When I Joined the Party
Panther in Training
In 1968, I was 17 and fresh out of high school in San Diego.
I moved to Oakland in June and signed up for Laney College
summer session. In Oakland in the summer of ’68 it was Free
Huey or The Sky is the Limit. All of Oakland was on edge
and there were daily rallies at the Alameda County
Courthouse, with Panthers in leather jackets and berets.
After attending a few rallies, I found out that my neighbor
was in the Party. Andrew Austin drove the big white van
with the panther on the side shown in many photos. I would
go over to his apartment and listen to Party members rap;
Sam Napier, Charles Bursey, and Wendall Wade.
In August, the East Oakland office opened on 73rd and E.
14th – a big store front office. Victor Houston told me to
come by. I filled out the Party application, spoke with
Capt. Robert Bay, and went to my first political education
class at St. Bernard’s Church. George Murray, Wendell Wade
and Landon Williams taught political education at that time.
I was told that I was a Panther-in-training for 6 weeks.
All Panthers-in-training had to know how to clean and
operate their weapons and many more. Everyone had to have
technical equipment, 1000 rounds, go to the range and know
how to reload ammo.
In the Party in the early days, there was a military-like
structure to the organization. Robert Bay was Captain and
under him were Lieutenants, Officer of the Day, section
leaders and sub-section leaders. I was placed under the
leadership of Anthony Woods who was smart and streetwise to
boot. Under his leadership, I learned every sewage tunnel
and was taught how to reload my own rounds. I studied hard,
bought myself an FN assault rifle 30-06, 10 in the clip
(common at that time), and a Smith & Wesson 357 with a 4”
On September 8, 1968, I turned 18 and became a Panther in
good standing, after being schooled about the rules and
regulations of the BPP and how to conduct oneself in the
community. Huey was convicted of manslaughter that day and
the police shot up our office at 45th and Grove, a birthday
I will never forget.
In our section, Brookfield and surrounding areas, we did
door to door paper selling, collected information about
supporters and problems in the area, attended community
meetings to let the people of that area know the BPP was
there to serve them, registered people to vote, set up
Breakfast Programs, spoke to youth and organized Black
I worked hard and became the O.D. of the East Oakland
office. The O.D. "Officer of the Day" was in charge of the
office under the captain. My duties were to open the office
at 9:00am, assign comrades to various locations to sell
papers, collect donations and do community work. My office
duties were to answer the phone, talk to community people
coming in for help or support, and sell newspapers in front
of the office. I was also responsible for getting food for
dinner when the comrades came in from the field after a hard
day or organizing, and setting up security for the office
and our homes for the night. Somebody was always on
In 1969 I began to pull security at Central Headquarters. A
plan had been uncovered that the police were going to raid
the National Headquarters. We printed it in the papers to
expose the plot. Only the best were called in to pull
security, armed to the gills, we were ready if they came.
After that, I was often called to security duty in many
A Panther-in-training is to conduct him or herself as a
Party member and to understand the Party’s philosophy and
history. A Panther-in-training must read at least 2 hours
per day to stay abreast of the changing situations in the
community and the world. Readings included the Party
newspapers, the Red Book - Quotations by Chairman Mao, The
Black Book – Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah, Wretched of the Earth
and other books on the BPP reading list. There was a great
emphasis on study.
A Panther-in-training had to know the 10 Point Program,
point by point; the 8 points of attention, 11 main points of
liberalism, the 3 main rules of discipline, and Huey P.
Newton’s executive mandate #3. Political education classes
were attended on Thursdays and Sundays.
A Panther-in-training did political work and sold the Party
newspaper, the Black Panther. We had to call in or come by
the office at least once a week. On Wednesdays, everyone
worked on getting the paper out in San Francisco.
By 1970 I was a well-trained soldier for the revolution. I
could hold my own in shooting and military skills. I was
now working out of Central HQ, 1048 Peralta St., in West
Oakland. Everyone working at Central HQ were under the
direct supervision of the Central Committee. I was chosen
to assist in the daily security of David Hilliard while he
was going to court for the April 6 shoot-out in which Lil
Bobby was murdered.
In August 1970, Huey was released from the Alameda County
Courthouse. Our duty was to see that Huey made it to
safety. Ray Masai Hewitt, Joel Durham, Geronimo, and David
Hilliard were also part of the welcome and security squad.
We were not prepared for the 8,000 people outside the
courthouse. When they saw Huey on the step of the side
entrance on 14th street, we quickly turned around and went
out the other door on 12th. The people saw us and we began
to run. We ran about 50 yards and then were surrounded by
over 10,000 people wanting to see Huey. They were chanting
"Huey, Huey." Huey took refuge on top of a car (now a
famous photo). It was a wild, great feeling. I knew what
the people felt, it was a real peoples' victory.
After David was convicted, I was chosen to work with Huey as
part of his security crew. Robert Bay was Huey's personal
security guard. I worked with Clark Bailey (Santa Rita),
Ray Masai Hewitt, John Seale or June Hilliard. Everyday we
made sure that Huey was safe, coming and going to court. We
all had lunch with Charles Garry, the BPP's attorney, on a
A little later, the Party bought a nightclub, the LampPost,
in downtown Oakland. It was staffed by trusted Party
members, of which I was one. During the day, I was
entrusted to work for Mr. and Mrs. Newton, Huey's parents.
I came over 3 times a week to mow the lawn, work around the
house, go to the store and run other errands. But mostly,
Mrs. Newton would feed me and I would listen to her tell
stories about Huey when he was younger. Sometimes Huey and
Rob would drop by. I would try to look busy, but Mrs.
Newton would say, "Sit down and eat your food." I loved
In 1972, Bobby Seale and Elaine Brown were running for
political office in Oakland. I was drafted into the
campaign and selected to be a section leader in East
Oakland, my old stomping grounds. I ran section 7, from
High St. to 73rd Ave. and from MacArthur Blvd. to San
Leandro Blvd. I opened an office on 55th and East 14th with
money raised by Vanetta Molson and community worker, Robin
Hart, from Oakland High BSU. It was a large, modern office
with living quarters in the back. Bobby Seale like it very
much and made it his campaign headquarters. Even Huey would
Eventually, Bobby was in the runoff election. Our
particular section deserves credit for putting out a
superior effort in his behalf by registering people and
getting them out to vote. We picked up people from the San
Antonio Village and Havencourt Public Housing and drove them
to the polls, which put him into the runoff. Special thanks
should go to Louis "Tex" Johnson, Robin Hart, William Cloud,
Tim Thompson, Michael Ellis, Barbara Lee, Vanetta Molson and
the Irby family.
In 1974, after securing donors for the Community Learning
Center, I left the organization due to internal