by Susan Fried
In a room filled with an intergenerational group of people, Willard Jimerson described how at 13 he was sentenced to 23 years in prison and how that had influenced his life.
“It’s our responsibility, for some of us who came out of the graveyard and woke up to go back to that particular cemetery with alarm clocks and throw them out there to wake people up,” he said.
He and several other young men from the organization Credible Messenger discussed the importance of tapping into your potential and becoming politically involved during one of the numerous workshops offered at the Black Panther Youth Empowerment Summit.
On Saturday November 10, 300 young people from all over King County filled the classrooms of Rainier beach High School to learn about activism and addressing the issues of their generation. The all day Summit was a continuation of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and was designed to teach young people how to make positive change in the community. The Black Panther’s who for many people, embody the meaning of the word empowerment were there to pass on the wisdom of their experiences.
The theme for the day was Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Na’eem Sharif, an original member of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther’s introduced the event “Go to the workshops, today, get the information. The theme is Yesterday, the stuff that we did, the good the bad and the ugly. The Today part-is what are you all going to do, we’re passing the baton off because we have limited time left to be with you all, and then what are you going to do Tomorrow. The thing is, make your contribution, everybody has a contribution to make.”
There were over 24 workshops for participants to choose from, including an overview of the history of the Black Panthers, discussions on the importance of getting young people involved in politics at an early age, workshops dealing with the significance of hip hop in transforming culture and a workshop on empowering women in social movements.
During the lunch break the Youth formed a cypher and let loose with a little dancing and singing before finishing the day with more workshops and a special appearance by Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party in 1966. Mr. Seale talked about why he and Huey Newton formed the Black Panther Party, telling the young audience that many of the same problems still exist and that they were “the continuation of the struggle.”
In the workshop summarizing the history of the Black Panther Party, Elmer Dixon, one of the co-founders of the Seattle Black Panther Party, described how J. Edgar Hoover had labeled the Panthers a hate group and called them “the the number one threat to the internal security of the United States.” Dixon refuted that saying, “I’m here to tell you, that comrade Leonard, comrade Ron and and comrade Vanetta, myself and all members of the Black Panther Party joined, the Black Panther Party not out of hate but out of love, out of love for the people. We were inspired by love not hate. We loved our community. we loved our children. We loved our parents. We loved our Senior citizens and because of that we determined we needed to stand up and make a difference.”
Featured Photo: Young people form a cypher and watch a girl dance during the lunch break at the Black Panther Youth Empowerment Summit November 10 at Rainier Beach High School. (Photo: Susan Fried)