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Minister Hashim Nzinga
This is not the Black Panther Party of old—although Party leaders recognize the “tremendous work” that the original Party has done.
This is the New Black Panther Party (“NBPP”)—founded in Dallas, Texas in 1989. And, although the NBPP upholds many of the same principles as the original Party (anointing Black history, educating Black youth, empowering Black people), there are some clear differences between the two.
“Most of your original Panthers were college students…on White college campuses; who were being discriminated against; and who had become educated, and were understanding the dynamics of the European in America,” says Minister Hashim Nzinga, National Chief of Staff for the NBPP.
The NBPP’s leadership, however, has been comprised primarily of individuals with Ph.D’s, Jurisdoctorates, and other post graduate degrees. In fact, the Party’s current Chairman, Malik Zulu Shabazz, is an attorney who attended Howard University School of Law, and was once named “Young Lawyer of the Year” by the National Bar Association—the largest Black bar association in the country.
The second most notable difference between the parties is that the NBPP requires party members to practice some form of religion. “When you study the original Party…they didn’t participate in religion….[but] you’re going to have some kind of religion if you’re in the New Black Panther Party…” says Minister Nzinga. “We don’t care if you’re Buddhist; we don’t care if you’re Christian; we don’t care if you’re Muslim…[And] in twenty years, we ain’t lost one soldier.”
The most fundamental distinction between the NBPP and the original Black Panthers, however, is that the original Party allowed Whites to become members while the NBPP does not.
Minister Nzinga’s explanation for this Party position, while controversial to some, is grounded in the history of the original Party. “[The White Panthers] didn’t get jailed…[they didn’t get killed…they didn’t get chased out of the country into Africa…]” explained Minister Nzinga. “…[And] if you can’t die; if you can’t cry; if you can’t get chased out of the country; if you can’t get jailed; then you ain’t equal with me, and you ain’t gonna be in my organization.”
Despite the grumblings of a few former Panthers who oppose the NBPP’s exclusion of White members [and certain other Party positions], many of the original Panthers have conveyed their support to the NBPP. “We have been blessed that many many of the original Panthers have worked with us, side by side,” said Minister Nzinga.
And besides, the Party is not concerned about its opponents. “We’d rather be a naked truth than a dressed up lie,” says Minister Nzinga.
Indeed, the NBPP has more pressing work to do—like continuing the fight started by the original Black Panther Party—a fight that was brutally and prematurely ended by COINTELPRO, an FBI program, directed by J. Edgar Hoover between 1956 and 1971, which, as described by Wikipedia, was “aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.”
“COINTELPRO broke up the Panther organization. Turned them against each other. Separated them…had them fighting with each other. They went after the Black Panther Party seriously,” Minister Nzinga explains.
Now—in its twenty-first year of existence, the NBPP continues the work of the original Panthers, but has adjusted some of its focal points in order to address the issues that plague the Black community today.
“One of the largest issues we have is the criminal justice system. It has absolutely given us a shot of Novocain. And it has stripped our community of the best minds, and the future leaders. Our children are going to jail by the busloads,” states the earnest Minister Nzinga. “Just like you can buy a La Quinta Inn, you can buy a prison. And in return, America promises you that they will keep it full…Every Black man with anything that looks like a tobacco joint goes to jail now…And they’re stripping us of our warriors, of our scientists, of our doctors…”
To counteract the industrialization of the United States prison system, and those other systems which the NBPP believes has failed the Black community (family, church, education), the NBPP places a strong emphases on reaching out to the youth—putting on initiatives, forums, community meetings, and other events.
The NBPP is sponsoring one such event this weekend: The National & International Day of Action & Unity—an event which will be taking place in sixty cities throughout the United States, including Stone Mountain, Georgia; Brooklyn, New York; and Los Angeles, California.
“When we do these forums, we teach and teach and teach. We change the lives of young people…Then they get in classes, and colleges, and they study books that they wouldn’t have been told to read, things they lied about forever,” says Minister Nzinga.
Hundreds of educators, doctors, students, and entertainers are slated to participate in panel discussions and forums throughout the country—including some notable figures in hip hop.
“We love hip hop,” Minister Nzinga expressed. “We love hip hop for several reasons. We love it because these brothers and sisters express themselves from the bottom of their heart, wrong or right. And when you really listen to them, they are telling the story of the hood. If you don’t like what they’re saying, you need to change the conditions of the hood.”
And the hip hop community has reciprocated the love. When the NBPP was having problems financing the Million Youth March in Harlem, New York—the largest NBPP event to date—Master P stepped in, and financed the march through his not-for-profit foundation.
“Master P wrote the $162,000.00 check,” said Minister Nzinga.
“…We influence the hip hoppers…Rick Ross [recently performed at a concert] and screamed out Bobby Seale’s name. Most kids in the hip hop world don’t even know who Bobby Seale is, but now they’re trying to find out because Rick Ross said his name…”
There is no doubt about it. The New Black Panther Party prides itself on its origins, the history of the Black Power Movement, and the work of the original Black Panthers. But the NBPP stands ready, willing, and able to move forward into the future.
For more information about the New Black Panther Party or the National & International Day of Action, visit http://dayofactionmovement.org.
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