By Godfrey Lee
Marin City community members Charles Huff, Terri Green, and Walter Turner, who are also former members of the Black Panther Party, spoke of their experiences at a panel discussion held at the Marin City Arts Gallery on Feb. 16.
The moderators were Rashida Skaar, librarian at the Marin County Free Library and Rev. Rondall Leggett, pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church. Skaar asked the panel what led them to join the Black Panther Party.
Charles Huff said that The Black Panther Party (BPP) for Self Defense was created because Black people were getting being beaten up [by police]. He also felt lost and needed to belong to something. So, Huff became involved with the Party in order to survive, hung out at Eldridge Cleaver’s house, and saw a lot of meetings with people that mattered, who cared about the Black community, and about what happened to him.
Blacks have that tradition of struggle, Huff said: “We were always fighting, struggling, and about the love of ourselves, community, and children.”
So, when Huff saw Huey Newton protecting himself from the police, he decided to join the Party. He felt stronger knowing that “the adversary of the powers” thought it was necessary to threaten and infiate the Party, which meant that the Party was making a difference.
Terry Green’s parents came to the Bay Area to work in the shipyards to make a better place for the family. They taught him “that we were children of God, and can ‘do all things through Christ who strengthens us.’” They also encouraged him to be strong, courageous, to think for themselves, stand up for what is right, and not to believe everything taught by the powers that be.
Green was raised to “love our neighbors as our selves.” Black people, wherever they came from, it was all about sharing with one another: cooking food, distributing clothes and food. They didn’t want their people sick, and wanted their kids educated. “We all have to take care of one another. If we are going to survive, all of us have to work together in our community,” Green said.
Like the Black Panther Party, the Marin City community can also investigate the issues that affect it, such as the need for full employment, housing, and improved services, Green said. “We have to wake up and look around. Why is it that other youth have nice recreation centers and Marin City still has a building from WW2? And when Marin City needs new facilities, they think something is wrong with us,” Green said.
Green’s family also taught her how to shoot a gun for self-defense. “You had to arm yourself and do what is necessary to survive,” she said.
Walter Turner saw the Black Panther Party as a ‘vanguard,’ a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas. Turner did not have time to think of motivation while involved with the Party, “because when you woke up in the morning, you worked hard until you stop.” Turner considered himself part of that vanguard and built upon it.
“The Black Panther Party vanguard is still true today, and we still got to struggle to get what we need,” said Walter.
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