50 years later and the fight remains.
Oakland has a well known history of birthing powerful voices in the community, one you are very familiar with in Sway Calloway but one that had a voice and a platform before his came from the very same city – the Black Panthers. Everyone has heard that name in some way, shape or form but what you know about their movement, mission and your perception of them depends on who fed you the information. That is what makes this particular Sway in the Morning one of a kind, here is an opportunity to hear firsthand from two very pivotal members of the Black Panthers in Seko Odinga (founding member of the New York party as well as the International Section) and Michael McCarty exactly what they stood/stand for.
Most common three letter word everyone asks when they don’t understand something or want to learn more is a simple “Why?” Everything has a purpose and that is typically the starting point, so for those wondering why Black Panthers began. Simply put it was self defense, as a means to protect the Oakland community from police brutality, murder and other forms of oppression/negative trends they wanted to put an end to. That is clearly something that other communities, neighborhoods, cities, states and even countries fight against to this day so it’s not hard to see how the group eventually grew into 40 US chapters while inspiring an international influence fueled and coordinated by those who felt the same (including Afro American Unity founded by Malcolm X).
Using 10 very important points as a foundation (ranging from Education to Economics), it quickly becomes apparent in the interview that the many media outlets trying to taint the group after Beyonce‘s Super Bowl inspired performance were in large part misinformed and false. Their programs provided free healthcare, free education and free food to the community – if you can find the negatives in that, it may be time to re-evaluate your own character. As she paid homage to the empowering group on the largest stage, she didn’t shy away from the Black Lives Matter movement now either. We asked both Odinga and McCarty how they felt seeing such movements still being carried out today, knowing they played a huge role in sparking that actionable change 50 years ago.
It’s amazing to hear the truth shared from these two men after so many different stories about what the Panthers were trying to accomplish attempts to get distorted and diluted over time but after watching the interview hearing about Assata Shakur firsthand, how jails are for profit and the sacrifice of many over the years pushed the cause forward in ways many have been unaware of – it will reshape your perspective for the better without a doubt.
That push forward is across the board, spilling into music as art continues to be an expression for many to paint a picture of overcoming obstacles however they see fit to tell their story making it relatable in order to add strength. The 50th Anniversary of the Black Panthers will be celebrated through that very form with a traveling exhibit later this year called “The Sepia Collective“as some of top artists in the world will be contributing original work as it passes through Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and of course Oakland later this year. If you’d like to stay up to date and check it out please visit sepiacollective.com for more information.
Check out the full interview above and continue to look within your very own communities to see how you can create even the smallest positive change using what you have whether it be at your job, in your neighborhood or at school. We’re much more alike than we are different as humans, be that change as you never know what positive impact you can have until you try.