By Chad Nance
“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”
“Revolutionary suicide does not mean that I and my comrades have a death wish; it means just the opposite. we have such a strong desire to live with hope and human dignity that existence without them is impossible. When reactionary forces crush us, we must move against these forces, even at the risk of death.”
Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide
Been trying to keep my powder dry this summer, but friends & neighbors there is a half-witted, dillweed in Henderson, North Carolina who has mistaken our city as a battleground for the moron circus swirling around tired, vicious old symbols of hate. He has started a petition to remove the deserved and warranted historical marker for the Black Panthers located on the corner of MLK and 5th Street.
His name is Wayne Pearce. Judging from his facebook page, Wayne is an all too typical and sad dufus obsessed with the current trend of removing the symbols of a failed rebellion the United States America. A rebellion centered around the Southern elite’s desire for cheap, manual labor. There is no honor in defending an institution of genocidal repression such as Slavery. Those who died doing so died in vain… and they died 150 years ago.
The latest round of battles over symbols of the failed rebellion were begun by Republicans in the wake of Dylan Roof’s act of brutal terrorism on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The truth: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley made one of most deft political moves I’ve seen on the chessboard in a long time. Removing the Confederate battle flag from the SC capitol grounds was a masterful tactical maneuver that allowed Gov. Haley to show outside business interest that her state is not necessarily mired in regressive, racial politics like those we have here in North Carolina. She was also able to divert the public conversation from Dylan Roof’s access to the murder weapon – a gun he had only because of a quirk in the background check system. Win for the NRA and their funders in the gun industry.
Haley’s move also turned the conversation from the vile dog-whistle and overt white supremacy that Dylann Roof picked up in the mainstream and fringe “Conservative” media. Win for Fox News and white supremacist web masters who now continue to bear no responsibility for the violent results of their chronic race-baiting.
The old maxim that “All politics is local” applies in this situation as well. Governor Haley, a business/moderate Republican, has paid some lip service to the “Tea Party” but her heart has never seemed in it. The flag fight allowed her to pull all of the crazies in the SC legislature and expose them for the retrograde, flat-earthers that they truly are. Wins all around for Nikki Haley and she is now elevated to the political dreamland of being a legitimate candidate for a Vice Presidential slot on the next Republican ticket.
Then the usual whackos lost their ever-lovin’ minds in the cruel grip of willful ignorance and headed for Charleston for some face-time with the national media. They waved Confederate flags, displayed swastikas, and engaged in the kind of humiliating, public jack-assary usually reserved for drunken frat boys on Spring Break.
Wayne Pearce is about that sophisticated and wants a little attention for himself. Well… you got some, boy. I want to help you though. You seem scared to death by a group called the New Black Panther Party. Apparently they came to Columbia with their white, wingnut counterparts and made public threats against “Crackers”.
First of all, Wayne- do you really consider yourself a “cracker”? That seems like a personal problem. Second of all- the New Black Panther Party has nothing to do with the original Black Panther Party and has absolutely nothing to do with Winston-Salem’s Black Panther Party.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center the New Black Panther Party:
“[Is] a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers. Founded in Dallas, the group today is especially active on the East Coast, from Boston to Jacksonville, Fla.”
Also according to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
“[New Black Panthers] portrays itself as a militant, modern-day expression of the black power movement (it frequently engages in armed protests of alleged police brutality and the like), but principals of the original Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 1970s— a militant, but non-racist, left-wing organization — have rejected the new Panthers as a “black racist hate group” and contested their hijacking of the Panther name and symbol.”
No need to be scared, Wayne, our Black Panthers have nothing to do with those swine, so you and I don’t really have a problem. Winston-Salem’s Black Panther Party had lean and noble roots that stretched back into the legacy of African-American resistance to institutional racism when the women and men of Local 22 stood up for their most basic rights at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. An excerpt from my 2014 book, “Shape I’m In:The Camel City Dispatches” might be able to help you out with a story here, Wayne. A little reality and a little myth for context:
On the morning of March 4th 1970, sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house of an elderly widow woman in East Winston. Like many of the rental properties then and now, the house was little more than stick frame with some wood siding, and linoleum floors inside. It wasn’t much, but it was home for the woman and her children.
Word spread quickly, and before lunchtime there were already as many as ten members of Winston-Salem’s branch of the Black Panther Party working together to take the woman’s modest belongings back into her house from the street. They were led by a dynamic young man who had, just a few years before, been a basketball star at RJ Reynolds High School. This young man’s mother had been one of the women on the stemming floor of Plant 65 the day the women of Local 22 brought Winston-Salem to a halt. His name was Larry Little and on March 4th 1970 he was carrying a shotgun and held no reservations about using it to defend his community, that widow woman, or the ramshackle house she called home. Little informed the press that he and his fellow Panthers would be at the house with guns when the sheriff’s deputies returned at 2pm. Before the deadline an anonymous donor paid the woman’s rent along with that of two other tenants on the same block who were scheduled for eviction that same day. Sources I’ve spoken with have identified at least three different people who may have done this kindness. All of those mentioned were from the Hanes and Reynolds families, but there has never been a clear identification and anything involving Winston-Salem’s Founding Families reeks of urban myth and horseshit.
Winston-Salem’s BPP would go on to make major political mistakes. They would also feed many of Winston-Salem’s poorest children, provide needed ambulance services, and stand up for the people who had, until then, been historically stomped on here in Camel City. At no point, however, did they engage in the kind of self-serving idiocy of the New Black Panther Party.
Wayne, It would be easy to just grind on you here… you’re the kind of guy who makes his own gravy. Rather than just pants you in public, I’ll take another approach. The approach I learned here in Winston-Salem where we don’t just reach directly for stupid to solve our conflicts. Come to Winston-Salem, bubba. I’ll meet you at the corner of MLK and 5th and introduce you to some folks I know. You can take the time to listen to the people in the community and learn the truth about the Black Panther Party in Winston-Salem. You can learn the truth about the challenges of day to day life as a working class African-American in Winston-Salem. You can gain true wisdom and knowledge at the feet of your elders who lived through the most tumultuous history in our city. Just don’t forget when you stop by: Forsyth County voted to stay out of the Civil War, and besides having Salem’s ample supplies looted by both rebel and Union troops, we mostly sat that disaster out. Your fight is not our fight, bubba.
All power to the people!
Want to learn more about the story of the Black Panthers in Camel City? Read a full chapter from Chad’s book by clicking here: Black Panther Party Chapter Excerpt from Shape I’m In by Chad Nance
You can purchase the full book “Shape I’m In: The Camel City Dispatches” HERE.