This week in Dr. Sherri Williams fabulous Rhetoric of Social Activism course we looked at the documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. In this captivating film director Stanley Nelson looks at the rise of the black panther party in the 1960s and its impact on Civil Rights and American culture. While the black panther party often conjures up images of radically violent, hateful acts, within minutes of this film, that stigma quickly fell for me. I began to see the black panthers movement in a whole new lights; one characterized by passion, service, and a strong push for the love of black beauty and black empowerment. Yes, the party did utilize intimidation factors, particularly when it came to member wardrobe of black leather jackets, shades, afros, and the carrying of guns and rifles around police officers. However, they also developed a morning breakfast program for black children to ensure that they were not going to school hungry and performing better academically on full tummies. In the midst of violent moments, there were other displays of support for the black community such as this.
I began to wonder which tactics of the black panthers party were most similar to those of the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Upon hearing c0-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, speak on campus, it became clear just how important these tactics of political and social disruption are today as they were in the 1960s. From creating a human chain blockade across the bay area bride, to hoisting a sign in the air at local and national rallies and press conferences refusing to move, the act of disrupting the status quo and rendering the opposing party’s message insignificant is a crucial key to movement success. Social disruption tactics work to stop the everyday and force people to listen, take a stand, and understand what is at stake when they hear the phrase Black Lives Matter. It requires making people feel uncomfortable to evoke a response, gain a following, and remind people why this fight is necessary and needed. Garza’s words were incredibly powerful and ended her talk with the simple yet extremely truthful and moving notion that the Black Lives Matter movement boils down to a fight for nothing more than humanity, peace, and the protection of black bodies.