Friday, July 18, 2014

Brief History of the Black Panther Party Free Breakfast Program for Youth

Before the Head Start program and the US government provided breakfast at school, there was a program  initiated at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland. By the year’s end it spread to cities nationwide, feeding over 10,000 children everyday before school. The reason was simple, children who have a nourishing breakfast every morning learn better.

In January, 1969, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense launched the Free Breakfast for Children Program. Their motto was “Serve the People, Body and Soul.”

Panther Jerry Dunigan, known as “Odinka”, serves breakfast to children at Panther Free Breakfast Program

“…If you read the FBI files you will see that even Mr. J. Edgar Hoover himself had to say that it was not the guns that were the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America; it was not the guns, it was the Free Children’s Breakfast Program that was the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America. Grits. Now why was it the Free Children’s Breakfast Program?
It was the Free Children’s Breakfast Program because the Free Children’s Breakfast Program engendered a certain following on the Black community’s part, a certain respect on the Black community’s part. I mean, nobody can argue with free grits. So Hoover saw it as a kind of… infiltration.
That’s ridiculous isn't it? Infiltration? How are Black people, who are born and raised in the Black community, who live and work in the Black community, going to infiltrate their own Black community? If anybody’s infiltrating I think its J. Edgar Hoover.” -Roger Guenveur Smith, A Huey P. Newton Story

 One of the children they fed would grow up to be Public Enemy front-man, Chuck D.

It marked not only the first program of its kind in the US, but indicated a sharp shift in the political direction of the Black Panther Party. For its first few years the Party had been focused on Voting Rights, armed self defense, and Self patrolling our own neighborhoods, while patrolling the police. The shift toward survival programs was caused by multiple factors. The arrest and death of party militants, the inadequacy of community based services in their neighborhoods, and seeing the need to connect more deeply and practically with the community. Not without internal struggle, the Black Panther Party moved, in the words of scholar Alondra Nelson, "From Self Defense to Self Determination".

"The food component of the BPP was a big part of our organizing, this included our free breakfast program.. Because one thing you can guarantee in an oppressed community, is that you're going to find hunger. The fact the United States has more food than we need, and folks are still going hungry is a shame, it was a shame then, and it's a shame now."
Melvin Dickson –Organizer for free meals program for the Black Panther Party in East Oakland

The work became so effective, it drew the ire of the director of the FBI:
"The BCP (Breakfast for Children Program) promotes at least tacit support for the BPP (Black Panther Party) among naive individuals .. . And, what is more distressing, provides the BPP with a ready audience composed of highly impressionable youths.. . . Consequently, the BCP represents the best and most influential activity going for the BPP and, as such, is potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for. "
J Edgar Hoover, May 15, 1969

The mass potential of the Free Children’s Breakfast Program that was so empowering to these happy children. This was a big threat to the head of the FBI… deep. It’s also why J. Edgar Hoover was so obsessed with Dr. King and his ability to have a message and actions with mass appeal, that could unite the Black People. What is radical is to unite Black people in a mass way, empower grassroots people to have the hope to connect after the daily oppression has ground us down–and to keep coming back. Some original Black Panther Party members in NYC are still keeping on today, and organizing, and uniting, to just l-o-v-e being Black!

Tam Babies of the Black Panther Party's Free Breakfast Program
the same conditions of city and private harassment and infiltration that tore the Panthers apart, also prevented their social programs from being sustained. As their programs folded, some ideas, like the Breakfast program were taken up by the state and institutionalized, like Head Start.
The Black Panther concept of "revolutionary intercommunalism" involved the strategy of building community service programs or "survival programs", meant to develop Black autonomous, non religious, positive institutions within neighborhoods to help individuals meet their needs. The Panthers developed over 60 such community programs.
The Panthers focused their attention on the construction of institutions that provided for the communities needs. Because they knew the state and local religious institutions' response would be inadequate or non-existent, because it was an arena to politicize Black people, and because they were interested in the development of a new society.

