The Black Panther Party, Part One
Author David F. Walker has written graphic novels about Frederick Douglass as well as Shaft. Last month he released his newest work "The Black Panther Party." The book arrives at the same time as the new film "Judas and the Black Messiah," which looks to the murder of Panther member Fred Hampton.
For three decades, Walker has wanted to write about Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party. It is easy to see how the charismatic Hampton, who was murdered as the age of 21, could capture Walker's imagination. But his publisher suggested that people might not understand Hampton's story without the larger context of who the Black Panthers were. So Walker shifted gears and began to tackle a history of The Black Panther Party in the form of a graphic novel.
The book begins by acknowledging how the Panthers exist on a mythic plane where both admirers and critics exaggerate the truth. Walker smartly looks to not just the events of the 1960s that led to the formation of the Black Panther Party but also to a historical context of slavery, systemic racism, and police brutality that were also influences.
While the violence surrounding the Panthers made for sensational headlines, Walker also documents the programs that the Panthers started to help the Black community — from its breakfast program, to health care, to publishing its own small newspaper.
The Panthers famously published a Ten Point Program and while many people have likely heard it referred to, Walker puts the full text into his book.
"The Ten Point program was a manifesto and it was divided into two parts," Walker said. "There was what we want and what we believe. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale put this together in 1966, and all of what they wanted and all what they believed are still relevant today. The 10 things that they listed were stuff like we want an end to police brutality, we want an end to systemic racism, we want an end to poverty, we want better education, we want fair housing, we want all these things that we're talking about now."
Whether you think you know the Black Panthers, or if you know nothing at all, Walker's book will provide a new perspective and new insights into the Black Panther movement. It also reminds us how young these Panther members were and how tragic it was to lose people like Fred Hampton (who was only 21 when police shot him) before he realized his full potential.