Black Panther Tours
Black Panthers hope to turn
'60s violence into historic legacy
OAKLAND, California, Jan 14 (AFP) - When the Black Panther
movement emerged more than 30 years ago, it called on black
Americans to use weapons, not words in a battle for equal rights.
Today, a former member is trying to soften the Black Panther's
fiery legacy by establishing a tour to recount the movement's
history in this gritty industrial city that witnessed its birth.
The tour's object is not only to honor the legacy of the Black
Panther movement, but also to "continue the education of young
people -- and hopefully stimulate some interest in creating new
movements," explained David Hilliard, a former Black Panther leader
and the tour's founder.
"Our legacy is truly to remind peole that most of the ideals
that we fought for are still an unfinished agenda," Hilliard, 55,
Formed in 1966 in the northern Californian city of Oakland, the
Black Panther movement embraced violence and revolution as the only
means to achieve black liberation in the United States.
Under the leadership of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, black
Americans took to the streets in the late 1960s, clashing violently
with police. The movement eventually died out, fractured by internal
Touring the homes and streets where Black Panther members
plotted, demonstrated and died was an idea of Newton's widow
Frederika, and the foundation she and Hilliard jointly founded in
The three-hour tour -- from the house sheltering the movement's
founding statement, to the court where Newton was tried for killing
a policeman in 1967, and through the streets where militants lost
their lives -- takes tourists back in time to an era when race
fractured US society.
Hilliard breaths life to these physical landmarks with a
detailed and sometimes tragic recounting of the events that took
The tour will remind Americans, he said, "that America does not
work for most of these people."
When the tour van driven by Hilliard's son stops in front of
1218 28th Street, Hilliard recalls the April 1968 shootout against
Oakland city police that left his friend Bobby Hutton dead.
When he finally emerged from hiding in a neighboring house, "I
saw the fire engines here washing up the blood," Hilliard said.
At a stop sign, a motorist hails the veteran panther and begins
talking to Hilliard and his son. "I knew this man, but I just found
out that he was the father of the young drug dealer who killed Huey
Newton in 1989," Hilliard said later, still registering amazement.
Newton, a friend of Hilliard's since childhood, was a drug
addict during the latter stage of his life. But Hilliard, dressed in
Newton's trademark black shirt, still speaks of the fallen leader
Nonetheless, Hilliard is trying to put a gentler spin on his
party's legacy. "We were an organization with a political agenda,
focusing on delivering services to the people, from decent housing
to education," he said.
"The guns were always overemphasized," Hilliard added. "The guns
were strictly for self defense."
Cesar A. Cruz
To Comfort the Disturbed, and To Disturb the Comfortable
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