The Black Panther Party created over 60 Community Survival Programs including the Free Breakfast Program, Free Medical and Dental Clinics, Free Food Programs and many more that focused specifically on children and elders.
Though it began in Oakland, Ca in 1966, The Black Panther Party had chapters throughout the United States, in over 30 cities, many of which were started by and lead by women. Christina “Chuckles'' May, for example was Deputy Minister of Culture for the Chicago Chapter along with Yvonne King who held two roles, Deputy Minister of Labor and Field Secretary. The International Chapters were also led by a team of Women - Kathleen Cleaver, Barbara E. Cox, Connie Matthews, Charlotte O'Neal and Janet Underwood.
By the early 1970s women made up nearly 70% of The BPP members. These are just a few of the faces of the warriors that helped build the world we live in today. Captured by photographer and activist Stephen Shames, these photos (used to inform the design of The Mural) show examples of The Community Survival Programs created by The Panther Party. Not limited to but including - free medical, voting rights, free education and the most known - free breakfast program. These survival programs existed in each of the 28 chapters across the US as well as internationally.
At the average age of 19, young women filled the roles of boots on the ground community organizers, Central Committee leaders, Survival Program administrators, BPP Newspaper writers, artists and editors, nurses, researchers, marksmen, community board members, teachers, mothers, grandmothers. They were coalition-builders who learned from the people on the job. However there weren't male Panthers and Female Panthers. There were Panthers, Comrades, working side by side serving the people.
Unknown to most, the Women in the Black Panther Party were the foundation of The Party. They were at the core of the BPP’s 60+ Community Survival Programs created to improve human lives in the U.S. and around the world. Like many freedom movements throughout history, women were the glue and the backbone.
In March of 1972 The Black Panther Party gave away over 10,000 bags of groceries to people and families in need throughout Oakland and Berkeley, Ca.
photos by Stephen Shames