Former Black Panther Party Newspaper Staffers Discuss Social and Racial Justice 

Gayle Dickson and Malik Edwards share their stories on the fiftieth anniversary of the Panthers.

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And keep it simple. Appeal to how people feel about things, because Americans, they operate from feelings. If you start getting them to intellectualize, you're going to lose them. Look at who is successful? Donald Trump. As jacked-up as he is, he keeps his message simple. "I'm an asshole, I know some of you are assholes, so we are going to run this country." He's appealing to that lowest-common denominator, and he keeps a simple message. ...

Americans are emotional people. That's why they show you little puppy dogs, and babies. And a lot of the left have a tendency to be intellectuals.

Will you be speaking at the fiftieth anniversary conference?

I'm going do to do one workshop, I'm only doing one, and that's on police brutality, with the mother of Mario Woods and a couple other people, on Friday [Editor's note: visit BBP50th.org for the schedule].

Are you retired?

I got to work every day. Seventy years old working every day at a high school, doing restorative practice work.

That's incredible!


Same News, Different Clothes

An interview with Rev. M. Gayle Dickson

Describe what it's like going back over the newspaper design and activist work that you did nearly a half-century ago?

Basically, it's like relearning myself again from that time. ...

The first thought that I had was I thought it was just amazing, the work that we did. We were just toddlers. Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one years old. And we were editing a newspaper. We were organizing. We were distributing a newspaper.

Did you see themes or ideas or news from those Black Panther newspapers that you see in today's news?

It's like all the images I'm doing, they are repeats. There's one in the back of the newspaper on exhibit at the [Oakland Museum of California] that says "War declared in the Middle East." Well, war is still being declared in the Middle East. It's not new. It's just wearing different clothes.

What are your observations or thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement?

Unfortunately, I'm not a good person to ask that question to. I watch, but I'm not a close watcher right now. I'm glad that they are responding. I'm glad they're responding in whatever ways they can. ... I'm not an avid Facebook person, but I have a friend who is on Facebook, so I'll see what is posted on Facebook, and I see a lot of good stuff going on. ... I think that the young people today, they are picking up the torch, they are pushing our universe toward justice some more.

I love that you're not on Facebook.

I'm going to get there, I'm going to get there. You're not going to leave me behind.

If you were putting out a newspaper today, what would the headline say?

What kind of news headlines do you think the news media should be putting up, other than the Kardashians?

Hah! But seriously, I think an important role of the media is to give a microphone to those who don't have a voice.

And that's what the Black Panther Party did. As as an example, the first issue on Denzil Dowell, when he got killed, the family and the community in north Richmond ... asked the Black Panther Party to help them obtain evidence that he was murdered by police. ... They were trying to get his clothes, to verify the number of bullets that shot him. We were the voice of the community.

When did you join the Black Panther newsroom?

I started working on the newspaper 1972. We all worked very, very hard. And all I can say about all the hard work that we did is we were dedicated. We'd be up, I won't say 24-seven, but I'll say quite a bit hitting that deadline. ...

We took turns participating in getting that newspaper out. Sometime it would be my turn to ride to the airport and drop it off for distribution. We worked as a team. The editors were right next door to us, and they had their team, and we worked together. ... We'd sleep on the tables, or wrap up in sleeping bags on the floor. ...

I believed that we truly were able to make things change. ... Of course, I'm naive. I didn't know about all these forces that were going against us.

Are you working now, or are you retired, or?

Yay, I retired! I retired on August 2 this year. And then, of course, I'm involved in this [fiftieth anniversary celebration]. So, as soon as this is over with, I'm going to sit down and map out the rest of my life.

How will your experience as a Panther inform your retirement?

I was a very prolific artist back then. But life has gotten in the way — I still do a little bit of this, of that. ... So, I'm going to develop my art. I'm going to write, and I want to practice my art in the community some kind of way; that's still turning around in my head. I don't want to be in isolation, I want to practice it in the community. I believe there is a story out there that I would like to tell.

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