By Jesse Hagopian and Sam Bernstein
May 8, 2008 | Issue 671
SEATTLE--During the revolutionary year of 1968, in the wake of Martin
Luther King's assassination, Aaron Dixon co-founded the Seattle
chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP). To commemorate the 40th
anniversary of its founding, Dixon and his Panther comrades organized
three inspiring days of celebration and storytelling last month.
The Seattle BPP reunion was attended by some of the leading members
of the BPP nationally, including former Chairman Bobby Seale,
Minister of Culture Emory Douglas, Panther historian Billy Jennings
and Elbert "Big Man" Howard.
On April 24, the University of Washington hosted a panel discussion
on the legacy of the Black Student Union (BSU) and BPP. Before the
formation of the BSU and the BPP, panelists recalled, there was not a
single book written by or about a person of color that was used in
any course at the University.
The following day, Seale spoke to an overflow audience of several
hundred students at Seattle Central Community College. When asked
what students could do today to rebuild struggle, he declared that
everyone should walk out against the war and for immigrant rights on
May Day and get organized.
Later that evening, Douglas held an art show of work from his
prolific career as the BPP's artist. His bold ink drawings and
collages appeared on the back cover of most issues of the party's newspaper.
On April 26, hundreds gathered at the Yesler Community Center, blocks
from the former Seattle BPP headquarters, to meet and talk with
"We had no idea what was to come when we started building the
Panthers," Howard said in an interview. "All we knew was that
everyone we talked to was angry about the state of affairs, and that
we needed to do something about it. The key to the Panthers was that
we gave people in the ghetto the space to take their destinies into
their own hands."