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Myth, Legend & Reality: Seattle's Black Panthers Thumbnail

Myth, Legend & Reality: Seattle's Black Panthers

In honor of Black History Month, Newground was pleased to host clients and friends at a recent Rainier Club dinner where we heard first-hand from Elmer Dixon, author and founding chapter member of Seattle’s Black Panthers for Self Defense and a current global speaker on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  His autobiography, Die Standing, is available for purchase from publisher Two Sisters Writing. 

Mr. Dixon was joined by Rick DuPree, documentarian and current Director of Community Partnerships at the Seattle Academy (SAAS).  Mr. DuPree’s documentary on the Seattle Black Panthers is in its final edits and slated for release later this year.

The panel was expertly moderated by Tracy Brown, MA, MPP, Principal Consultant at Executive Diversity Services, which focuses on equity leadership.  Ms. Brown brought forth keen observations and questions and was an excellent facilitator to the room’s varied audience. 

It was fascinating to learn about the Black Panthers' 1960's activism and political history, both local and national, and how they were instrumental in building several Seattle-area community health centers – the Carolyn Downs Medical Clinic, Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, and Country Doctor and Dental Health.  The Black Panthers also had a variety of outreach service programs, such as the Free Breakfast (for elementary students), Prison to Business, Ambulance, and Free Clothing programs which touched the lives of thousands of city residents.

Our group came away from the evening with a deeper understanding of our local Black Panther chapter’s specific triumphs, challenges, and obstacles – which differed somewhat from those in Oakland, Chicago, and Philadelphia.  It was interesting to learn that Seattle’s chapter also lasted the longest, from 1968 on until 1978. 

To learn more about the Seattle Black Panthers' fascinating and inspirational history, please see the University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project archives. 

For more, here’s a link to a preview of a Black Panther-related documentary written and produced by one of Newground’s clients, Melvin & Jean, An American Story:

When Melvin and Jean McNair hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria in 1972 to join Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers, they called it an act of political resistance to racism and the War in Vietnam. The hijacking was also an act of desperation committed by two people in their early twenties who saw no other way to escape what they felt was the constant state of racial oppression in America.

If you’re interested in additional Seattle-based Black History events, we recommend these two upcoming performances:

GRIEF, by Spectrum Dance Theater (March 15 & 16) - a performance from the perspective of Emmett Till’s mother: 

At Spectrum Dance Theater, our ensemble, Associate Artists, and Guest Artist Josephine Howell channel the fury, pain, and grief that Mamie Till-Mobley felt. Byrd’s poignant message reminds us: “If you love, you will grieve.” Let us lean into this challenging history together, connecting with vulnerability and shared humanity.

X: The Life & Times of Malcolm X, presented by Seattle Opera (Feb 24-Mar 9)

Activist. Orator. Husband. Leader. One of the most misunderstood figures in US history, Malcolm X was an icon of the civil rights movement. Get to know the man through a series of biographical vignettes that follow Malcolm X from his interrupted childhood in Lansing, Michigan to his tragic murder in Harlem. With a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Anthony Davis (Central Park Five) that fuses elements of modernism, minimalism, and jazz, X produces a sound world that is unmistakably individual.

At Newground, we think it’s vitally important for us and clients to publicly support DEI initiatives – both locally and nationally – and we are especially proud of our clients who go the extra mile and use their stocks to file shareholder resolutions via the shareholder engagement space. 

“Speak Truth to Power” may be a 1960’s idiom – but Newground is one of those rare advisors who has done this for decades by helping its clients, as shareowners of various corporations, to dialogue and negotiate for win-win outcomes.  Please reach out to learn more – we’re happy to widen the circle of engagement!

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Photo: Black Panthers on steps of Legislative Building, Olympia, 2/28/1969, State Governors’ Negative Collection, 1949-1975, WA State Archives.

Note:  This material is intended for educational purposes only.  As with all our public writing, blog posts do not constitute tax or financial planning advice; likewise, they are neither an offer to sell nor solicitation to buy any investment or security.