Essay on Ten Point Program Philosophy: The Black Panther Party For Self Defense
Like many other genres, manifestos aren’t just ink on paper. Manifestos are a reflection of our wants and needs, what we hope to give to this world or to receive from it. Originally derived from the Latin manifestum, meaning clear or conspicuous, a manifesto is defined as, “a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party, or government.”3 A manifesto usually accepts or supports a previously published position or public consensus, or it promotes a new concept with prescriptive suggestions for enacting the changes the author feels should be implemented. Manifestos have been used throughout history and are now used to study art, literature, and politics, during different eras of time.
There are many examples of manifestos in history. For this essay, I would like to focus on The Black Panthers’ Ten Point Program and use it to further explain and analyze the role of manifestos in creating social and political change. The Ten-Point Program, created by the founders of The Black Panther Party in 1968, is a set of rules for the Black Panther Party that outlines its principles and operational methods. Manifestos, like The Ten Point Program, aim to convey the group’s desires and commitments. For example, The Ten-Point Program includes ten demands and desires that would need to be implemented to give black people their full rights, freedom, and power. The manifesto included the group’s desire for full employment, decent housing, decent education, free health care, and more.
Manifestos are also a good way to unite people against a common issue. By explaining the issue at hand and suggesting solutions, those who are oppressed or those who are allies to victims of the issue would be more inspired to unite and take action. In the Black Panther’s manifesto, the party aims to fight against the years of racism and oppression of black individuals and fight for their rights, while also inspiring black people and their allies to speak up.
Additionally, manifestos are important to analyze, as they give us a look into the political, material, and social context of the time. The Ten-Point Program’s demands are a reflection of the time in which they were written. The first point of the manifesto states, “We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black and oppressed communities.”2 This shows us that at the time, black communities did not have control of their lives, rather the government and its racist roots had power over black people and their destinies. Racism still exists today, and issues like generational poverty worsen the racial wealth gap, but black people do have a lot more rights and a lot more freedom, so between 1968 and now, some things have changed, but the root of it all (racism) has not. Another interesting point is point number 5: “We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.”2 This reminds us of current debates about whether or not to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) in K-12 curriculums. Many states have excluded lessons on black history from school curriculums as a way to avoid “teaching racism”. I believe learning about our histories and the histories of other ethnicities is a way to connect, recognize and correct past mistakes (especially those relating to racism or discrimination of any kind), and celebrate our similarities and our differences. The manifesto also mentioned wanting, “An immediate end to police brutality and the murder of black people.”2 This sounds familiar to current issues of anti-black violence and police brutality, and it is clear that both then and now, these victims’ deaths are hardly ever brought to justice. Another point from the manifesto is point number 9: “We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the constitution of the United States.”2 Looking at the history of the United States at the time, and reading this now, we know that black people were often sentenced to prison or received the death penalty more often than white criminals, and were oftentimes innocent and were not tried in court or tried unfairly. And finally, the last point I want to bring up is demand number 10: “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology.”2 This suggests that people had access to technologies, specifically whites, or those considered to be privileged. Meanwhile, black communities did not have access to these technologies and saw that it was their right to acquire these technologies.
Manifestos are a way to stand together against our common enemy, injustice and oppression. They are timeless pieces of literature that unite people together and strive to bring about change and develop this world for the better. They inspire us to connect and support each other by directly identifying an issue and demanding action. As Publilius Syrus once said, “Where there is unity, there is always victory.”4