The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Imagine yourself, a black man, 16 years old, living in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Imagine a life of poverty, gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, racism, and police brutality. Imagine getting your ass kicked by the system, mentally and physically on a daily basis and witnessing your friends and family members slain on the streets of your community. Talk about Hell on Earth. Now tell me this… What would you do? What approach would you take to escape the black liberation struggle? You could either follow the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violent approach to injustice by joining a Black organization like the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), SNCC (Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee) and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality.) Or…. You could take the badass approach and gather all your homies, arm yourselves and join the US Organization or the infamous Black Panthers Party for Self Defense. Historical leaders, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, John Huggins, Elmer “Geronimo Ji-Jaga” Pratt, Ray “Masai” Hewitt, Elaine Brown, and Ericka Huggins all chose the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Founded in Oakland, California in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, The Black Panther Party (originally named the Black Panther Party for Self Defense) was an African American revolutionary socialist organization that took a radical approach to black liberation and civil rights. The Black Panthers were armed citizens who patrolled the streets in response to the behavior of police officers upon community members and were also well known for their Free Breakfast for Children Program. By 1968, The Panthers made its way to the streets of Los Angeles with the help of Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter as they continued to make positive change with a confrontational, violent and often militant approach. “Who is more right winged than the gangsta?” said former Black Panther Member Wayne Pharr.

“Right winged?” I thought to myself. Wikipedia defines Right Winged as a political term used to describe an outlook or position that accepts or supports social hierarchy or social inequality. Gangstas already possess the demeanor, and courageous mentality that could be transferred into positive revolutionary change. “Who is more right winged than the gangsta?” No one as far as history is concerned. The Black Panther party was filled with gangstas, former prisoners and academics all who came together in defense of their community and human rights.

Many debate on the ethics of a violent approach to injustice and I myself struggle over what choice I would have made, and even what choice I am allowed to make in present day. We cannot just simply pull out our guns anymore and literally fight back. We aren’t even safe to speak of a revolution without being put on a “watch” list.

After attending a screening at Loyola Marymount University of the documentary film 41st and Central by Gregory Everett and engaging in a panel with former Black Panther members Roland Freeman and Wayne Pharr, I began to question my place in society as a revolutionary.

As a little black girl, I grew up in the middle class mixed neighborhood of Carson, CA. In my eyes, there was no color. I had friends who were Black, White, Samoan, Pilipino and Latino. I then went to High School in Watts, CA where I was mostly surrounded by Black and Latino peers who I shared commonalities. It was Watts, California where my eyes were also opened up to a new idea of racism and poverty and what my ancestors did for the community. College came around and I was ready to head to Loyola Marymount University. I visited the campus and thought it was like Disneyland. I was excited to be in a place with new faces, new cultures and new people. Little did I know that these new friends would actually treat me as one of their enemies.

It was only a few months of school before members of black students (8% population) on campus were bombarded with racial slurs, ignorant graffiti on our dorm doors and raving rants by drunken white students in the middle of the night about how much they hate black people. I didn’t know what racism was until I came to college and this definitely wasn’t the culture shock that I was expecting.

In response to the racism on campus, students bonded together, had a few rallies and open discussions and watched each other’s backs. But was this enough? Would this stop the racism? Hell no. The action today does not compare to what would have been done in the 60s or 70s. If we were to band together and fight, we would all be kicked out of school. If we carried guns to protect ourselves we would be arrested and jailed for conspiracy to commit a murder. All I knew is that I was not going to pay 55 thousand dollars a year (of money that I don’t have) to be disrespected or treated unfairly by students, faculty or staff members who felt that I was inferior. I would lend my voice to change by doing my own investigation on the happenings of students who commit these crimes, focusing topics of my work on the black community whenever I got the chance and today creating a unique art exhibition that expresses the successes and struggles of the community through visual arts. I guess I took the non-violent approach.

My mother once told me that I was kin to Huey Newton, the Leader of the Black panthers party. Having this knowledge has sat in the back of my mind ever since. Nia- purpose. What is my purpose? What revolution would I start? It may not be with guns or violence, but it will damn sure be just as powerful.

- Chanel Mitchell 

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