Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It is important when learning about history to remember that a part of the story is always missing.  This week's readings and lectures highlighted a part of the civil rights movement that often goes missing when learning about US history: the battle for gender equality within the civil rights movements, or more specifically, the women's liberation in "black power" parties like the Young Lord's and the Black Panthers.

The lecture first explained to us that these parties were not crazy and violent, but rather forceful, unapologetic, and incredibly organized.  Under the 'Rules of the Black Panther Party' that we were given for reading, it mentions that no member can be in possession of drugs "while doing party work" and no member may be under the influence while holding a weapon, and no member "will commit any crimes against other party members or black people at all, and cannot steal or take from the people, not even a needle or a piece of thread."  This party wanted to focus on the members working together and being good representatives of the party, which surprised me because I only remembered them as the  the group that disagreed with the nonviolent preachings of MLK.

Within these rules, women had to create their own.  In order to retake the image of the 'black man,' men marginalized women within the party, making black women less than 2nd class citizens on the social hierarchy.  They found empowerment fairly quickly however, as throughout the 60s and 70s women fought on their own to protect their rights.  In one example that Ms. Cruz gave us, the women of the black panthers literally went on a sex strike to prove to the men that they had equal power.

It was an empowering presentation overall, and reminded us that there is always more to the story than what we are taught.

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