Comparative Analysis of the BPP and BLM

“We don’t hate nobody because of color. We hate oppression.” An empowering statement made by Bobby Seal, a co-founder of the Black Panther Party. Alongside Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton initiated an organization whose target was to address issues African Americans faced such as discrimination, police brutality, and other racial injustices. Both the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Black Lives Matter (BLM)  movement are key civil rights organizations arising in two very different time periods, yet, were driven by mutual goals and the shared mission of advocating for African American empowerment. These two significant groups utilized the media to their advantage to deliver their core message and amplify what they needed to demand. By digging deeper into the similar processes the movements have undergone, it is important to focus on how each group employed literary, rhetoric, and historical narratives through media outlets to accomplish their aspirations.

Notably, both the Black Panther Party and the Black Lives Matter movement effectively used literary criticism to express emotions and encourage others to join them. Literature played a significant role within each movement in its own unique way. As the groups circulated their beliefs and ideas, they were able to document their struggles and achievements, amplifying their powerful efforts through widespread media sharing. “Papers such as Frederick Douglass’s The North Star, the California Eagle, the Chicago Defender, and Jet, Ebony, and Emerge magazines were published, written, and edited by Black journalists.” (Lipsky). Documentations as such this were able to record African Americans’ lives and showcase the influential art literature they wrote. By highlighting this work, it advocated for Black communities and benefited their political goals. These papers gave perspectives from those within the Black community and provided real information on what they experienced, which would have been suppressed throughout mainstream media. “The newspaper was important in disseminating the political messages of the party. Mass circulation meant they had reach beyond their membership in black communities. Emory Douglas’s artwork was the perfect vehicle for spreading the ideas of the Panthers, for instance his iconic depiction of the police as pigs. Black Lives Matter has harnessed the power of social media, but this cannot replace the physical paper, which reaches the places the internet cannot.” (Andrews). Dominant newspapers or broadcast networks regularly depicted African Americans as poor, uneducated, and violent. 

On the other hand, however, Black media revealed narratives about struggles they went through as well as success stories that were undermined. Through these newspapers, the Black Panther Party was able to convey its values and bring people into alliance with them. In contrast to the way the BPP utilized the media to operate, BLM tackled its mission in a more modern manner. While the BPP used the Pony Express to spread these newspapers, BLM spread art online. “We can’t breathe. We still seethe. We/ stay mad. We break bad. We/ hold rage. We rampage. We/ scare you. We scared too.” (Elliott). This poem was written by an eighth grader during the uprising of the BLM movement in 2020. African Americans of all ages were heavily affected by police brutality and racial injustice, inspiring young black people to express their emotions through forms of art, including poems like this one. Despite the fact that the BPP ended four decades ago, black people are still oppressed in the 21st century and share mutual feelings of rage, fear, and disappointment online. The literary efforts made in the media played a significant role in the achievements of the civil rights organizations the BPP and BLM movement. 

The BPP and BLM effectively employed rhetorical tactics to voice their demands and go against racial inequality. The Black Panther Party addressed systematic injustice in many ways such as striking speeches and combating police with firearms, however, they not only fought back but took the initiative to innovate on their own. “Their free breakfast program fed thousands of hungry kids before school; they set up health clinics, child development centers, and food pantries. They handled pest control, gave away coats and shoes in the winter, and started a free bus route to prisons for people to visit their incarcerated family members or loved ones.” (Chow). The BPP decided it was not worth waiting for the government to provide them with the essentials they needed. They were unreliable as African Americans were constantly neglected. So, in the meanwhile of fighting for the points on their 10-point program, they developed and executed a lot on their own. In order to get the knowledge on these programs out, flyers were spread, in addition to information in their newspapers. 

The Black Panther Party utilized the media to extend their helping hand. They contributed to their community by supplying them with thoughtful and useful support by assisting those in need. “These days, Black Lives Matter activists and their allies are using phones instead of firearms, recording videos of police killings and other brutality that have gone viral repeatedly. The resulting waves of outrage, amplified by immediate access to millions of viewers via social media, culminated in the current movement of daily protests that have spread around the world over the last month.” (Jenkins-Bell et al.) 

Similarly, BLM activists also used media platforms to amplify their voices and advocate for reform and racial justice. The Black Lives Matter movement involved significant hashtags to raise awareness of the discrimination black communities faced. “#BlackLivesMatter, a simple call for racial equality, has become a freshly renewed motto for reimagining policing, now supported by two-thirds of US Americans.” (Amnesty International). This hashtag was extensively used after a man, George Floyd, was a victim of police brutality. His death resulted in a surge of protests and became a call to take immediate action for racial justice. By reposting the tragic event on social media, BLM was reignited and better acknowledged. The tag was used under posts revealing unfair experiences African Americans faced in the modern day. The hashtag served as a demonstration of alliance and protest which quickly made change. This form of advocacy removed racist monuments, created new laws, and reinforced the awareness of racism in the nation. The media effectively publicized and communicated crucial information for these two groups through rhetorical means.

The Black Panther Party and Black Lives Matter movement both implemented historical stories of black resistance and freedom to motivate their followers and situate their plans. The BPP engaged legacies made from movements in history, such as the civil rights movement in which Malcolm X took part. Malcolm X was an important figure and activist in the civil rights movement, who gave powerful speeches empowering African Americans. “Like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers believed that nonviolent protests could not truly liberate black Americans or give them power over their own lives. They linked the African American liberation movement with liberation movements in Africa and Southeast Asia.” (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture). In the 1960s, racial tensions widely arose, which encouraged the Black community to get involved in activism for their liberation and fight the unjust system. This is where the Black Panther Party emerged from. Malcolm X pushed for a more combative approach to achieve Black freedom and advocated for self-defense in response to the violence toward African Americans. Likewise, Malcolm’s teaching largely influenced the BPP into taking a more assertive stance and being more confrontational when fighting systematic racism. They believed that oppression could not be combated with peaceful protests alone, but knew they needed to incorporate firearms to empower their community. “Key tactics have been applied, refined, and shared across continents, including the boycott, which comes from the Irish struggle against British colonialism; the hunger strike, which has deep historical roots in India and Ireland and was widely used by women suffragettes in the U.K.; and nonviolent direct action, devised by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and India.” (Morris). Both the BPP and BLM movements incorporated tactics used in history in order to legitimize their organizations and their work. By utilizing these strategies that have been used before, the movements were able to paint a broader picture for society and open their eyes. The parallel lines between past and present societal issues recurring highlight the point that history is repeating itself, so using effective methods that have worked before is worth approaching again. Simultaneously, BLM exercised similar techniques as the BPP and invoked historical events where racial inequality occurred. They highlight and involve injustices like police brutality and segregation in their work to further emphasize inequality in society. “Whichever tactics are employed, the ultimate goal is to disrupt the society sufficiently that power holders capitulate to the movement’s demands in exchange for the restoration of social order.” (Morris). These two meaningful organizations successfully engaged their audience as they exercised similar plans and procedures employed in history. Bringing history into their present-day was very impactful when reaching their goals and aspirations. Through historical criticism, both movements wanted to educate and empower their communities as they emphasized the importance of their history to fight against injustice. 

In light of these points, the Black Panther Party and Black Lives Matter movement utilized several media tactics such as literary, rhetorical, and historical criticisms to reach their missions. Through these approaches, the organizations were able to connect and involve their community and audience when going against racial injustice. They challenged popular narratives which were often racist, and still chose to overcome their obstacles to the greatest extent. By analyzing the media strategies they used through a literary, rhetorical, and historical lens insight is given into promoting Black legacy and activism as well as the long fight for societal change. 

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