Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Before doing this weeks readings and viewing this weeks lecture I had little knowledge on the Black Panther Party and no knowledge regarding the Young Lords. I had always thought of the Black Panthers as a violent group of black extremists who attempted to use violence in order for their voices to be heard. However after this week, I am now aware that for the most part they were a peaceful group that organized all their protests and members. In addition, I learned about the Young Lords and how they also were an organized group of mostly peaceful people that fought for the changes they wished to see in the US. Both groups had an official list of rules for each member and were aware of the changes they wanted and what they collectively believed.
Most interesting however was learning about the different roles of women and how they evolved as the groups did. The women of the Panthers were seen as the backbone of the operation however not in the way one would expect when thinking of that description. They were expected to support their men and play a secondary, yet important, role in the Party. Women in the beginning of this movement were forced to participate in free love, a rule within the Party. They were objectified and often victims of sexual assault and domestic violence however they put up with their treatment because if they refused to do so then they were "turning down the movement". Eventually the Panthers were forced to only date within their community as to not accidentally become involved with outsiders who wished to hurt them and their movement. Later, women became secretaries and began organizing the protests. Although it was a gendered labor force, it was a step towards women gaining more power within the group. The Black Panthers started offering child care, food, only black schooling, and more in order to serve the people of their community and insure that each member survives. These programs were all organized by the women of the group contributing to their increased responsibilities. In addition to being the organizers of the Party, women also wrote many of the articles for the Black Panther newspaper which attempted to get fellow blacks fired up so they would continue to fight for the Panthers and what they wanted. As time passed men became accepting of having powerful women among them and allowed themselves to act less macho. This happened as many of the key leaders of the group went to prison and needed other members (women) to fill their place. These women, at this time, were also educating themselves on feminism.
Although the Black Panthers were supportive of their women, for a long time they were skeptical about birth control and refused to allow their women to use it. This was in part due to all the forced experimentation performed on minorities which caused them to distrust birth control. Eventually however the women of the group stated that they didn't all want to have babies and the men of the Panthers supported them.
The most interesting thing about the women in these groups during this time is the fact that they were strong enough to fight for their rights. Although they were dealing with the same sexist treatment that white women at this time were facing, they also were penalized for the color of their skin. They were considered the lowest of the low and still somehow managed to be strong enough to stand up against their prejudices. Although this fight is still being fought, it would not be as far as it is today without the power of these women.

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