Political Education - Oakland, CA

Notes taken from political education

The root of the growth and development of the Black Panther Party has to be the political education that the BPP members taught and learned. I have mention before in articles that reading and studying was heavily stressed in the BPP. A person wanting to join the Party had to attend P.E. classes as a Panther -in training and read 2 hours a day to stay abreast of the changing situations in the community and world. Each one Teach one. Some of the basic reading to start you out was the 10-point program and platform, the Red Book by Chairman Mao and the centerfold of the Black Panther Party newspaper.

My section leader when I joined the BPP was Anthony Woods. We lived close to each other and would get together with other members in our section and study extra material, like selected works of Mao and books by Che and Fidel. We studied military writing by many revolutionaries. I was fortunate to have classes also taught by leading members of the BPP from the very beginning: George Murray who was Minister of Education, Wendell Wade, Landon Williams who was a wealth of knowledge and led by example. Bobby Seale taught classes as well, and when Huey got out of prison I attended some P.E. classes he taught, but the most dynamic teacher of all was Ray Masai Hewitt who replaced George Murray in 1969.

Before Huey got out of prison in 1970, the BPP started to focus more on the concept of Dialectical Materialism and study a more scientific approach to analyzing the world and our situation in America. We held P.E. Classes on Sunday mornings and all had to attend; a must even for apolitical types. The Party’s view was that information is the raw material for new ideas, the more information one received the better adapted one was to solve problems in the community and bring the peoples' consciousness to a higher level.

After Masai was forced out of the Party by Huey (1972), Bobby Seale began teaching P.E. again. Bobby was good but he was not on the level of Masai. Masai made sure you got it, he would only move as fast as the slowest person, making sure everybody was on the same page. He would use good examples to explain his point. Ray would teach and call on you to explain what just was read or said. This method put everyone on notice because you could be called on. Peer pressure is a mother.

No one wanted to look bad, so it forced even the apolitical folks to study. When I was transferred to Central Headquarters, my best friend and study buddy was Eugene B. We studied everyday, asking each other questions and selecting reading materials. We were always ready for Sunday, looked forward to it, and we would be the first ones to raise our hands when Masai asked if anyone wanted to explain the material. It got to the point that Masai wouldn't call on us, because he knew we were down. Masai would even call on members of the Central Committee. It was surprising that some of the folks in leadership weren't down (a reflection of some of the “cronyism” in the Party.)

The centerfold of the BPP paper was also gone over every week to make sure comrades did read the paper. Besides holding classes on Sunday, each branch would have their own PE classes.

In 1972 the Party's P.E. classes transformed into what was happening within the Party. News about the plans for running for political office and other inner-party news were discussed. This was a crushing blow to Party unity. Without political education, the Party begun to lack a greater outlook, an insight to the future. Huey became the main source for insight and the Central Committee became a BIG RUBBER Stamp Group. Practicing liberalism at the highest levels, many principles we learned earlier were no longer in style; they were only given lip service. We once read books from other revolutionaries.

By 1972-73, Party members were reading books like the Godfather, Iceberg slim books, and other bullshit like that. Huey made everyone go see the Godfather. By 1973 the Party was so busy with the campaign that no one had time to study. After the campaign, the Party was lost. For a period of two to three weeks, we had no clear direction. Others may say that's not so, but it is the truth of the matter. Yes, Huey had great ideas, but his practice was lacking or he had no desire to practice what he preached. I loved Huey, but I loved the Party more and I left.

Today I'm over 50 and still see the need to study. I'm glad I had the opportunity to open my eyes and brain early in life.