This is a Black History Month like no other. At least not one that I’ve ever seen. I am currently sitting here in front of my television watching PBS as they air The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. I am watching this 10 days post-Super Bowl and White folks learning of Beyonce’s Blackness. I am watching this 24 hours post Kendrick Lamar unapologetically taking over The Grammys and making every viewer, in person and at home, consume both visually and auditorily the post-traumatic stress of today’s Black America. Never have I seen a Black History Month full of such raw displays of Blackness. Untamed, unafraid, proud, and critical statements made during America’s prime-time viewing; honestly, during two of the whitest nights of television in America. Now, I am watching a raw, untamed history of The Black Panther Party being told on a channel easily accessed by anyone with a television, cable or not… during prime time.
This is not easy to watch. This is not easy to digest. I’m taking it all in and knowing far too well how life as a Black woman, a Black person, a marginalized and targeted people is not easy to watch/digest/process/live. I’ve always known of the Black Panther Party. I was taught about the Panthers at home and don’t remember a time of not knowing who they were and who they stood for. I am lucky, no, I am privileged and honored to have had a family who educated me at home before I ever went to school; as it should be. I am a teacher. I am teacher that has watched her school district provide free breakfast for some and now free breakfast for all. I am a teacher who has always known that The Black Panther Party started the FIRST free breakfast program for children in 1969. A program that took almost 50 years for someone to figure out how to make happen again. The Black Panther Party was a vehicle for social change and justice. It was more than just a breakfast program, it was a change agent.
I am watching this thankful for the lack of whitewashing and grateful for the vulnerability and transparency in regards to the FBI’s attacks against The Party. I wonder how anyone can know of this and think that Black folks have made up stories of oppression and attacks. The documentary highlighted COINTELPRO, a secret FBI program designed to monitor and “neutralize” domestic groups deemed by the FBI to be a danger to national security. You know… antiwar groups, civil rights groups, and folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This was not centuries ago. This was only a few decades ago, a few years ago. Some of you reading this have grandparents who were teenagers at this time.
I am watching this documentary, seeing my people hunted and killed for fighting oppression, hunted and killed for challenging racism and I can’t help but think of today. Hunted and killed by a system, not just individuals. The documentary showed the killing of Black and unarmed Bobby Hutton and we are coming up on the eve of the killing of Trayvon Martin. Today, as I watch this, should have been the 21st birthday of Jordan Davis. I am watching this program that is meant to document history and I can’t help but think of today. No one was indicted, tried, or convicted of Bobby’s murder and the same goes for many of our fallen today.
Black people have been targeted and hunted for centuries. Our efforts of gathering together and affecting social change were and are constantly thwarted by the efforts of the government and everyone else to pull us apart, limb from limb. It shows the actual letters from government officials whose sole purpose was to divide and conquer The Party. A million think pieces have come out to both build up and strike down the efforts of celebrities, urging them to become activists and use their platforms to demand social change. Obviously, some things don’t change.
What is it about the convening of people of color that makes others so afraid? Today we gather in public places and we gather online. We fight by feeding the homeless and we fight with our songs. We fight while being attacked on all sides. Fifty years later and we are no farther in the fight for equality than we were then, really… We’re still fighting to be seen and heard and not killed. We have to make account for why a Black woman can play Hermione Granger in J.K. Rowling’s new Harry Potter play while also educating folks on why black-face at your homie’s Halloween party is wrong. We are still attacked on all sides while finding and demanding our spaces in this world.
The Black Panther Party fought then and we must continue the fight now, in every way possible, by any means necessary.
This documentary showed me things that I already knew and some things that I didn’t. It made me cringe and cheer and cry. The documentary makes me worry about what is yet to come for The Black Lives Matter Movement, for those of us fighting injustice on every hand. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking that this post has nothing to do with Black Nerd Problems — I actually have been questioning myself on this. What I do know is that Black Problems exist whether you’re a nerd or not. They exist whether you are on the frontline or not. The Black Panther Party built alliances across racial, ethnic, and geographic boundaries so don’t tell me there was no intersectionality in that. If you’re Black today, you have watched your people die at the hands of police brutality and racism, you have watched your brothers and sisters suffer from the weight of the struggle and of the fight, you have learned and unlearned some of your history and you have celebrated anytime that someone has gotten it right. I’m doing a little bit of it all tonight. I am celebrating this Blackness, this raw and in your face projection of the struggle. I am celebrating while praying that no one dies tonight. All Power to the People.