by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson
A key strategy of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), from its inception, has been to empower the oppressed communities through the creation and growth of programs that serve the needs of the communities and build them into base areas of social, political and economic revolution.
Since beginning the transition from a prison-based organization to the outside and developing its headquarters in Newark, N.J., earlier this year, the NABPP and its mass organization, the United Panther Movement (UPM), have been steadily sinking roots in the oppressed communities and developing Serve the People programs.
Empower the Block
The earliest program, called Empower the Block, has brought Panthers and volunteers out on weekends to clean up trash and educate the people on the need and their independent power to clean up their neighborhoods which the system’s so-called sanitation service refuse to serve.
No Prison Fridays
The next initiative were weekly demonstrations called No Prison Fridays, which developed in response to a prison construction project slated for Newark’s inner city.
In only a few weeks, these Panther-initiated protests grew from involving less than a dozen participants to hundreds, and forced the New Jersey governor to cancel the construction project.
Black August Barbecue
Next came the Panthers’ Black August Barbecue, where NABPP and UPM comrades served the communities wholesome meals and political education through a free public barbecue commemorating Black August on Aug. 31, 2019.
Free water distribution and protests
In the wake of the Flint water crisis, where lead-tainted water was piped into the homes of Flint, Michigan’s poor communities, a similar crisis has surfaced in Newark.
About a year ago, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka went on record with lies projected against public suspicions, that there was no lead problem in Newark’s water, which was proven false by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who sued forcing the release of documents that showed lead contamination in Newark as bad or worse than in Flint.
A group called the Newark Water Commission (NWC) organized protests against the situation and the local government’s indifference and cover-ups. Several times Baraka and Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose dismissed the protests as involving only people from outside Newark, which the Panthers openly contradicted.
On Aug. 23 the Newark water situation was protested at the MTV Video Music Awards held in Newark, where the Panthers helped mobilize hundreds of local demonstrators in collaboration with the NWC.
The Panthers then joined protests on Sept. 21 at the United Nations in New York, alongside Boriqua Resistance against the ongoing US colonization and occupation of Puerto Rico. At that demonstration the groups also called attention to the water situation in Newark.
On Oct. 3, the Panthers helped organize and joined protesters along with the NWC in disrupting Mayor Baraka’s Town Hall meeting. Chairman Shaka Sankofa Zulu of the NABPP directly confronted Public Safety Director Ambrose and was physically expelled along with other protesters by cops.
Two days later, on Oct. 5, Panthers distributed 250 free cases of water and free meals to Newark residents.
Free Food (Breakfast and Lunch) Program
But the Panthers’ most important program involves distributing free food through which it will conduct a free breakfast and lunch program. This program began Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019.
At its Oct. 26 unveiling, the program distributed over 150 bags of groceries to people from Newark’s poor communities. Each bag contained fresh meats, tuna, assorted vegetables, bread, eggs etc. Also distributed were dozens of free cases of water and a number of large cardboard boxes of assorted packaged foods.
The program, staffed by Panthers and community volunteers, will continue to occur each Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and will serve free breakfast and lunch meals.
Free Busing to Prisons
The Panthers are also in the process of launching a Free Busing to Prisons program. This will provide members of the oppressed communities, which have been so terribly impacted and destabilized by mass imprisonment, free transportation to visit loved ones frequently imprisoned far away from the communities.
The role of the NABPP and UPM is not to merely criticize this system, nor simply tell the people that they are exploited, oppressed, played against each other, have unmet needs, and are lied to and manipulated against their own best interests in a thousand ways; nor, as the many opportunists and agents of the system do, to feed them false hope, or the lie that this is the best of all possible worlds; nor that their salvation can somehow be found in the very system that creates all their problems.
Our role instead, as our unfolding programs are setting the basis for, is to serve the people and demonstrate that through their own cooperation and collective power (as opposed to the individualism and competition which the system teaches) they can solve their own problems, meet their own needs, and ultimately free themselves from this exploitative, oppressive, racist order that enables a handful of scavengers to hoard and monopolize socially produced wealth and resources while everyone else suffers.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064.