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Black History Month: The Black Panther Party 

February is Black History Month; originally started as a way to educate people about Black Americans and their contributions, successes, and struggles, it has continued to be a time for acknowledging, commemorating, and appreciating the role of Black people and Black communities in the history of the United States. We have Black organizers to thank for the birth of many modern-day programs that enact community care. Their bravery, creativity, compassion and commitment to the service others are critically important values that we strive to embody in our work today. The legacy of Black Americans should be celebrated and honored; the achievements, accomplishments, and contributions of the Black community must be kept alive. Their stories are a critical part of our history and our work of growing food justice today and tomorrow. Follow along as we highlight different Black folks and organizations during Black History Month. 

The Black Panther Party was a Black political organization founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seales in Oakland, California in the late 1960’s. The party’s ideologies centered around the 10-point program, principles centering on the liberation and livelihood of Black people.  

The Panthers were dedicated to serving their community in many ways, including through their Free Breakfast Program. The meal program was created to address the issue of hunger and poverty, which made it difficult for many low-income Black children to learn in school. In 1968, most low-income children attended school on an empty stomach and remained hungry throughout the day. While the National School Lunch Program offered reduced-price lunches for children, it did not provide free lunches.  

After the start of their first breakfast served in Oakland in 1969, the Panthers expanded the program to Black Panther Party chapters in 36 cities, feeding 20,000 low-income children. This included the Seattle Chapter.  The Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party was founded in 1968 and led by Aaron Lloyd Dixon. The chapter grew quickly and was known for providing free breakfasts, meal delivery, free clothing and shoes, medical services to families, and other community support.   

Youlanda Givens, from the Seattle Chapter, writes, “Fifty bags of food were delivered every Wednesday to families across the city. These services were considered simple basic needs for the community. Securing food donations and funds for the programs was a full-time job, not taken lightly.”  

Today, many food distribution organizations are made possible because of Black Panther organizers who came together to provide community care and instill love, honor, and respect. This is just one facet of their powerful legacy, and we encourage you to learn more!