Black Panthers visit William Paterson for Black History Month

Christie Dix, News Editor

Two women from the Black Panther Party came to William Paterson University to speak on their experiences during common hour on Thursday Feb. 14 in the Student Center. The Sisters for Awareness, Black Leadership and Equality, SABLE, organized the event, titled “Uncaped Heroes,” as part of Black History Month at WPU.

Sandy Shevack, a sociology professor at WPU, and WPU alumnus, introduced the speakers to the crowd of 17 students and faculty.

Claudia Williams and Yasmeen Majid were part of the Corona branch of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and continue to speak about the intentions of the Party today. Their goal is to dispel myths about the Black Panther movement by providing people with historical information, accompanied with their own personal account of the events.

“You saw those images. You didn’t see what was behind the curtain,” Williams said, in reference to the common images of Black Panthers that were heavily armed, wearing berets. “For the undying love of the people is the phrase we used. We know the true story because we lived it.”

The speakers told the crowd how the Black Panther Party, originating in California, provided healthcare, education and clothes to black citizens. They also stated that the Black Panther Party started the movement to check children for sickle-cell anemia.

“Power to the people. That’s where the power lies,” Williams said as an opening statement.

The two speakers began their presentation by reading the Ten Point Platform & Program of The Black Panther Party, founded in 1966. The ten points summarize the Party’s goals for a better life for black people in the United States. The points state that a better life can be achieved through the power to determine their own destiny, access to employment and decent housing, education that includes black history, an end of police brutality, and a fair trial from a jury of black peers for those black men and women already in jail.

After telling stories about their experiences growing up in the Black Panther Party, Williams and Majid presented the crowd with an interactive Black Panther trivia session. They spoke of many men and women that were killed by police or jailed during their participation in the Party.

“These people with brilliant minds are behind walls,” Williams said.

Majid also spoke of the Party’s mistakes in the past. She said that many of the members were young and rash, but proceeded to state that the goals of the Party were focused on serving and protecting the community. She also said that it was hard to not react to the brutality of the police with anger. As older members of the Black Panthers, Majid feels she has gained wisdom and can continue to guide the Party to success.

“We’ve come back out and said we’re not going to be silent,” Williams said. “The Black Panther Party hated no people; what they hated was oppression. We have an international headquarters. What hate group has an international headquarters?”

William Paterson sophomore Ruby Constantino said that she enjoyed the event. “I’m really interested in the Black Panther movement, so if I get the opportunity to learn more about it and meet actual Black Panthers, that is pretty cool,” Constantino said.

This event is one of many events organized by SABLE, EBONEE, Caribsa, Brothers for Awareness and Black Student Union at WPU that focuses on black history this month.

“The Black History Month planning committee, and all the staff that helped out too, they all work really hard,” said Sierra Fields, a sophomore. “It’s going good this year. I appreciate them.”