Protest, march, demand rights, post demands on social media, agree with like-minded individuals, fundraise without seeing the benefit of funds. Rinse and repeat.
The cycle can only go so far before a movement burns out without achieving its goals. Learning how to be a Revolutionary Social Scientist (RSS) may be key for what’s next in modern activist circles that have hit a wall.
An RSS is someone who observes their surroundings, analyzes people as well as events, identifies problems and contradictions, does research, then implements action based on their final analysis.
Based on the original Black Panther Party of Self Defense ideology, people should act on the need of many, not on their fears of the system and racism. Acting on fears and anger while focusing on individual identity alone does not address intersectionality across our complex society. Being driven by emotions would be a reactionary mindset, not a revolutionary one.
Learning how to be an RSS can be found within the theory, ideology, and working principles of the original Black Panther Alumni, now available in educational classes through the non-profit Black Panther Party Alumni Legacy Network.
Educational zoom classes led by original Black Panther Alumni Dr. Saturu Ned, Professor Steve McCutchen, and Katherine Campbell have been available for a handful of dedicated revolutionary students, for free. These three alumni were members of the Black Panther Party of Self Defense with over a decade of experience and jaw-dropping stories to tell.
The classes have also been supported by Ned’s wife Dr. Zafirah Ned, who experienced firsthand growing up under the party’s wings as a Panther Cub in San Francisco.
There are also guest appearances by other former original Black Panther members with years of dedicated experience from across the country who explain why they had joined, the political environment at the time, and what they did as party members. Following their presentation of experience within the BPP is Q&A available to any of the classes participants. Each of their experiences has evolved into the work they have done after the party dissolved, as they often explain, doing something to make the world a better place was just something they were always driven to do. Some of the guests have included former chairwoman Elaine Brown, Elmer Dixon of the Seattle chapter, Hazel Mack of the Winston-Salem chapter, Clarence ‘Stretch’ Peterson and Sutan Ahmad of the Philadelphia chapter, Stan McKinney of the Chicago chapter, Professor Austin Allen of the Ohio chapter, and international newswriter for the Black Panther Newspaper Barry Bazzell.
Ned joined the Sacramento chapter of the party in the late ’60s after witnessing the moment Bobby Seale led a group of armed Panthers into the state capitol in order to protest the Mulford act. He later moved to Oakland and became one of four members of the Black Panther’s revolutionary singing group The Lumpen. He also worked at the Oakland Community School. He now hosts the BPPALN classes. Starting each class with current events followed by an explanation of direction for the network, Ned is the hype-man that keeps the classes flowing from one subject and guest speaker to another.
McCutchen started in the Baltimore chapter before moving to Oakland to become the assistant coordinator for Bobby Seale’s mayoral campaign. Not only did McCutchen teach children math at the Oakland Community School, but he also taught martial arts in an Oakland studio as a skill and discipline of the mind for the party. McCutchen teaches the Legacy Network’s curriculum and often ends class with an energetic “stay hungry” or “it’s been a plum pleasing pleasure.”
Campbell started in the San Francisco branch by volunteering for the children’s breakfast program. She eventually became a graphic designer for the Black Panther newspaper and witnessed the Filmore street location get bombed. Luckily she was not harmed. In The Black Panthers Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution, Campbell said, “The more I heard about us being a militant organization and a communist organization, the more I thought they were wrong…People are hungry, feed them. People need clothes, if you’ve got any clothes to spare, give it to them…I felt like I wasn’t doing anything wrong. At the time they didn’t know we were really putting our lives on the line for the future.”
First in the curriculum is a thorough history lesson. Then the five points in identifying the path of the Black Panther Party which includes the origins, the vision as it evolved, community survival programs, repression, and the ideology as it grew over time.
One of the most important principle teachings is observation and participation while noting the contradictions that occur through society. Looking at social and cultural oppression to transform the existing conditions and cultures to transform what has become static. Acknowledge those contradictions, devise a plan, and get to work. Find a common ground with the masses in order to mobilize them. The many survival programs created by the party were based on this principle.
“Contradictions and change are the ruling principles of the world. There will always be disagreement.”– Professor Steve McCutchen
Campbell explained the importance of replacing institutions before dismantling them. She noted you can not destroy banks that have people’s money in them, the places they shop for food and clothes, without giving them another option. Society should be built to function for the many, not the few, and when you think of those who need the most protection like mothers, children, and the elderly, society can not function on complete anarchy.
Statement and practice are two different things. Practice is what’s important. That’s what you call theory to practice.– Black Panther Alumni Legacy Network
To request more information on BPPALN classes, you can contact https://bppaln.org/contact or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The network also hosts BPP Oakland City tours and collaborates with punk artist collective Destroy Art Inc to make BPP merchandise available at AP2TP Collective. 50% of all sales goes back to the BPPALN.
Contributions for the Black Panther Party Alumni Legacy Network are tax-deductible Thru the Pledge group Foundation a 501(c)3.