Black Panther Party celebrates 50th anniversary

Leaders of a radical group formed in Oakland 50 years ago, which the federal government once tried to wipe out, announced their 50th anniversary commemoration Friday beside local officials.

The Black Panther Party started in Oakland in 1966 and will commemorate its 50th anniversary Oct. 20-23 with events mainly at the Oakland Museum of California at 1000 Oak St.

The theme of the commemoration is “Where Do We Go From Here?”

The Black Panther Party has been known for its stand against police violence and its survival programs such as free breakfast for school children and free health clinics.

The party’s programs were aimed at defending blacks and others at the margins of society

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said her childhood in Oakland prepared her to be mayor and the Black Panther Party profoundly impacted that childhood.

She said the party’s actions taught her to cast a more skeptical eye on what she was taught in school.

Today, Schaaf declared October 2016 Black Panther History Month in Oakland.

Schaaf said the city still grapples with some of the same issues the Black Panthers sought to correct when it was officially organized.

Some of those issues, according to Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s Director of Operations Aisha Brown, are the health, wellness and employment for black people and racial justice in policing.

Former Black Party Chairman Elaine Brown said, “Little has changed since the party was formed” despite efforts for change.

“We have to continue to work together,” Aisha Brown said.

The commemoration will consist of workshops, exhibits and events at the Oakland Museum, performances by musicians and artists at City Hall Plaza as well as an official renaming ceremony of a portion of DeFremery Park.

A portion of the park will be renamed Bobby Hutton Grove. Hutton was one of the first members of the party and killed by police.

Since his death, party members have referred to DeFremery Park as Bobby Hutton Park and now 45 years later a portion will be named in his honor. The official renaming ceremony will take place Oct. 23.

Five hundred bags of groceries will be given away in the spirit of the party.

An Oakland Museum exhibition that opens Oct. 8 aims to tell the true story of the party, Oakland Museum of California Director Lori Fogarty said.

Saturday, Elaine Brown and party founder and former Chief of Staff David Hilliard will speak on the theme of the commemoration at an event at Oakland’s Laney College starting at 8:30 a.m.

Elaine Brown said the most important thing about the commemoration is that people should come out and see what party members did to create change.

Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said, “We have a path forward because of the legacy of the Black Panther Party.”