Comparison essay of the BPP and BLM movements

BPP and BLM movement comparison on American Culture.

Oakland California, 1966, would mark an important year and location for the civil rights movement happening all along America. Where two male college students in their early 20s, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale launched a movement that would socially radicalize the American landscape, its influence and message would still resonate with Americans even today, this movement would be known as the Black Panther Party (BPP). Rooted in the ideology of Black nationalism, the BPP sought to address systemic injustices that African American communities faced, including poverty, racism, and police brutality. Although the Black Panther Party no longer exists today, its message and goal resonate in the form of the 2013 activist movement created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi who founded the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) Movement. Both Movements follow a similar message/goal where their influence is integrated into American culture. These movements, individually and collectively, reshaped perceptions/roles of African American communities and profoundly impacted American culture during their respective eras. Their influence was displayed through musical expression, a significant presence in sports, and media representation, leaving an enduring legacy on the cultural American landscape.

With respect to music in American culture, it is a way to communicate an idea, message, or emotion to thousands of people who listen to it and have a strong presence in American culture. When analyzing the landscape of the music industry up to the 1960s it was predominantly dominated by the radio, records, and poems. Musical artists before the BPP laid the groundwork for their musical involvement, such as Billie Holiday, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, and especially James Brown with the iconic “Say it Loud.” Along with the influence of famous poems such as “Metaphors of Militancy” a collection of infamous poetry from the 1960s exposed societal oppression in African American communities and transformed into popular songs (Jennings). The BPP took a direct approach towards influencing the musical landscape with the creation of the band called “Lumpen”. The band created popular Funk/ R&B songs such as” No More” and “Free Bobby Now” songs that covered political and social messages that were controversial for the time. This controversy influenced other artists to follow and dominate the musical landscape with this rhythm and message in that era and helped influence modern music. Alongside pushing the African American community to become much more prominent in the music industry. “Lumpen’s legacy carried on through the sociopolitical commentary that permeated R&B and funk throughout the ’70s—as well as its influence on hip-hop groups such as the Coup, Public Enemy, and Dead Prez” (Arnold).

When comparing the music industry today, is dominated by streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. The impact of the BLM movement on music since 2013 paralleled the influence of the BPP. Many artists before them followed the footsteps of the BPP who would influence BLM, those being Public enemy “fight the power” and NWA’s “F-the police.” In today’s hip-hop and rap industry, the strong influence of artists such as Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay-Z over musical platforms is evident. These artists were able, using their artistry and infuse their music with messages of freedom, and resistance against police brutality, to bring to light the situation of the African American communities and helped promote BLM through these platforms and to their thousands of audiences. This has led to the creation of iconic songs that serve as reflections of the profound influence the BLM message has had on shaping perspectives about African American communities and shaping the future of the music industry within American culture. “As more mainstream musical artists have begun weighing in on the current Black Lives Matter protests, there have been similar callouts” (Wilson).

Sports are integral to American culture, serving as a cornerstone of entertainment and unity for countless individuals, and having a profound influence on many lives. Regarding the 1960s-70s era of sports, one of the most influential athletes was the boxer Muhammed Ali. Originating from African descent, Muhammed Ali, used his popularity and influence as “The greatest” in boxing to publicly speak out against social injustice towards the Poor and oppressed African American Communities, against Police brutality, and against the Vietnam War as the Panthers did. His outspoken activism resonated with thousands of Americans. It helped catalyze the spread of the BPP’s message to other African American athletes and sports such as basketball and American football during that era. “Their graphic was of a black silhouette of a panther with a slogan straight from the champ: ‘WE Are the Greatest.’ They took his famous phrase, ‘I am the greatest,’ and made it a collective call to arms.” (Zirin).
In modern sports, a similar impact is the BLM movement’s influence in the world of sports, as in the world of Basketball. As with the popularity and reach of the BLM movement in 2020 because of the death of George Floyd, the NBA league saw a drastic change. With the help of Michele Roberts, the executive director of the NBPA, she helped promote the message of the Movement and helped bring to light the influence of the BLM inside the league. She achieved it with the help of African American athletes who worked together to advance the movement. This change set an example for other sports to follow. “She worked with stars like LeBron James and Chris Paul to get the league to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on every court, embrace the concept of printing messages supporting social justice on jerseys, and set up a fund to support economic growth in Black communities” (Gelles). The influence the BLM movement had in the world of sports pushed internationally on sports such as Soccer. During the 2020-2023 English Premier League campaigns, sparked by racial tensions and George Floyd’s death, the “No Room for Racism” movement emerged. Players would bring to light the message of the BLM movement in sports and the fight against social and racial inequalities by Kneeling and putting their fists up during national anthems. “Taking the knee is a gesture that has been driven by the players. Players have been doing it to highlight the fight for racial equality and for that, it has certainly kept the spotlight on the issues football and wider society still face” (Mngqosini).

In the 1960s, the media (News stations and newspapers) portrayed the BPP negatively, labeling them as a radical political terrorist group. This led to widespread fear and tension among Americans, creating racial divisions and contributing to the emergence of critical race theory on the oppression of African American communities. “One reporter called the Panthers a terrorist group. Another article reported that the Panthers routinely intimidated store owners by demanding free food for their breakfast program. Several stories told of how the Panthers stockpiled weapons for riots” (Jeffries 29). This was a primary reason why the BPP largely influenced common cultural aspects such as sports and music instead of the news and press which were largely against them. Their influence on American society had their movement pushed throughout all media outlets’ coverage of the BPP anywhere they went. Leading to the image and message of the movement to be largely stigmatized yet easily ingrained inside of the Media culture for that era leaning towards its popularity and strong influence, while starting to bring to light the social injustices African American communities faced.

The BLM movement in the modern day was not as well received at first and was seen as a violent movement. With the emergence of Police brutality and the appearance of social injustice towards the African American/Poor communities, this reality was driven and helped by social media outlets instead of local news. “67% say ‘social media highlights important issues that might not get a lot of attention otherwise…81% majority of Americans believe police violence against Black people in the U.S. is a problem” (Smith et. al.). As a result of social media coverage and accounts from prominent members of the African American communities helped the Movement gain a more positive view from the American perspective. In addition to challenging stereotypes and changing perceptions of African American and impoverished communities, presenting the reality surrounding these communities.

When looking at these cultural and societal areas of life in America today whether it be the musical, News, or sports all these areas are key points inside American culture. Resulting that if something big happens in one of these areas it has a tremendous effect on America as a whole. When looking at the cultural wave the Black Panther Party had in the 1960s, it helps understand the significant impact they left on these areas. Forever changed the musical, media, and sports worlds themselves, and was the first step to push African Americans to have a prominent role in these areas. The legacy of the party left a cultural mark on all these aspects permanently and this is proven by the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement today. This continues the groundwork of the BPP and continues to leave a mark on American culture through the pushing of African Americans playing a large role in these social areas while shedding light on social and economic injustices these communities still face today.

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