by Mumia Abu-Jamal
Today, after over a half century, we can speak out in open praise of female members of the Black Panther Party, members who served with heart, honor and distinction. Whom did they serve? They served the party, obviously, but more importantly, they served their people, working through a slew of community programs, they worked daily to ease human suffering.
One sister, Naima Major, had just graduated high school when she ditched college to join the Black Panthers of San Francisco. Major’s experiences rang true for thousands of young brothers and sisters who were hungry for being a part of a revolutionary movement. Majors wrote the following:
“Devoted to the Black revolution and the Ten Point Program, I commenced with [inaudible] to doing the hard community work required of all Panthers, organizing poor women like myself, planning and supporting free schools, writing letters for people who couldn’t write, demanding decent housing for people who are afraid of the landlord, helping get the paper out.”
That’s the newspaper, “The Black Panther” she’s speaking of.
“Health cadres, food cadres, you name it. Did some dangerous work too, and studied Hegel, Marx, Lenin, Fanon, Mao, like a religious zealot. Mostly, with the brothers, they fought with them over Bakunin and Stalin. Just because I was the only woman in my group, husband gone, baby at the breast, nobody cut me any slack, but nobody molested me either. I had to learn what the brothers learned.” That’s from my book “We Want Freedom,” page 181. Comrade sister Naima Major, San Francisco branch of Northern California Black Panther Party.
Recently, as years passed, scholars feel it’s safe to now write about one of the most radical groups of the twentieth century, the Black Panther Party. What role did women play? They played a pivotal role. Indeed, women were a majority of members of the party. In the newly published book, “Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party” by Stephen Shanes and Erica Huggins, Angela Davis, who worked with the Party in LA, writes that 66% of the party members were women. Imagine that, 66 percent. No movie has dared come close to that reality, right?
And when you come down to it, who do you think ran most of the community programs serving the community? Women did it. They made it happen. And they make it happen today. Breathing life into families. Healing, helping, loving, struggling, still. They enrich our today as they enriched our yesterday.
With love, not fear, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.
“They enrich our today as they enriched our yesterday.” – Mumia