Saturday, June 11, 2016
The Breakfast Program
The free breakfast for schoolchildren program was set up in Berkeley, California, in 1968 by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. It was the first significant community program organized by the Panthers, and perhaps the most well known. By the end of 1969, free breakfast was served in 19 cities, under the sponsorship of the national headquarters and 23 local affiliates. More than 20,000 children received full free breakfast (bread, bacon, eggs, grits) before going to their elementary or junior high school.
The clinics were called People’s Free Medical Centers (PFMC) and eventually were established in 13 cities across the country, from Cleveland to New Haven, Connecticut; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Los Angeles. Women, according to sociologist Alondra Nelson, were the backbone of the effort —not surprising, considering that approximately 60 percent of Black Panther Party members were female. Some of the clinics were in storefronts, others in trailers or hastily built structures, and most did not last long. But they offered services such as testing for high blood pressure, lead poisoning, tuberculosis and diabetes; cancer detection screenings; physical exams; treatments for colds and flu; and immunization against polio, measles, rubella, and diphtheria. Nelson reports that many of the women and men involved in the PFMCs went on to become credentialed health care professionals.
The Intercommunal Youth Institute was established in January 1971 by the Black Panther Party. In 1974, the name was changed to Oakland Community School. The Black Panther Party goal was to get children to learn to their highest potential and to strengthen their minds so that one day they would be successful. The school graduated its first class in June 1974. In September 1977, California Gov. Edmund “Jerry” Brown Jr. and the California Legislature gave Oakland Community School a special award for “having set the standard for the highest level of elementary education in the state.”
Seniors Against a Fearful Environment (SAFE)
SAFE, a nonprofit corporation, was started by the Black Panther Party at the request of a group of senior citizens for the purpose of preventing muggings and attacks upon the elderly, particularly when they go out to cash their Social Security or pension checks. Prior to approaching the Black Panther Party, the seniors had gone to the Oakland Police Department to request protection. There the seniors were told that they “should walk close to the curb” in the future, according to a Panther report by David Hilliard, who served as the Party’s chief of staff. The program offered free transportation and escort services to the residents of the Satellite Senior Homes, a residential complex for the elderly in Oakland, California.