CI: The Black Panther Party’s Living Legacy –Touring Oakland and Berkeley with Billy X Jennings Part 1

February 06, 2013 at 7:02 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

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Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

The Black Panther Party’s Living Legacy –Touring Oakland and Berkeley with Billy X Jennings Part 1

by Angola 3 News

This month, over twenty students enrolled in the “Dismantling Racism” class offered by St. Catherine University in Minnesota traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area. The class focused primarily on California’s prisons and what anti-prison activists are doing to challenge the human rights violations and racism endemic to California’s infamous prison system.

Last week, the class was taken around on a Black Panther History Tour in Oakland and Berkeley, led by Billy X Jennings from It’s AboutTime BPP Alumni & Legacy. Along with ongoing BPP history exhibits at the Alameda County Law Library in downtown Oakland and the window of Rasputin Music on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley is a new photo exhibit running until February 28, entitled Louder Than Words, at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley). An important friend and ally of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Billy X Jennings’ work was previously spotlighted in an interview with Angola 3 News, entitled We Called Ourselves the Children of Malcolm.

Billy X Jennings at the first Black Panther office at 5622 MLK Jr. Blvd. Today it is the It's All Good Bakery. where there is a prominent display of BPP newspapers.)

Billy X Jennings at the first Black Panther office at 5622 MLK Jr. Blvd. Today it is the It’s All Good Bakery. where there is a prominent display of BPP newspapers.)

The college class was co-led by Professor Nancy Heitzeg, of the Sociology and Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity departments at St. Catherine University. Heitzeg was first featured in an interview with Angola 3 News about having taken a similar class on a tour at Angola State Prison in Louisiana, entitled Visiting a Modern-Day Slave Plantion. We have since done three more interviews with her: The Racialization of Crime and Punishment and Abolishing the Prison Industrial Complex (parts one and two). Heitzeg is also the editor and frequent contributor to the Criminal Injustice series at Critical Mass Progress, with her most recent articles focusing on Angola Prison & the broader Louisiana ‘justice’ system, as well as the January 26 protest at Chowchilla women’s prison in central California.

Co-instructor William W. Smith IV is a juvenile correctional officer and community consultant on the prison industrial complex & the school to prison pipeline. Following the tour, he told Angola 3 News that he thought:

“the tour was very well done, with lots of information. We were extremely lucky to have that opportunity to talk and walk with Billy X Jennings. I wish more young people could be exposed to this because it was truly powerful. This information can change your mind, and it can enhance your lifestyle. Race still matters in criminal justice and all things. This tour reminds us of events/stories they want us to forget. We will not turn our backs.”

Professor Heitzeg reflected on the recent tour, telling Angola 3 News:

“The Black Panther History tour with Billy X Jennings was an incredible experience. The discussion of the history at the site of key locations was very powerful.Students commented on how much they learned about this often hidden history; others noted how the tour undid the stereotypes and mis-education they had received about the Panthers from the mainstream. This was transformational for them.

As someone who was deeply influenced by the BPP vision at a very young age, this tour was invaluable. It was extraordinary to experience this living history through the words of Billy X. Much credit to the City of Oakland for acknowledging the legacy of the BPP through street signs and various public displays of the position of the Party and its many community programs. Certainly the living legacy of the BPP is continually expressed in a variety of programs — breakfast programs for kids, community health clinics, and more – they we now accept as a given. We all owe them a debt of gratitude and a place of honor in our history.

The BPP’s early critique of capitalism, of police brutality, of racism/exclusion in the criminal injustice system is foundational for all those of us who continue to challenge what we now call the “prison industrial complex”. They were true visionaries whose call for a rainbow coalition, intersectionality and community empowerment continues to guide our work. What We Want/What We Believe – including “land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace” – has not changed at all.”

(Stay tuned for Part Two, touring Berkeley and downtown Oakland!)

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

kjirik 1 Like

I'm excited to see the part two of the video! I did not get the opportunity to learn a lot about the black panther party in school unfortunately, but I found it very surprising that they saw women as equal and gave them the opportunity to hold high powers in the organization.

Domino14 1 Like

Thankyou Nancy and Angola 3 News

part 2 next week?

PatriciaLevesque 3 Like

The ackowledgement of "hidden history" rang particulary loud for me as I am constantly struck by how little people know about what's going on behind the scenes and the censored versions of history that are the core beliefs of the average citezen.  I try to keep an open mind about "facts" (espicially during elections).


Looks like this was a great trip

KayWhitlock 3 Like

If that's Bob's photo - and I think it is - I want to say that a friend sent me a cut-and-paste of your diary at the GOS today on cheap shots in the gun wars regarding vets with PTSD, and I cheered when I read your cogent comment.  Wow!  Nicely and fiercely done. 

Bob Phillips
Bob Phillips 2 Like

 @KayWhitlock Thank you, Kay. Still boycotting, huh? You've never struck me as a woman who'd back down easily.

KayWhitlock 3 Like

 @Bob Phillips Oh, I haven't backed down, Bob.  I shifted my foundation, quite happily, and as you can see from my writing here and elsewhere, I just get nervier.   I never thought of my leaving GOS as boycotting.  I thought of it as freeing myself of Markos' nonsense and hypocrisy.  But that's all I'll say about That Place.


I'm just glad to see you tonight and to read this Angola3News post about Nancy's continuing brava combination of scholarship and activism.


Sending all good wishes to you, pal. 

KayWhitlock 4 Like

Thanks, Angola 3 News and Nancy.  This is how history comes alive for generations who didn't experience times of tumult and change firsthand.  Inspired.  Looking forward to Part 1.

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg 4 Like

 @KayWhitlock thanks Kay -- yes.. History comes alive.. Wish everyone had the opportunity to exoerince this. Transformative -- truly

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg 4 Like

thanks again to Billy X Jennings and Angola 3 News for a wonderful day and an insightful tour..


Look forward to Part 2!


I am also grateful for being able to participate in even that made clear the on-going significance of the BPP legacy to our current work on abolishing the pic.. A model still for making real change