HUEY P. NEWTON: February 17, 1942 – August 22, 1989
Originally published February 17, 2016.
It’s midway through Black History Month, and a couple of weeks after Beyonce released her new single “Formation” via a Super Bowl half-time show that – based on my Facebook feed and what I’ve seen on the internet – caused white people to collectively lose their fucking minds. During the show, Beyonce and her dancers adopted black leather, afros, and berets similar to those worn by the Black Panther Party, which had been formed in 1966 in the same Bay Area. The song, “Formation”, is Beyonce’s warm embrace of her African-American heritage and culture, with the inspirational coda “you might just be a black Bill Gates in the making”. “Formation” – the song and the Super Bowl performance – was an embrace of black heritage without any sense of marginalization. Critics are still arguing over whether it is appropriation or homage, but from my perspective, either answer is irrelevant. What is important (as evidenced by the backlash) is that a statement about the pride in African-American heritage and culture is not coupled by marginalization. It is not “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand”. This was “it’s a black thing, and it’s going to be as important and embedded as Bill Gates”, an uber-symbol of white homogeneous capitalism. The core of Beyonce’s statement is a reference to the core of The Black Panther Party’s statement, “All Power to the People”. THE people. All people. Not poor people. Not black people. Not rich people. Not white people. THE people. As defined by the Black Panther Party, “power to the people” was the ability of every person to choose their own destiny, fairly and equally. “Power to the people” is nothing more than the right of every person to be considered, equally. It was an idea learned the hard way by Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton.
All Power to the People. Let every story be told.
- A Huey P. Newton Story, the amazing one-man show written and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith
- Essays from the Minister of Defense, by Huey P. Newton
- The Genius of Huey P. Newton