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Community Advocacy Organization

Enough is Enough-James Henson "The Young Black Panther Party"

Courtesy Photo-James Henson "The Young Black Panther Party"

Survival is a basic instinct. The dictionary describes self-preservation as behavior or a set of actions that ensure the survival of an organism. It is universal among all living organisms. Pain and fear are integral parts of this mechanism. Pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations, protect a damaged body part while it heals, and avoid similar experiences in the future.

So, why you ask, are individuals creating organizations centered on survival and protection? The police in the U.S. have killed 164 Black people in the first 8 months of 2020! James Henson, a Lansing, Michigan resident, has had enough. Henson formed his version of the Black Panther Party in 2020. Henson’s group is called the Young Black Panther Party.

According to internet research, the original Black Panther Party (BPP) was called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. It was a Black Power political organization founded by college students Bobby Seale (Chairman) and Huey P. Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California. The Party was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982, with chapters in numerous significant cities and international chapters in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s and Algeria from 1969 to 1972. At its inception on October 15, 1966, the Black Panther Party's core practice was its open carry armed citizens' patrols ("cop watching") to monitor officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city.

In 1969, a variety of community social programs became a core activity. The Party instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs to address food injustice and community health clinics for education and treatment of diseases including sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and later HIV/AIDS. It advocated for class struggle, with the Party representing the proletarian vanguard.

Political power and legislative might were organized responses to the Black Panther Party. In 1967, the Mulford Act was passed by the California legislature and signed by Governor Ronald Reagan. The bill was crafted in response to members of the Black Panther Party who were cop-watching. The bill repealed a law that allowed the public carrying of loaded firearms.

In 1969, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover described the Party as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." He developed and supervised an extensive counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics designed to undermine Panther leadership.

Fast forward to 2021. The police are still killing African Americans and saying it's justified. Henson's Young Black Panther Party is a response to a community. "There are people who want to pretend everything's all right, and we are just overreacting," said Henson.

In 2014, Congress passed the "Death in Custody Act." The concept was to get accountability for wrongful deaths in police custody. Despite these efforts, accurate reporting and responsibility have been complicated. An unofficial death count says 1,944 African Americans have been killed by the police and counting. We are not talking about a 100-year count; the count covers around five to six years.

Henson’s group seeks to address many of the same community based needs as the original Black Panther organization. "Being abused or standing by and watching others be abused isn't right," said Henson.

The Young Black Panther Party has a website. The about us section makes the following claims: We fight for what is right. We believe that our freedom means more than anything. We fight for the future of our kids. We fight for elders. They are the library of our history. We are here to help out the black community. We help the homeless and children, not in school. We are here to help keep the community clean. We live to find ways to support people. So, if you want to know more about us, it's straightforward. We are The Young Black Panther Party. We are here to support you. We are also here to help things fix things too. "These are the things we stand for," said Henson.

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