"All these programs satisfy the deep needs of the community but they are not solutions to our problems. That is why we call them survival programs, meaning survival pending revolution. We say that the survival program of the Black Panther Party is like the survival kit of a sailor stranded on a raft. It helps him to sustain himself until he can get completely out of that situation. So the survival programs are not answers or solutions, but they will help us to organize the community around a true analysis and understanding of their situation. When consciousness and understanding is raised to a high level then the community will seize the time and deliver themselves from the boot of their oppressors. If they have a need we will serve their needs and attempt to get them to understand the true reasons why they are in need in such an incredibly rich land."
To Die for the People (Book of essays) – Huey Newton

This concept centered on Black Autonomy and self-determination, Black people getting themselves organized together so that they could survive outside the religious, education, and Negro institutions that are tied to municipal, state or federal systems, which are already under-servicing the Black people. It was not a new idea: minority communities across America had done this in previous decades to support new immigrants through communal associations and political machines.

I’m reminded of Angela Davis’ words about meeting the people’s needs where they are otherwise they will never listen to you. This program made a real difference in people’s lives and few things are more noble than making sure children are healthy and fed. I agree, this serves as a real lesson about what is radical and threatening to the system that oppresses us all.

 At Amen Par Ankh, We are launching our own Free Breakfast program of foods from locally grown black growers! EVERY MORNING From 6:00am-8:00am
 We must Teach our own youth and Feed ourselves to return to our own Black autonomy. We must grow our own Farm to Homeschools, and establish our own grass roots Black Autonomy organizations and private schools... Amen Par Ankh is a STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics , Medicine) Home school. For More Information Please Contact: Nuta Beqsu

Amen Par Ankh (Sacred House of Life) and Amen Ankh Urban Farm; is a local Urban Farm nestled around a Spiritual Outreach and Education Center in the heart of midtown Kansas City, Missouri. Contact Us and become a member, as We Celebrate the Cycles of Life! Email: , or, and Call: 816-304-7240 to sign-up for courses and support: , information: , , Look for us on Twitter & LinkedIn. We Celebrate the Cycles of Life, Wellness and Balance in our everyday existence on earth. We assist in Wellness for Physical Fitness, Mental Health, and Spiritual Attunement - to realize the fullest capacities of life, health, prosperity and strength. We provide Whole Life Coaching, Energy work, A Par Ankh Reading Room, Org-Ankh Electric food Boxes, an Herbal Tea House & Juice bar, Outdoor Experiences, classes such as Cultural Headwrapping, Natural Hair oils, beading and Lox twisting, Cosmetics, and Herbal products. We offer Classes in ASCAC (The Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization), Art Healing Mandalas, Jewelry Making, Gentle Yoga, Canning and preserving food, Health and Wellness Study Courses. We make Gifts and Accessories. We Celebrate and show our respect of nature with Cultural Ceremonies, Workshops and special events. Amen Par Ankh means sacred House of Life. We Celebrate Life! We provide a space for your own personal discovery with quiet reflection and time for internal work, as well as an active space for expressions of our original ways of life. Ceremony, Counseling, Coaching, Cleansings, & Classes Amen Ankh Urban Farm is an urban agricultural enterprise with the goal of achieving environmental justice and sustainability by Healthy local food production and improving local neighborhood access to healthy Foods. We run Aquaponic Systems of farm raised fish, Herbs and microgreens. We sell Org-Ankh Electric Food Boxes! We also provide Farm-a-See tours of successful Local Farmers with the “Green Griot” Sasteh Meter Mosley. We grow selected local indigenous Herbs, Fruits, Vegetable and plant life of the Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash/Melons and cruciferous vegetables: Cabbage, and Kale, With Wheat Grass and other Sprouts, Herbs: Basil, Sage, Chives, Rosemary, Parsley, Peppers, with Moringa nutritional drink supplements, -From our foods we produce Baked Goods, cosmetics, & liniments to provide Healing and Sovereignty: Through the inspiration of Kujichagulia (Self-determination) for all Original peoples. Feel free or Contact the Amen Ankh Urban Farm... or call: 816-304-7240 Please like our facebook pages: , , , Dua (Th-ankh you!) ♥.