Collection Description

Inspired by the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, Jane Meyers conducted a group of oral histories with members of the San Diego Black Panther Party. Ben Waddell, Wilbert "Buddy" Hauser, Henry Wallace, Ibrahim Fardan, Roe Rush, and Trunnell Price tell their stories of recruitment as teenagers and life in their local organization. These interviews were sponsored by Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Library Dean's Excellence Fund.

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Ben Waddell, Black Panther Party member, Oral History, 2018
Waddell was 16 years old in 1968 when a friend who was already a party member recruited him. The Black Panthers, he said, helped to monitor police behavior and "empower people from within the community to help make people safe." He stayed in the party in San Diego until 1970 because what he really liked about the Panthers was that they not only fed children but also collected donations of clothes and money for them. He also distributed the Panthers' newspaper, which became the Free Press. He was in the group around Eldridge Cleaver and met Bobby Seale. Waddell played basketball at San Diego State University in 1978-1980 but tore ligaments and had to quit. He says that the Panthers' office and people in it were attacked by police. He mentions a "riot" in Mountain View Park after an arrest that was thought to be unfounded. Waddell moved to Arizona, then returned to California and got a degree from Santa Barbara City College. He mentions pride in the Black Panther Party and feels good about restarting the programs for feeding children and helping people get jobs. These interviews were inspired by the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Black Panther Party in 2016., San Diego State University, The project was made possible with the generous support of Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Dean's Excellence Fund.
Henry Wallace, Black Panther Party member, Oral History, 2018
Originally Wallace became a member of the Black Panther Party between the ages of 15 and 16. After he and his brother narrowly escaped a riot in Richmond his family moved to San Diego. In San Diego his sister Shirley helped form a chapter of the Party, and the rest of the family joined. He presents a warm picture of San Diego Panther leader Kenny Denmoand, and talks about the rules of behavior. "We basically policed our own community and fed them," adding, "it was our mission to uplift the children," he says, including running the "Freedom Schools," in which children were taught to respect themselves. "The government," he says, "set out to destroy communities," including by "flooding the community with drugs," and such "indignities" as "pulling over cars" and asking African Americans where they were going, or entering homes without a search warrant. The mentality, Wallace states, was the same as when enslaved people were not allowed off the plantation; "the Black Panthers Party was to educate us that we are real people." Ambrose Brodus donated the first building to the Party. Wallace describes how Mountain View Park was used by the community and how a raid on it also included the Party offices. He met Eldridge Cleaver in San Diego and calls him a "firebrand." Cleaver speaks out against Ronald Reagan, who lived in wealthy circumstances and never "did anything meaningful," stating, "he didn't have our well-being" in mind. His bad time in which he used drugs ended when a "light went on" and he went to work "to reboot my financial self" and formed a band again, in addition to community service. These interviews were inspired by the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Black Panther Party in 2016., San Diego State University, The project was made possible with the generous support of Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Dean's Excellence Fund.
Ibrahim Fardan, Black Panther Party Member
Fardan was a student at San Diego State University when he became affiliated with the Black Panther Party after some murders took place in San Diego and Los Angeles and young people needed counseling. Also at this time Kenny Denmon of the Black Panther Party was imprisoned and later also became a student at SDSU. "We were going through a transformation at that time," learning about black history Fardan states. The Panthers "had a lot of respect, because they were doing positive things." He talks about being a teacher at a San Diego community college and having a student who was killed. Fardan went to San Diego High School, saying it dominated other schools in sports. His first contact with police was when he was 7, and an officer took him and his playmate for a soda. But later, he says, "the police approached us differently," and "I couldn't walk a block and a half from where I lived at without being stopped by the police." Fardan speaks about the lack of African American history showing what African Americans have accomplished, in schools when he was young. He taught in both the San Francisco Bay Area and in San Diego, utilizing "competency-based education" in teaching, and now has a consulting career focused on the parents of school-age children. Fardan says the Panthers helped people understand their potential, and that they could fulfill their potential. He feels that this should happen again and "we could make a better positive contribution to the overall community." These interviews were inspired by the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Black Panther Party in 2016., San Diego State University, The project was made possible with the generous support of Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Dean's Excellence Fund.
Jane Meyers, Oral Historian
Jane Meyers Introduces the oral history interviews she performed of Ben Waddell, Wilbert Hauser, Henry Wallace, Ibrahim Fardan, Joe Rush, and Trunnell Price. She thanks Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Library Dean's Excellence Fund for supporting the interviews. She summarizes the history and purpose of the Black Panther Party in San Diego and the United States as a whole, including the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, to infiltrate and cause the Party to dissolve. She speaks a little about the 50th Anniversary celebration in 2016 of the founding of the Black Panthers in 1966 and how it has caused a "resurgence" of the Party "as advocates for the community.", San Diego State University, The project was made possible with the generous support of Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Dean's Excellence Fund.
