New Black Panther Party
New Black Panther Party
LEADERS: Aaron Michaels; Khalid Muhammad; Malik Zulu Shabazz
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1990
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: United States
The New Black Panther party, which members of the original Black Panthers are quick to point out is in no way associated with them, is a radical, black nationalist, anti-Semitic, anti-white, extremist group that is an outgrowth of the Nation of Islam. The original Black Panthers have publicly stated that the New Black Panther Party should not have the right to use their name or image and that they are not in any way philosophically or politically similar.
The group is also called the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. It was founded in 1990 by Aaron Michaels, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is currently led by attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz. The previous leader of the group, Khalid Muhammad, died of a brain aneurysm in February 2001. The group's philosophical and ideological orientation is described as a mix of radical black Nationalism, pan-Africanism, racism, black separatism, and anti-Semitism. The New Black Panther Party claims to have been influenced by the original Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panther Militia. The primary activities of the group consist of organizing (purportedly peaceful) demonstrations across the country that call for civil rights and the empowerment of black people in America. According to the media, the demonstrations are also replete with examples of racist and anti-Semitic bigotry.
Huey Newton and Bobby Seale organized the original Black Panther Party in 1966 in Oakland, California. The group was an ideological mix of Marxism and militant Black Nationalism, designed to empower black people across America to fight for and obtain civil rights. They advocated confrontation and self-defense, but did not explicitly encourage overt acts of terrorism or wanton violence. By the end of the 1960s, the Black Panthers had an estimated 5,000 members, and had chapters in more than twenty areas across the country. By the mid 1970s, the group had lost most of its momentum as a result of internal strife and violent confrontations with law enforcement agencies. Although the group ceased to be publicly active, the ideological and philosophical constructs continued to be studied and adopted by various radical groups through the years.
In 1984, Michael McGee, a former member of the original Black Panthers, was elected to the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) City Council. In 1987, he became quite concerned about the poverty and high unemployment rates among the inner city's black population and threatened to disrupt the city's Summerfest events unless more jobs were created for black people. Ultimately, he opted to pursue another avenue for garnering attention: he helped to mobilize the inner city communities to engage in demonstrations to force the public to acknowledge their plight.
By 1990, McGee had become a city alderman, and he used the forum of a city hall press conference to officially state his threat to create a group called the Black Panther Militia unless the problems of the inner city black population were instrumentally attended to. His plan was to encourage members of local gangs to join the Militia, as they would already have some street-fighting and gun usage experience. He planned to provide them with more sophisticated weapons and ideological training and to prepare them for acts of violent terrorism against big business, the wealthy, and the local government. At public meetings designed to recruit members for the Militia, McGee stated that their mission would be to engage in violence, armed combat, and urban guerilla warfare.
By 1992, McGee had organized a chapter of the Black Panther Militia in Indianapolis whose leader was a black Muslim named Mmoja Ajabu and one in Dallas that was led by Aaron Michaels. The latter evolved into the first chapter of the New Black Panther Party.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price had a nightly talk radio show called Talkback, which hired Aaron Michaels as producer in 1990. Michaels was strongly influenced by Price, who was the organizer of several confrontational protests and who introduced him to the concepts inherent in Black Nationalism. Michael McGee was an on-air guest in 1990, and Price encouraged his listening audience to make financial contributions to the Black Panther Militia.
Shortly thereafter, Michaels organized a group of supporters into a radical group he named the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), in tribute to the original Black Panthers; he officially registered the name of the group in 1991. Although he ignored the original Black Panthers "Core Principles, and commitment to community service," he did adopt their confrontational style and militarist manner. Over the next several years, the group broadened its base of operations across the United States.
The Dallas chapter of the New Black Panther Party hosted a National Black Power Summit and Youth Rally on May 29, 1993, which was attended by less than 250 people. One of the Rally's speakers was Michael McGee, who asserted that the new Black Panthers had chapters in more than twenty cities across the country at that time. As part of the effort to advance the notion of racial separatism, the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) was asked to provide a speaker. Tom Metzger, a WAR member not only appeared and spoke at the Rally, he tacitly encouraged the use of violent acts as a means of achieving the stated goals of the group.
Over time, McGee became a more peripheral figure in the NBPP, and Aaron Michaels assumed leadership. Under Michaels, the group became progressively more radical. Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan's national spokesman for the Nation of Islam (NOI), was ascending on a fast track through the NOI hierarchy from his place as one of Farrakhan's earliest followers. He joined the group in 1967, and moved with Farrakhan to the more radical separatist group in 1978. In November 1993, Muhammad spoke at Kean College in New Jersey, where he delivered a speech widely criticized as bigoted, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and homophobic. He called followers of Judaism "bloodsuckers," made crude remarks about Pope John Paul II, made anti-homosexual slurs, and encouraged genocide against the white races. The remarks engendered enormous media attention, and Muhammad was reprimanded by a large number of religious and political leaders. In 1994, the United States Congress issued a statement condemning the speech as "the most vicious and vile kind of hatemongering."
