Black Panther Party founder urges coalition building and “community control”

LOS ANGELES – On a warm and otherwise typical Saturday evening, Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale spoke to an eager crowd of nearly 100 listeners representing an array of political organizations in the region.

The event, which took place at the Los Angeles Workers’ Center, was organized by the Southern California Chapter of the Socialist Party.

Solidarity and unity were recurring key elements in Seale’s speech. At the podium, the 74-year-old reflected on his days with the Black Panthers. He spoke about their successful community breakfast program for children, not just as an example from the party’s long list of community accomplishments, but as a model of coalition work.

“Ninety percent of African Americans supported what the Black Panthers were doing,” Seale said.

Additionally, Seale went on to say that the Black Panthers enjoyed a diverse support, with many of its followers “young white left radicals.”

“That truly upset J. Edgar Hoover and the power structure … That’s why they attacked us. They came after us … They killed 28 of us by the end of 1969,” he said.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once called the Black Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.”

During a two-hour speech, Seale spoke mainly on the need for community control, such as over the police department, and coalition politics.

“I’m not a socialist; I’m a community control economist,” Seale said. “I believe in community control. Now, talk about the ‘greed control’ of average crooked monopoly capitalists. Your definitiveness, your antithesis to them is greater community control.”

He continued, “Even the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – the Black Panther Party worked with them. When they created the Poor People’s March, we did all the work in Oakland to pack that auditorium with 7,000 people to participate with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s March.”

In addition, Seale remarked that the Black Panther Party worked with several organizations with the main task of uniting the African American community and directly challenging racism.

During their many run-ins with the courts, the Black Panthers worked closely with the NAACP and the National Lawyers Guild for its legal defense team. The team helped the Black Panthers win 95 percent of the cases against them. This success was due to coalition politics, according to Seale.

“Overall, I thought the speech was very informative and highly motivating,” said Juan Guevara, of the Southern California Young Communist League. “Especially working with coalitions; we’re working with other groups so that hit a thread.”

According to the Socialist Party’s Los Angeles website, “The turnout was fantastic, it was peaceful, Bobby delivered as would be expected, and he was seemingly pleased.”

Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton founded The Black Panther Party in 1966 as a response to rampant police brutality and the specific terrorizing of the African American community. After internal disputes and the well-documented heavy FBI investigation, infiltration and covert systematic attack through the bureau’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), the party finally disbanded in 1982.

“We crossed racial lines and we crossed organizational lines. And we learned to coalesce around issues. We learned to coalesce around direction. So the movement [has] gotta keep going,” Seale said.

Photo: Bobby Seale. San Francisco Foghorn // CC 2.0


Luis Rivas
Luis Rivas

Luis Rivas is a native of Los Angeles who lives in Echo Park and works in the San Fernando Valley.  He currently edits the non-fiction online literary journal