For the Women of the Black Panther Party, Freedom Means Survival
Free breakfast for school children. Inter-Communal Youth Institute. People’s Free Medical Clinic. Free ambulance program. Oakland Community School. Although two-thirds of Black Panther Party women participate in rallies and voter registration, newsrooms and grassroots political campaigns, their most direct contribution has gone unheard: more than 60 community survival programs that provide neglected lives. Black Americans with subsistence food, education, and health care.
“These programs demonstrated that freedom is much more than a checklist of formal rights,” wrote Angela Davis in the preface to Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party (ACC Art Books, $45), photographer Stephen Shames and the former party Is. Leader Erica Huggins. Davis continued, “Since the media focused on what could easily be sensationalised, i.e., predominantly male targets of government and police misconduct”, “there has been a tendency to forget that the organizing work that really helped the BPP”. The new era… was largely driven by women.”
The book rewrites the record through images and testimonials of women who have worked for the betterment of the world – as teachers, students, writers, musicians, physicians, mothers, daughters, aunts, worshipers, factory workers and more. started a movement for Community in your hands. Com Sister Cheryl Dawson put the call to action bluntly: “I joined the Black Panther Party because my soul was on fire.”
Lauren Christensen is the editor of Book Review.