated. For this, it is only a half-truth that blacks escaped the south for a better financial and economic opportunity in the North and it is only a half-truth that they all left to escape Jim Crow. In truth, many of us sold what we did have to flee North because we were told (both by whites and black elites) that it was better. Many blacks were told that the North was the land of “Milk and Honey” so we sold our land, packed up our families and left the Jim Crow South only to run into the police brutality of the North.

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Martin Luther King, Jr., is hit in the head with a brick Marching in an all white Chicago neighborhood

It was Martin Luther King Jr., who said his trip to Chicago’s segregated Cicero was worse than Alabama and Mississippi. “I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hateful as I’ve seen here in Chicago,” King told reporters. That statement is saying a lot considering what we know about the brutality of these states and had I not been born and raised in the city (Chicago), I’d doubt King’s words were true. But as I was born in Chicago and spent the first nine years of my life in the concentrated poverty-stricken projects of The Robert Taylor Homes on Federal Street, the most segregated and poorest urban city in the United States at the time, I can tell you that what King said was no exaggeration.

The truth is that while many segregationist laws were abolished in the South, poverty increased in the North. Black unemployment was higher in 1966 than in 1954, 32% of Black people were living below the poverty line, 71% of the poor living in metropolitan areas were Black, and by 1968, two-thirds of the Black population lived in ghettos, or impoverished communities, also known as slums. And so, it was for this hushed truth concerning the brutality of northern cities that two young men from Oakland California founded what would one day become the most hated black revolutionary organization of its time.

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Founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland California, The Panthers took notice of the police brutality taking place in their own lives and in the lives of members of the black community. They saw black men, and women, being beaten (some of them to their deaths) and nothing being done about it. They saw children who were malnourished because they didn’t have food at home and families denied access to proper medical care and education. Having met at The Meritt Junior College and being active in political movements there, Seale and Newton came together to form the Panthers. Following the passion of men like Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael, who were against the passive resistance movements of men like King, Newton, and Seale set out to be examples of what they saw was needed.

This leads me to three basic truths concerning why The Black Panthers were started and while I’m obviously not a black panther or black nationalist enthusiast (nor do I agree with their beliefs), I thought this would be a great way to re-introduce to you what this organization was initially built on and the things that they did that rarely made, and rarely make, the news:

Community Protection

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One of the first reasons for the organizing of this group was to assist in the protection of members of the black community. Specifically, the Panthers wanted to protect blacks from police brutality, whether it was literally helping the elderly across the street, being human traffic signals, or literally standing between police and civilians to ensure the laws of California, of the time, were being adhered to. Being students of history and discipline, The Panthers were aware of the laws governing where they lived and they made sure both civilians and the police understood those laws and acted accordingly. Bobby Seale recounts, in Seize The Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party:

“He (Huey) defended himself in court and had beaten a petty theft case, and he was running it down how he got Olsen. Olsen was the dean of Merritt College. Dean Olsen had got up on the stand and testified to the fact that he had called the police in to have Huey P. Newton arrested, and had the police bring Huey to his office because some paddy boy over in the store had accused Huey of stealing a book. Huey explained to me that Olsen had asked him if those were his books. Huey said:

“Yes, this is my property.”

Olsen: “Well, I’ll just keep these books.”

Huey: “No, you won’t keep those books. That’s my property and I’ll keep them myself. You called me in the office for something. I don’t know what you want me for, but I’ll keep my property.” And Huey snatched the books back out of his hand and said, “If you want to arrest me, you’ll have to arrest me, but I’m not going to stand here talking.” And he walked right on out of the office. So, the same thing came up on the stand, and Huey asked Olsen on the stand, “Dean Olsen, why didn’t you have me placed under arrest if you thought I had stolen the books?”

Olsen: “Well, at that time, I just didn’t know my rights as to whether or not I had the right to arrest you.”

Huey: “Mr. Olsen, you’re a dean at a college; have a Ph.D. in education. Here I am a student in the college, learning my rights, and you’ve got a Ph.D., and you tell me you didn’t know your rights?”

(Caution. Dear Young People, I post this excerpt as an example that The Panthers were aware of the laws of their state, not for you to show how hard you are and try and mimic this. You must use wisdom in all that you do. With the number of black men gunned down for nothing, do not try this at home. This was in 1966, this is 2016. I would not want anyone being hurt for trying to mimic the actions of Huey as stated above. It’s important to obey the governing authorities, diffusing the situation if it is at all in your power to do so).

Free Breakfast Program and Medical Care

In 1966, students were not given free lunch like they are given today. Part of that revolution was due to the free breakfast program set in place by The Panthers where they fed children who would otherwise not have anything to eat. The Panthers had a lot to do with why the Public schools offer free lunches to students today. In addition, they implemented their own schools and system of medical care. The Panthers were, in short, of service to their community for no one knows the trouble we see and no one knows our sorrows. Preaching can only go so far, for if a man is hungry physically he won’t hear you spiritually. There must be physical action to accompany the spiritual and that is what The Panthers instilled in their communities: Physical and practical action.

All Power to All People

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I do not want this article to be too long as I believe I’ve said enough, but I don’t want to leave without reiterating that despite all the black, The Panthers were not a black only organization. Having recruited members of all nations they recounted repeatedly that they stood for restoring “All power, to all people”. In fact, they were separate from the black nationalist groups often associated with them and conflicted often with them. In his own words, Bobby Seale states: “Cultural nationalists and Black Panthers are in conflict in many areas. Basically, cultural nationalism sees the white man as the oppressor and makes no distinction between racist whites and non-racist whites, as the Panthers do…Although the Black Panther Party believes in Black nationalism and Black culture, it does not believe that either will lead to Black liberation or the overthrow of the capitalist system and are therefore ineffective.” – Bobby Seale

The truth is indeed stranger than fiction and for that most conscious grassroots organizations have to be deemed cults and militant to prevent, what Cointel pro deems, “the rise of a black messiah”. The Black Panthers were  seeking to empower black people and that in itself is dangerous, for in the words of the poet Brook Yung, “They used to put to death people like me.”

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To learn more about The Panthers, Lilly Workneh, Senior Editor of Black Voices and Taryn Finley, Associate Editor, wrote in The Huffington Post 27 Important Facts Everyone Should Know About the Black Panthers.