Black Panther Party and Free Breakfast for Children Program

This morning I’m praying for guidance, to be shown what work to do in these terrible times.

I’m angered and disheartened by the continuous onslaught of negative political advertising. I saw a powerful story about their effect on children who are watching them. And there is the waste of millions of dollars on the ads, and to politicians, to influence their votes.

But more important than all that, this country’s political and economic systems are fundamentally flawed. It makes no (moral) sense for an economic system to require money for all goods and services, and then not to adapt when people’s ability to earn that money is taken away.

We are seeing spectacular failure of these systems to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. So all of the frenzy related to the upcoming election is essentially beside the point. While there will be benefits by electing a party that better serves the people, whichever party wins will continue the same failed economic system. As I have tried to express visually:

As my friend Ronnie James says:

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

One reason I value my friendship with Ronnie so much is because he is actually doing something about this. He told me about the free food store he is involved with. I’ve been writing about how he helped me join in that work.

It started as group of my friends working with the houseless camps some years back. It has now grown into a solid crew that runs a free food store started by the Black Panthers, still work with the camps, we organzied a bail fund that has gotten every protester out of jail the last few months, and we just started an eviction relief fund to try to get a head of the coming crisis, in cooperation with Des Moines BLM. We have raised $13,000 since wednesday and the application to apply for the grants goes live this week.

Ronnie James

Ronnie recently shared the photo and story below about Bobby Seal, the Black Panther Party (BPP) and their Free Breakfast for Children Program. All Power To All The People!

Bobby Seale

October 10 at 5:56 PM  · The first Survival Programs Survival Programs was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, which began in January 1969 at one small Catholic church in the Fillmore district of San Francisco, and spread to many cities in America where there were Party chapters. Thousands of poor and hungry children were fed free breakfasts every day by the Party under this program. The Program became so popular that by the end of the year, the original Black Panther Party set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school.

The original Black Panther Party believed that “Children cannot reach their full academic potential if they have empty stomachs.”

The Free Breakfast for Children Program became so effective, it drew the ire of the director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover who has been quoted as saying that it was not the guns that were the greatest threat but the Party’s Free Children’s Breakfast Program that was the “…greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America.”

On May 15, 1969, in an internal memo, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote: “The Breakfast for Children Program represents the best and most influential activity going for the BPP and, as such, is potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for.”

The FBI’s director J. Edgar Hoover became involved in stopping the Black Panther Party as the party began to gain prominence because of Survival Programs such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program. As COINTELPRO had been established in 1956 to police “political radicals” within the United States, focus and pressure now came onto the Black Panther Party. On December 15, 1968, J. Edgar Hoover pledged that 1969 would be the last year of the Party’s existence. Under J Edgar Hoover’s reign, the Black Panther Party may have suffered immensely, which resulted in many of its members being assassinated or imprisoned, but the Black Panther Party survived the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations that attempted to disrupt and destroy it. (A lot of people are not aware that the Black Panthers won 95% of their courtroom cases.)

The original Black Panther Party developed a series of social programs to provide needed services to the people. Their intent was to promote “a model for an alternative, more humane social scheme.” These programs, of which there came to be more than 60, were eventually referred to as Survival Programs, and were operated by Black Panther Party members under the slogan “survival pending revolution.”

Many social programs today go back to the Survival Programs of the Black Panther Party. And the struggle for justice for African American and minority youth in the face of police oppression is unfortunately as relevant today as it was when the original Black Panthers Party was established.

Bobby Seale
All Power To All The People!

This entry was posted in Black Lives, Des Moines Mutual Aid, revolution, solidarity, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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