Joe Rush, Black Panther Party member
Rush is a San Diego State University alumnus. He joined the San Diego Black Panthers in 1968, knowing a member, John Savage. He liked what they were doing in "helping the community," and sold the weekly newspaper of the Panthers. "We were trying to teach the blacks in the community, 'This is our community. We should be able to police our own community." They tried to keep drugs away. "A kid can't learn on an empty stomach," he says, so the Panthers used church spaces to feed children. They also started sickle-cell disease testing. "We can take care of ourselves" was the philosophy. He mentions the Brown Berets. Those who didn't want to support the Party were influenced by what the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and other officials said about them, including that they were communists. His friend Savage was killed while selling newspapers. While the police wanted to scare people to control them, the Panthers wanted to keep the police from hurting community members. Rush was taken to jail after police patted him down and found a lighter he had picked off the floor while working as a locker-room attendant. Another time he was jailed "for failure to identify" because although he had a letter in his pocket with his name and address he did not have any official identification. Rush said Fred Hampton was a good organizer and speaker and cared about the community, but was killed by police firing through his front door. About the Panthers, he says, "I just wish we could have done more." Rush joined the American Legion in 1987 partly because it works "in the community." "We let the community use the property," he states, and a church brings food for them. They support Boys State, in which high-school youngsters go to Sacramento and Washington to learn about government. He finishes with a positive message for San Diego State University students. These interviews were inspired by the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Black Panther Party in 2016., San Diego State University, The project was made possible with the generous support of Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Dean's Excellence Fund.
Trunnell Price, Black Panther Party member
Price joined the Black Panther Party when he was 17 in 1967 during a recruitment campaign. He was told that people from Oakland were in San Diego trying to convince universities to open up to "people of color." He met one of the founders of the San Diego Panthers, Kenny Denmon, whom Price describes as "a mentor to the black community," who was "sharp," "wise," and well connected. Price says the "historical segments" of the Panthers started with fighting with the universities, fighting with the police. The police, he says, "feared the message" that people are equal in the eyes of the law. Phase 3 was the intervention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, starting with the use of provocateurs and informants and turning violent in Phase 4. In Phase 5, it seemed as if everyone was against them. The San Diego Police Department put informants and agents "everywhere." he says. Price says the Panthers made what the police did public--including intimidation and threatening families, as well as beatings administered in a "lumberyard." The Panthers were called "The party of self defense" because they reserved the right to defend themselves. Price says that the phrase "little Mississippi" meant that there were places in San Diego where "blacks were not welcome." "Black entrepreneurs and businessmen" made their own spaces since they were not welcome at the US Grant or the El Cortez hotels, for instance. Fred Hampton was able "to break walls down" between communities, pointing out that people had the same needs and wants. Price worked in different California communities in different programs, including security. "We're American citizens," Price says, and if people on the "right wing" say that they are "enemies of the state," he protests, "How can I be an enemy to myself?" "We're in a very, very desperate time" with "a lot of anxiety, a lot of distrust," he says. Starting in 1966, "What we wrote in that 10-point platform and program is exactly what's going on right now," he states. As a final message, Price is "so proud of this generation." "They're stronger in the form of being analytical, both on a social and political level." He adds, "They're the ones who are going to decide whether we continue to suffer." These interviews were inspired by the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Black Panther Party in 2016., San Diego State University, The project was made possible with the generous support of Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Dean's Excellence Fund.
Wilbert Hauser, Black Panther Party
Seeing the treatment of "blacks on TV" Hauser says he was "radicalized real young" and joined the Black Panther Party when he was 15. He says the story of "our side" was not documented, so he appreciated the Party's handling of the media. "We got tired of the lumberyard," referring to where he says the police took African Americans they had arrested to beat them before taking them to jail. Hauser was shot following the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to disperse or "neutralize" Party members. He was shot a second time in 1980. Although he drew his weapon the Panther rule was never to shoot first, and he dropped it. Shot several times, he says he "died." While recovering in jail, he was beaten on "a daily basis" by police while he still had an intravenous drip. "We believed that things could get better," but it "wasn't happening fast enough." "At the end is when everything got crazy" from the FBI's work to fracture the Party. Eventually he became a Christian and a pastor. He doesn't believe things will change. These interviews were inspired by the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Black Panther Party in 2016., San Diego State University, The project was made possible with the generous support of Tom and Marilyn Ross through the San Diego State University Dean's Excellence Fund.

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