Parallel in History: From the Black Panther Party to BOP

By Staff Writer Steve McCutchen

The Black Panther Party(BPP) closed its last remaining chapters and its flagship program, the Oakland Community School(OCS), in June, 1982. In the absence of the BPP and the vacuum of grassroots community organizing, several organizations and groups would eventually appear. Many of those groups had little or no impact on moving the Black community forward in a qualitative manner that addressed the racism, economic disparities, political hindrances, and the educational gaps in achievement and treatment of Black students as part of the micro-environment in general, and the Black community in particular. As the police murder of Denzil Dowell in Richmond, CA spurred the Black Panther Party into action in 1967, so did the police murder of a Skyline High School student, Raheim Brown in 2008, in Oakland, lead to the genesis of the Black Organizing Project. 

As we look to find common ground and continuation, from the period of the BPP to the dynamics of BOP, let it be understood that, as time periods changed, the poverty, mistreatment, discrimination and injustices leveled at Blacks continued, even though the youthful student population, as the numbers of Black youth moved rapidly along the education to prison pipeline, the Black Organizing Project was among the first, and foremost in advocating for an end to the social atrocities that stole the lives and livelihoods of our youth, that exacerbated the loss of Black men and women from their families and communities. 

As the Black Panther Party, through its community base, called for and acted on the failure of elected and appointed officials to welcome and include community participation, so does BOP. BOP has been a visible and forceful presence at School meetings and in the policies, and the disproportionate number of Black students suspended, expelled or arrested, due to over-reactive policies that have long targeted Blacks in the school system and the communities. Where the Black Panther Party recognized that self- determination and control of our institutions is a need that builds and empowers communities, so too, BOP recognizes and moves its membership towards that idea and ideal. The BPP and BOP recognized and recognizes, the power of the people, the masses of people whose support and participation the social and political institutions.

When the Black Panther Party recognized then, that the urban public school systems were broken and did not and would not provide a decent education that was relevant to today the evidence shows that Black students have yet to fully enjoy the benefits of an education and learning experience that enables and empowers them to participate in mainstream society or contribute as they choose. BOP has identified the overly aggressive policies and positions of the public school systems to penalize Black students and has taken a stance to reduce and negate the school to prison pipeline, that has forced too many Black students away from and out of the opportunities for a satisfying, life rewarding journey through their lives. 

As racism, and all of its anti-social, misanthropic by-products continues to pervade the American social and political fabric, the Black Panther Party through its philosophy based on the old African vision that, “ I am We”, and the Black Organizing Project stand rock solid in the commitment to engage, build and empower Black people and the Black community. 

Where tactics and strategies based on observation and participation in the daily dynamics of Black youth and adults defined the responses of the Black Panther Party, now, in this era of social movements and activism, the Black Organizing Project has stepped forward, in the wake of yesterday, to continue the long march to survival and the liberation and freedoms of Black people, and by extension, all of humanity. The struggle continues, in good hands. 

Steve D. McCutchen/ Lil Masai BOP ECCO Organizer 

Communications Committee National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party