Black Panther figure to share story, talk diversity
By Imani Tate, Staff Writer
Article Created: 02/08/2008
POMONA - David Hilliard, a lifetime friend of Huey P. Newton, will
discuss diversity, the challenges of collaboration, and anecdotal and
eyewitness experiences as a founding member of the Black Panther
Party when he visits Cal Poly Pomona on Thursday.
Hilliard's appearance is co-sponsored by the Cal Poly Black History
Month Committee of students, staff and faculty and the university's
Multicultural Council, said event coordinator Dora Lee, senior
coordinator for Cal Poly's Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers.
The free program of poetry readings and Black History Month vignettes
begins at 6 p.m. in the Bronco Student Center's Ursa Major. Hilliard
will speak about 7 p.m.
Hilliard will remain on campus to autograph copies of "This Side of
Glory," the book about his experiences and reflections on the Black
Panther Party, as well as "Huey: Spirit of the Pioneer," a biography
of Panther leader Newton, who was killed in 1989. Books will be
available for purchase.
Hilliard, a professor at Merritt, Laney and New colleges and a
national lecturer, is considered an authority on Newton and the Black
His friendship with the revolutionary icon began in childhood and
continued through the founding of the organization established as a
community-based group addressing the needs of black urban poor in America.
Considered a man with intimate insight into Newton's vision and
crusade against racism, police brutality and poverty, he was an
adviser on the feature film "Panther" and director/producer Spike
Lee's "Huey P. Newton Story."
The Panthers were pioneering purveyors of free food, medicine, legal
services and educational support in America's inner cities in the
1960s and '70s. The party's Sickle Cell Anemia Research Foundation,
operated in cooperation with the Children's Hospital in Oakland, was
one of the first sickle cell testing programs in the nation, Hilliard
noted. The Panther's free breakfast program served as a model for
similar programs throughout the U.S., he added.
Newton's trust in his childhood friend prompted him to designate
Hilliard the Black Panther Party's chief of staff. Hilliard continues
his role as chief of staff, now administering the Huey P. Newton Foundation.
He describes the foundation as a nonprofit research, education and
advocacy center dedicated to fostering social change, multicultural
activism and community self-determination.
The Oakland-based foundation was founded in 1993 by Hilliard and
Fredrika Newton to encourage and support progressive social change.
Parking permits are required for Thursday's event. They can be
purchased for $5 at the university's visitor information booth on
Kellogg Drive. For more information, call (909) 869-3601.
Equality, justice message of Black Panther
Imani Tate, Staff Writer
POMONA - The Black Panther Party pioneered social, educational and
health programs now adopted as institutional policy in America,
founding party member and chief of staff David Hilliard asserted this
week at a Black History Month program at Cal Poly Pomona.
The university's Multicultural Council and Black History Month
Committee co-sponsored Hilliard's guest appearance Thursday in the
Bronco Student Center.
Corey Gaither, committee co-chairman, noted the event theme - "Are We
Free?" - relates to the Panthers' goal of helping oppressed people
everywhere work together to assure that all are free.
"How can you be free when people are being dislocated, imprisoned,
oppressed?" Gaither asked.
Robert Cole, the council's social justice director, said the two
groups seek programs to increase awareness and present pioneers of
Approximately 500 community activists and Cal Poly Pomona students
and staff came to hear Hilliard's eyewitness account of the Black
Disputing particularly late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's claim the
party was "the greatest threat to the internal security of the United
States," Hilliard laid out the Panthers' 10-point plan addressing
full employment, economic development, education, housing, health
care, reparations for slavery, an end to wars of aggression, justice,
release of political prisoners and an end to police brutality.
The media inflamed whites by constantly showing the image of Bobbie
Seale with a rifle and Panther party founder Huey P. Newton beside
him, Hilliard said.
"What they didn't show was the law book that was always under Huey's
arm," said the man who grew up with the Black Panther Party founder
in Oakland and remained his confidante.
"People called the Black Panther Party a street-corner movement. It
actually started on the campus of Merritt College in 1966, and the
majority of our movement involved college students," Hilliard added.
Hilliard called Newton an intellectual and visionary, noting he had a
doctorate in philosophy.
The party pioneered the children's free breakfast program, testing
for sickle-cell anemia that evolved into the Sickle Cell Anemia
Research Foundation, assistance to homeless families and programs
that are now social policy, institutional standards and presidential
campaign platforms. Its Oakland Educational Center was rated No. 2 in
California, second only to Beverly Hills High School.
The party formed alliances with other ethnic and international groups
to fight oppression.
It was not a social club.
"You couldn't just put on a black beret and sit in the office,"
Hilliard said. "Work in the community was mandatory.
"The Black Panther Party happened because of social inequities and
oppression. We started when the first slave came in 1619," Hilliard
said, noting the domino effect of actions in one era and consequences
in later ones.
Hilliard, a college professor, challenged collegians to form new
movements for social change.
"Youth are makers of world history and often at the forefront of
movements. The world is ripe for an organization that goes beyond
race and issues that separate people," he charged. "You are in a
"When will we put our arms to the wheel and do something besides give
excuses?" he asked. "I challenge you to take a page from Black
Panther Party history and use it to create a new agenda, a new
movement. Don't let your passion fade away. Seize the moment. Create
a new movement of browns, blacks, whites, Asians, aboriginal people,
women, gays. Tear down barriers that keep us separated."
Hilliard said the Panthers' belief "the whole world belongs to
everybody" was manifested in their slogan "Power to the People!" It
was the Panthers' connection to and services for community residents
that prevented their total eradication, he added.
"Why we survived had little to do with the guns," he continued. "It
had to do with the community protecting us from total annihilation.
Most whites don't know the Black Panther Party agenda or ideology.
They only saw the guns, the militancy. We survived and remained
relevant because we always served the people, body and soul. Most of
us who made it out alive owe a debt of gratitude to the community."
Pomona history teacher Khalif Rasshan came to hear Hilliard to get an
"objective view and perspective which allow me to decide for myself
what is the reality of what happened during those turbulent times.
It's important to have all sides of the story."
Karon Floyd of Pomona, a multicultural studies major, felt she "got
validation about the things happening in the 1960s." Issues then are
still relevant, she said, agreeing with Hilliard that a reawakening
of student activism could right wrongs and end inequities.
Toni Mokjaetji Humber, an Ethnic and Women's Studies Department
professor, said it is important people "know the Panthers were more
than a band of young black men in leather with berets, toting rifles
and frightening white America.
"I require my students to look up the Panthers' 10-point plan. The
plan does not advocate a preemptive strike on white America. Panthers
believed in self-defense, but never initiated violence against a