Farrakhan's response to Muhammad's actions was to remove him from NOI leadership. Despite (or perhaps as a result of) the enormously controversial and inflammatory nature of his remarks and his underlying belief system, Muhammad remained a public speaker who was very much in high demand by colleges and universities.
A former NOI member, James Bess, attempted to assassinate Muhammad after he (Muhammad) concluded a speech at the University of California in Riverside on May 29, 1994. He was shot in the leg; four bodyguards and a bystander were wounded before the gunman was apprehended. Bess was convicted for the shootings and received a prison sentence of life, plus twenty-two years. Bess stated that he shot Muhammad because of his negative influence on black youth, as well as the divisive nature of his extremist views.
Khalid Muhammad went to Dallas to recuperate from his gunshot wounds; once there, he began to form an alliance with Aaron Michaels, as well as an interest in the New Black Panther Party. Muhammad joined the leadership of the NBPP and set about increasing the public visibility of the group.
In 1996, Michaels requested assistance from Muhammad in the movement of a group of armed NBPP members from Dallas to Greenville, Texas, in response to the burning of two local area black churches. Muhammad agreed to do so and issued public statements calling for armed patrols to protect black churches across the country, extolling extreme or lethal violence against any whites who might consider doing damage to a black church or to any property owned or used by black people. Ultimately, a black teenager was arrested and indicted in connection with the two church arsons.
By the summer of 1998, Muhammad had seized control of the NBPP from Michaels and had become the new leader of the group. Michaels was relegated to the position of New Black Panther Party Minister of Defense. In June of that year, Muhammad took a group of about fifty NBPP members, some of whom were armed with rifles and shotguns, to Jasper, Texas, to provide visible protection in the aftermath of the murder of James Byrd Junior by three white supremacists. The Ku Klux Klan staged a rally in the area a couple of weeks after the murder, and Muhammad staged a counter-protest by the NBPP, dressed in militant garb evocative of the original Black Panthers.
Muhammad's next plan for increased visibility was to organize the Million Youth March, which was to occur in Harlem, New York, in 2000. The purported purpose of the march was to bring together black youth from all over the United States in an effort to create a sense of solidarity among them, in celebration of Black Power in the Year 2000. Muhammad also hoped to show the black youth of America that there were other groups (the NBPP) than the NOI that were capable of providing them with support and mentorship. The march was intentionally scheduled so as to compete with the NOI-sponsored Million Youth Movement, occurring in Atlanta. The goal of the NOI Movement was to gather black youth and expose them to the tutelage of mainstream black leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Muhammad traveled across the nation in an effort to gather support for the march. He was aided by the Brooklyn-based anti-racism advocacy group called the December 12 Movement. He was able to obtain the support of a number of prominent black leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, who agreed to be a speaker at the event.
Initially, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani refused to grant the NBPP a permit for the Million Youth March to occur in Harlem, citing Muhammad's hate-based rhetoric as a safety concern. A federal judge overruled Mayor Giuliani, the permit was obtained, and the march took place in Harlem, New York, on September 5, 1998. Those in attendance heard a series of speeches laden with racist and anti-Semitic overtones; the day ended when a skirmish occurred as the New York City police attempted to end the march at the appointed time. Muhammad had told the crowd to do battle with the police, telling them to beat the police with rails or clubs and use their (the police's) own guns to shoot them. Roughly 6,000 people attended the march, and Muhammad's popularity continued to increase. He was elected the National Chairman of the New Black Panther Party not long after the event.
Muhammad created an institutional hierarchy within the NBPP and staffed it with many former members of the Nation of Islam and other Black Muslim factions. By the start of the twenty-first century, NBPP leadership claimed thirty-five national chapters and a membership of several thousand.
Khalid Muhammad died of a brain aneurysm quite suddenly on February 17, 2002. He was fifty-three years old. Under his leadership, the NBPP had become the largest and the most vocal racist and anti-Semitic black group in the United States. His second in command, Malik Zulu Shabazz, was his successor.
Shabazz was an attorney, as well as Muhammad's second in command. He had a lengthy history of outspoken extremism, racial separatism, and anti-Semitism, starting from his student days at Howard University. In 1988, Shabazz founded a group called Unity Nation, comprised of NOI supporters. Shabazz used the forum of his leadership as a means of publicly denigrating whites and Jewish people, in the guise of promoting black pride and raising the group's consciousness.
In 1998, Muhammad appointed Shabazz National Youth Director for the Million Youth March and charged him with conveying the NBPP rhetoric to the mainstream media. During the course of a radio interview prior to the march, Shabazz stated that his difficulties with the Jewish people lay in the existence of the State of Israel; he went on to state his beliefs that the Jewish people were involved in the African holocaust and the African slave trade; he also expressed a belief that the Zionists were causing worldwide problems for people of color. Throughout the march, Shabazz continued to espouse anti-Semitic rhetoric.
