On August 22nd, 1989, black revolutionary Huey P. Newton was murdered in West Oakland by a corner boy trying to gain some street-cred with among the Black Guerrilla Family. Even with his tragic and untimely death, Newton was able to leave a legacy of black gun ownership that has paved the way for black gun groups all over the country.
Who is Huey P. Newton?
Huey Percy Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1942 during World War II. Like many black folks who lived in the south, Huey grew up surrounded by violence. Lynchings were common practice in Monroe, which led a lot of black families to uproot and migrate to escape racial persecution. Close-knit, but poor the Newton family took a chance and moved to Oakland, California in hopes of a better life. As a teenager, Huey would struggle to find himself, but eventually fell in love with knowledge. While attending Merrit College, Newton studied Plato and taught himself how to read. This piqued his curiosity in philosophy and he began to question everything, including Bay-Area politics. He joined the Afro-American Association, helped bring the first African American History course to Merrit College, and began to tackle black social issues on campus and in the community. He also took a particular interest in the writings of Malcolm X and Che Guevara. Little did he know at the time that his interest would be the catalyst to a revolution that would shock the world.
The Black Panther Party
While attending Merrit College, Netwon met Bobby Seale, a spirited activist with similar goals. Inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X, the two co-founded The Black Panther Party of Self Defense in October 1966. The organization promoted the right of self-defense for all black people in the United States and advocated for better housing, jobs, and education for their communities. The Black Panther Party showed its force by interrupting Legislative procedures fully armed and organized. They would also perform armed patrols around the city of Oakland to oversee the behavior of the police. The group evolved into building social programs for the community such as Free Breakfast for Children, the Oakland Community School, and various health clinics.
Trouble With The Law
Like many bright men throughout history, Newton was not void of his demons. He was constantly in trouble with the law and spent several stints in prison. In 1964, Newton was convicted of stabbing a man with a knife but only served six months in prison. In 1967, he got into a shootout with police after a traffic stop which led to the death of Officer John Frey. A witness testified that Newton shot Frey with Frey’s gun, but Newton insisted it was self-defense. Nonetheless, Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 2 to 15 years in prison. He was awarded a retrial due to a technicality and was subsequently released in 1970 after spending two years behind bars.
The FBI began to take notice of Newton and the Black Panther Party due to its growing popularity around the world. Government documents found in the public record show the FBI’s concern for international support for the Black Panther Party. Newton met with delegations from China, Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam, receiving expressions of solidarity from all except China. This made the Black Panther Party a threat and made newton a target.
feared the Black Panther.
The FBI would eventually create a special counter-intelligence program called COINTELPRO. The program was created to strategically nullify any black political uprisings that could threaten the white establishment. Their goal was to prevent the rise of the black messiah. After Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, Huey P. Newton became one of their favorite targets. Intimidating witnesses in his cases, writing fake letters to his counterparts to sow discord, even committing perjury; nothing was off-limits when making sure black folks didn’t have a leader. COINTELPRO took its toll on Newton, and the constant stress compounded by his demons led him to crack cocaine and substance abuse and his ultimately death in 1989.
The Huey P. Newton Gun Club
Whatever you may think of the Legacy Of Huey P. Newton, it still lives on today. Young folks have taken what he started and molded it into something new to fit the times.
Racial tensions in America are as high as they’ve ever been, and black people aren’t turning the other cheek anymore. They are buying guns. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, gun ownership amongst black Americans is up 58%. With white terrorism on the rise, those numbers are projected to get even bigger. As gun culture becomes more popular in the black community, so do black gun clubs.
An organization in Dallas, Texas has adopted Newton’s name as well as his ideology to try to make a difference in their community. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club was founded in 2014 by Babu Omowale, Yafeuh Balogun, and Rakeem Balogun. They teach regular fitness training and self-defense classes, educate black people on federal state and gun laws, and stage open-armed patrols in their neighborhood to change the stigma associated with a black man and a gun. Funded mostly on donations, the organization wants to make it normal to see African-Americans open carry. A practice that is traditionally seen as a white privilege to many people of color. Now, chapters of the ‘Huey P. Newton Gun Club’ are popping up all over cities in America. Quick facebook search and you can find chapters in Atlanta, Houston, and Fayetteville.
Black gun groups give easy red meat to right-wing pundits who claim organizations like these are radical and anti-American. But if guns are as American as apple pie, so are black people, and the right to bear arms should be baked into their constitutional freedoms as well. The same freedoms Huey P. Newton fought for in the 1960s.
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