It was from a man in Arizona.
Popular Black Panther narratives have chronicled the rise and fall of the Party through subjective eyes. Most narratives emphasize general themes: Few people can first handedly account for the inner workings of the Central Committee of the Black Panther Party, much less the flaws and conflict that led to its termination as a nationwide powerhouse.
Newton believed that black people were colonized within their own country. In his eyes, and the yes of many other Black Power activists, the only way out of this internal colonization would be by revolution. During the years the Black Panther Party was at its peak, women were seldom permitted to contribute to the inside workings of the party.
Newton envisioned the Black Panther Party leading would never be realized. Brown acknowledged, like many other women in the Black Panther Party that systems of racial and classist oppression were indeed intertwined with sexism.
Many panther women would agree with Brown on gender inequality, as it was pervasive in many if not all panther chapters. In addition she highlights what she thought were causes of the fall of the party, and the changing platform, which she takes much credit for. Other panther members have addressed these issues as well.
There seems to be some disagreement on what ultimately caused the demise of such an iconic force, and Brown attempts to piece together the many reasons. Brown had the large task of combating sexism as well as handling Central Committee conflicts that caused division in the party.
She describes the way state sanctioned violence killed many beloved Panther members, the inter-Panther conflict that caused international tensions to rise and because of her intimate love connection to Huey Newton also provides a candid view into his mindset.
Brown dealt with these conflicts, which at times seemed unresolvable and eventually left the Black Panther Party after many years of faithful service.
A woman asserting herself was a pariah…if a black woman assumed a role of leadership she was said to be eroding black manhood, to be hindering the progress of the black race. She was an enemy of black people. The men of the Black Panther Party denied women the right to fully partake in the revolution by claiming their bodies.
Women were held to the standards of domesticity, and expected to be revolutionary incubators. We also had the tasks of producing children, progeny of revolution who would carry the flame when we fell.
The very embodiment of a Black Panther was grounded in terms of masculinity. Popular belief also held that because a brother was fighting for the people he could dictate the behavior of all women. Brown recalls a conversation with a very young woman who had these beliefs instilled in her by Panther men.
Picking up the gun seemed to be the only way to prevent the pigs from terrorizing the people. The rhetoric of the gun was grounded in the principles of anger, physical strength and violence.
By definition and practice, women were excluded from this revolutionary lexicon. Brown and other panther women envisioned a re-framing of the revolutionary, one that included the woman in all aspects. The revolutionaries were male. The women who became revolutionaries had to make themselves in those images.
Many panther women assumed leadership of the local parties, but it was an added burden to fight gender oppression in addition to the liberation of black people. Had women been included in the definition of a revolutionary, there would have been more possibility of a revolution.
Despite active refusal of these assigned gender roles by valiant panther women, men continued to claim that these demands were valid because the struggle of sexism was miniscule in comparison to the monster of white supremacy and capitalism.
Any woman who stood up for her rights was considered an enemy of the brothers.
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