Black Panther co-creator Bobby Seale speaks at Pierce College
Former activist speaks on the importance of civic engagement in college campuses
April 23, 2017
Co-creator of the Black Panther movement Bobby Seale drew crowds earlier on April 5, recollecting the origins and creation of the Black Panther Party.
Executive Officer of Equity Diversity and Inclusion Oneida Blagg arranged for the former Black panther to give historical context to the black power movement.
“We received word from the institute of student leadership. They told us that he was having a book tour in this area, so we organized a private college event,” said Blagg. “[Bobby Seale] is a primary source of history. He influenced so much of the 50’s and 60’s and students should see how this still affects students and teach them how to be leaders. He is an example on how anyone can make a change at any age.”
Bobby Seale was born in Texas on 1936. His father was a business owner, where he helped his father in the shop. “My father built our first home. He was a builder,” Seale said. After the war, Seale’s family moved to Oakland, CA, the birthplace of the Black Panthers.
During 1958-59, Seale enlisted into the Air Force and deployed in the Lakota region. “They are not Sioux, they are Lakota. That is their true name. I learned a lot about Native culture, but I didn’t know that much about African American culture.”
After the Air force, Seale went to a community college then he started working at the Gemini missile program. It was there that Seale found his passion in the grassroots movement. “I quit my job at a missile program. It was there that I started this youth tutorial program. We paid minimum wage for young people to re-educate themselves,” Seale said.
Seale started many projects to help alleviate the struggles for oppressed people. “When I was working at human resources in Oakland, CA. I was trying to get those political seats. Those seats and those votes would help give representation for our community.”
He was helping kids learn trades, building things, and gain skills for employment. It wasn’t until a book on black power did his ideas on racial equity come into fruition.
“I had learned a lot about Lakota culture, now I’m learning about African American culture, Hispanic culture. I learned that we were not going to get power unless we got those political seats,” said Seale.
It was until the Watts riots when the Black Panther Party coalition began to form. “After the Watts riot in 1965, where thousands of people were arrested and dozens killed, people were locked up and it hurt their first amendment rights.
At the end of 1965, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Lewis created the black panther movement. “We sat down one night and drew up ten rules, we researched the constitution and the laws on carrying arms, then we started patrolling the police officers,” said Seale. “It was so well researched, articulate, and disciplined.”
The Black Panther Party was an entirely new organization of that time. “We were very neat, ironed our uniforms. We weren’t no ‘blippie,’ or black hippie.” The party began a free breakfast program, free check-ups for sickle-cell anemia, and gave away 10,000 bags of groceries. The party especially motivated people to register to vote.
“Voting rights were threatened, they are still being threatened. My goal was to put people in the electoral machine and to get candidates who advocated our needs.”
Then in 1969, the party encountered media controversy. “We were called the KKK of the black community,” said Seale. Regarding the beginning of the FBI investigation and subsequent shoot out, Seale explained how people viewed the Black Panther Party “They said ‘Shot and murdered from fascists.’ Be a peaceful protestor and they call you a terrorist.”
Now that people have a clearer understanding of the Civil Rights movement, Bobby Seale and other students hope to remove the stigma of the Black Panther Party. One Pierce college student and Social Justice leader Joey Adams asked Seale, “the media painted you as vigilantes, getting attention. Now we know about the FBI, what kept you going against combatting that?”
Seale’s response seemed reminiscent and a little remorseful, “young folks flooded my organization after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, so the party grew the Black Panther Party. Then Nixon talked with the FBI and we realized ‘he’s going to attack us. FBI started a day long shootout with us. We had to survive and we did. We lost a lot of our lives, but we stood our ground.’”