The Black Panther Party’s Legacy Misrepresented in Recent Trump Campaign Allegations

By Scotty T Reid, BTRN

Former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign recently scrutinized Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ family ties to the Black Panther Party following Trump’s indictment on multiple felony charges related to the 2020 election results.

Shortly after the indictment, the Trump campaign disseminated an extensive email labeled “The Truth About Fani Willis,” positioning the prosecutor as a “Democrat activist” and asserting her lineage is rooted in extremism.

The email highlighted, under the headings “A Misunderstood Legacy” and “Fani Willis and Her Black Panther Heritage,” a 2021 TIME magazine article that shed light on Willis’ father’s affiliation with the Black Panther Party:

“Born in Inglewood, California, Willis often accompanied her father, a former Black Panther turned criminal defense lawyer, to court on Saturdays. In those early years, she would sit beside a senior white judge. The nature of their whispered conversations piqued the curiosity of Willis’ father.”

The email further emphasized:

“Fani proudly acknowledges her African-American heritage. In what appears to be a nod to her future endeavors, she elaborates on the meaning of her Swahili name: ‘My full name is Fani Taifa Willis. With my father’s roots in the Black Panther Party, he had a strong Afrocentric perspective. ‘Fani’ translates to ‘prosperous,’ while ‘Taifa’ means ‘people.'”

Despite the campaign’s insinuations, setting the record straight about the Black Panther Party is crucial. The party, established initially in the 1960s before being destroyed by the FBI from within and without the organization, primarily championed Black empowerment and the end of systemic racial discrimination. In a broader context, they advocated for poor, marginalized, and oppressed people around the world inspiring similar formations like the Polynesian Panthers of New Zealand or the Dalit Panthers of India.

Contrary to the “hate group” label, the Black Panther Party was a socialist political organization that put forward candidates in various regions and capacities. They prioritized political education and actively engaged in policy debates with elected officials.

Moreover, their “What We Want Now!” The ten-point program, publicized in 1967, elucidated its core objectives, including demands for employment, housing, and an end to police brutality against Black people. The Black Panthers were also renowned for their community programs, such as the children’s free breakfast initiative, aimed at supporting underserved neighborhoods. There is no documentation to support the long-used “hate group” label that has been applied to the Black Panther Party and in fact, leaders of the party called out both Black and white political leaders and were equally harsh in their criticism of those they alleged to be corrupt and unjust in their governance.

Judas and the Black Messiah' is a potent lesson on loyalty and tragedyHistorically, entities like the FBI have engaged in questionable and illegal actions against left-leaning groups, including the Black Panther Party. Operations like COINTELPRO captured perfectly by the film “Judas and the Black Messiah“, for instance, have been widely documented for their efforts to destabilize and disrupt such organizations, often involving severe tactics including political assassinations and public disinformation campaigns waged in collaboration with corporate media entities.

The Trump campaign also hinted at an alleged relationship between Willis and a gang member she was prosecuting. While previous allegations insinuated an affair, which was later debunked by Fox News, the recent campaign email ambiguously referred to a “platonic relationship.”

Trump faces 13 felony charges, encompassing violations of the Georgia RICO Act and other serious infractions. Several Trump associates, including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Jenna Ellis, and John Eastman, have also been indicted to name just a few of the co-conspirators. Trump’s campaign is clearly attempting to influence courts and the judicial process and is disparaging the work of the Black Panther Party to mount a racialized personal attack on the duly elected DA Fanni Willis.

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