The Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a group started by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, two students attending Meritt Junior College in Oakland, to monitor police encounters with black folks in the
area with the goal of discouraging police brutality by carrying guns and thorough knowledge of California’s gun laws. An article in Socialist Alternative about the Party recalls one instance of armed observation of an encounter between policemen
and a young man, "Huey stood there with a law book in one hand and a gun in the other and told the "pigs" about his constitutional right to carry a weapon as long as it was not concealed. He told them about the law and said that every citizen
had the right to observe a police officer carry out his duty as long as they stood a reasonable distance away. And he told them about the Supreme Court ruling which defined that distance."
They differentiated themselves from the Nation of Islam in their belief that Black folks will only be free once the exploitative system of capitalism is exterminated, and so efforts should be focused on making such a reality, rather than creating
a separate state from whites. They also disagreed with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violent approach to Black equality, though only in self-defense. Relatively quickly, Seale and Newton established and printed copies of their platform, known
as their 10 Point Program and Platform. Bobby Seale is quoted saying, "We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with Black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism.
And we do not fight imperialism with more imperialism. We fight imperialism with proletarian internationalism." Soon after, Seale and Newton rented a storefront to meet at and establish their newsletter, The Black Panther. They then began programs
to help the Black community, including the Free Breakfast for Children program, free medical clinics, free ambulance rides, free job-finding services, free legal aid and education, free busing to prisons, free commissary for prisoners, free
clothing, free shoes, free plumbing and maintenance, free pest control, a childhood development center, and more (1). Though the Party was mostly dismantled by 1980 due to a number of factors including FBI-led assassinations and sabotage, it
had a strong and lasting impact.
The now empty lot near Legacy Emanuel Hospital that sits across the street from the Urban League in northeast Portland was once a site of hope, aid, health, and education for people of the Albina community. Before it was cleared to make way for
an expansion of Legacy Hospital, it was the Fred Hampton Free Health Clinic run by members of Portland’s chapter of the Black Panther Party as well as volunteers. Sandra Ford, former member of the Black Panther Party, explained, "Our Medical
Clinic did Sickle Cell Anemia testing at schools and community affairs and we taught a Health class at the community college. The class was about health issues like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, diet and exercise, the things that people
need to know about" (2). Staff provided free health care during the evening hours of five days every week, and not without opposition. Sandra adds, "We got a lot of harassment. One day the cops came by and said, "Kent, the next Panther clinic
will be named after you". Most of the clinics were memorial clinics. They would call on the phone and say, "We’re gonna get you."" (2). After a few years, the clinic was forced to move for the Legacy Hospital expansion, and eventually shut down.
The expansion has yet to happen, and the space that was once a buoy in the community has been an empty lot for years.
Urban Renewal was a federally funded program born out of the national urge to clean-up ghettos and slums that existed due to migrations of Black folks and immigrants into the northern and western parts of the United States for employment, usually
in the industrial field. Industrial jobs existed in certain parts of cities, which is where these working class people lived, creating "urban areas". These areas, in which working-class people lived, became run-down and dilapidated due to a
variety of reasons. With the intention of eliminating unsafe living conditions and establishing adequate affordable housing, Congress passed the Federal Housing Act of 1949, which harnessed eminent domain to claim entire neighborhoods worth
of housing to repurpose. This reconstruction process involved mass displacement and scattering of communities of color, along with the introduction of corporations into these neighborhoods, tempted by tax breaks and federal funding. Participating
local governments took advantage of federal funding and sold the land for cheap to developers and corporations. Title III of the Housing Act of 1954 promoted the building of civic centers, office buildings, and hotels. This combined with the
Highway Act of 1956 effectively eradicated poor people of color from their homes and communities. The federal program was officially ended in 1973, though its impacts last within still-dispersed communities of color, and gentrification.
It was no less than a power move for Legacy Hospital to shut down the Free Clinic. They hired a consultant, and "the hospital and city spent ten years planning before they ever told residents, historian Jeana Woolley said," according to The Oregonian.
That same article explains that residents of the community were finally told of the plans to expand at a meeting after the city, the Portland Development Commission, and a Model Cities Citizens Planning Board approved the plans. However, "it
approved the plans, with only one minor change, in the same meeting."
For the expansion, not only was the clinic forced to move, but an entire community was uprooted. Homes were appraised, and residents were forced to move out, which proved a more difficult task for Black folks, as only certain neighborhoods allowed
them to reside within them. Thelma Glover, a past resident of the uprooted community, recounts that "Few areas allowed blacks at the time. The only house she could find was nearly nine miles away in Parkrose" (3). Lucille Glass, another member
of the uprooted community, recalls that "It was like one big family. But now everyone's pretty well scattered" (4). At the time, their strong community was one of few support systems that Black folks living anywhere in Oregon had, and even that
was taken from them by Legacy Hospital and urban renewal, and in this case for a project that never happened.