Black Panther Party co-founder encourages political, legislative engagement

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Journalism graduate student Autumn Caviness, left, watches as Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, autographs a book Tuesday night at the Briscoe Center for American History. The event celebrated the center's acquisition of Stephen Shames’ photos of the Black Panther Party.

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

With the upcoming 2018 primary elections, Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, said getting involved in the electoral process is a powerful and often overlooked way to make change.

During a lecture at the Bass Lecture Hall on Tuesday night, Seale focused his discussion on his life before the creation of the Black Panther Party in 1966, the Party’s use of guns and its origins.

“I tell these young brothers, ‘You guys are going to get no black power until you get political power seats,’” Seale said, when differentiating the Black Panthers from the Black Power movement.

The event was hosted by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, which was celebrating the acquisition of an archive from photojournalist Stephen Shames, including more than 400,000 photographic images of the Black Panther Party.

“One of the things that’s unique about this collection is that I was allowed access to the Panthers, showing people as people,” Shames said. “You get to see not only the public face, but the private moments.”

When introducing Seale, Shames talked about differences between social movements in the 60s and the present. Shames discussed Seale’s ability to organize and mobilize the masses and how present-day protests were not enough to cause change.

“It’s one thing to protest and say, ‘Yeah, black lives matter,’ but it’s another thing to adapt yourself or set yourselves up with a grassroots type of
program in all of these little communities in which you exist and get people united,” Seale said. “That’s what I did.”

History graduate student Tiana Wilson said the talk was timely as it is Black History Month and the “Black Panther” movie will be released Friday.

“I’m excited to hear (Seale) talk, to hear (his) experience and (his) take on how far America has really come in regards to freedom, the black freedom struggle and human rights issues,” Wilson said. 

The audience consisted of invited guests such as Houston Black Panther leader John Crear, history professors and students. 

“To be able to have (Seale) here it will … get (people) more interested and think of the Panthers as something living and that it’s not just a paragraph in the history books,” assistant history professor Laurie Green said. “I really look forward to students having the opportunity to hear the lecture and to have it raise questions they want to look into more.”