In the year 2000, Shabazz created a Washington, D.C. chapter of the NBPP, which would eventually house their national headquarters. After Muhammad's death in 2001, Shabazz worked to increase the NBPP's media visibility by organizing and staging protests across the country. He tended to target black communities that were experiencing high-profile racial difficulties. The style of protest organized by Shabazz appeared to lack clear motivation—the group would travel to an area, be sufficiently loud and visible as to attract media attention, and then leave. There was no social change occurring. It appeared that Shabazz's strengths were more organizational than public-welfare oriented. He has been credited with the production and implementation of the Official National NBPP Black Power Manual, containing a ten-point action plan advocating full employment, safe and fair housing, equal and quality education, improved living and working conditions for black people, and tax exemption. It also demands that black women and men be exempt from military service and that black people and other people of color be released from penal institutions due to the increased likelihood that they did not receive fair or impartial trials. The manual lists membership requirements for the NBPP, specifies the dress code, and suggests that members of the NBPP should own a weapon, which they are skilled at using.
- The original Black Panther Party is founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California.
- Michael McGee, former member of the original Black Panthers, was elected to the Milwaukee City Council.
- McGee chooses to lead demonstrations around the issue of black employment, rather than causing overt violence.
- McGee publicly states his intention to create the Black Panther Militia.
- Aaron Michaels organized a group of black nationalists to form the New Black Panther Party.
- McGee stated that the New Black Panther Party had chapters in twenty cities.
- Michaels steps down from leadership of the NBPP, and Khalid Muhammad ascended to power.
- Muhammad dies of a brain aneurysm, and Malik Zulu Shabazz assumes leadership of the group.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
Although the New Black Panther Party claims philosophical and ideological roots in the original Black Panther Party, it has evolved into a far more extremist and violent faction than its purported predecessor. Since the earliest days with Michael McGee, the group has espoused violence, racism, and anti-Semitism. It has put forth an agenda of racial separatism for the United States, while demanding equal opportunity and equal rights with the white communities. Both Muhammad and Shabazz have embraced a platform involving a belief in an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory, homophobia, racism, and black separatism. Since the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Shabazz has increased the volume and intensity of his Jewish conspiracy propaganda. On October 31, 2001, Shabazz co-chaired a meeting with a group of American Muslim leaders, who referred to themselves as the Muslims for Truth and Justice at the National Press Club. The meeting was publicly broadcast on C-SPAN. Shabazz stated his belief that the Jewish people were directly responsible for the terrorist attacks and named the United States and Israel as the two most significant terrorist factions in the world. He thoroughly denigrated Zionism and expressed the opinion that the Jewish people are the underlying reason for the high death tolls on September 11, 2001. He did not provide a specific explanation for his beliefs. Other members of the NBPP echoed his beliefs and purported that several thousand Jewish businesspeople did not go to work at the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers on the day of the attacks, thereby escaping harm. They also put forth the NBPP theory that Israel masterminded and implemented the September 11 attacks in retaliation for the United States' failure to quell the Intifada.
In April 2002, Shabazz spoke out at an NBPP demonstration in front of the B'nai Brith offices in Washington, D.C. He led chants in which he advocated the decimation of the State of Israel, demonized the white races, and called for the death of every Zionist in Israel, regardless of age or infirmity.
Shabazz's leadership of the NBPP has become progressively more separatist, gradually developing into an exclusively racist ideology. He advocates extreme violence and terrorist activities and fails to state a clear agenda for social change or for betterment of the living conditions of black people in America.
Shabazz has raised the ire of the original Black Panthers to the point that they have issued a public statement disavowing any relationship with the group and condemning the NBPP's tactics of racial and anti-Semitic bigotry. David Hilliard, a member of the original Black Panthers and the Executive Director of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, has said that the New Black Panther Party has "totally abandoned our survival programs. The racism that the group espouse(s) flies directly in the face of the Black Panthers' multicultural ideology and purpose." Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the original Black Panthers, has said of the New Black Panthers that they have "hijacked our name and are hijacking our history."
The New Black Panther Party has garnered much attention from the media and the public because of its name: many people initially believe it to be related in some significant way to the original Black Panther Party. There has emerged no underlying ideology aimed at social change; no positive programs have been initiated. Shabazz has come to focus exclusively on promoting a platform of violence, racism, and anti-Semitism. He states, "our position is the Panther exclusively belongs to no one. It belongs to the people." Of the original Black Panthers, he goes on to say that they "are really working with the Zionists. I think their lawyer is one. I think they are being used by outside forces to keep alive the counterintelligence program of the F.B.I. and the U.S. government, creating divisions and factions among black organizations." Although it has been successfully able to capture the attention of the black community and to attract a significant membership, the New Black Panther Party does not appear to state any commitment to move beyond the rhetoric of hate to affect significant positive change in the quality of life in the black communities of America.
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Nation of Islam