A closer look at the New Black Panther Party

The Philadelphia chapter gained attention in the national media during the 2008 presidential election, with charges of voter intimidation, but its founders say the group simply wants to help its people.

The New Black Panther Party is actually not that new. It was formed in Dallas, Texas in 1989, the year that original Black Panther cofounder, Huey Newton, was murdered.

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It has gained some support in the mainstream, but the size of its membership is unknown. This report was an effort to learn more about its mission and message:

"It's still important to give our people some sense of purpose and direction," said a New Black Panther member.

The New Black Panther Party says it's following the legacy of the original Black Panthers of the 60's and 70's: that its ultimate goal is to unify black people.

New Black Panther National Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz says the Party is needed because the problems of that era still exist today.

"Police brutality, ignorance, illiteracy and apathy are still all too high in the black community," said Shabazz.

Last month, the Philadelphia and New York New Black Panther chapters joined the national organization, for a tribute to the original Panther Party, in Harlem.

It was also an opportunity to recruit new members, specifically young black men.

"We need more brothers out in the community that care," said New Black Panther Philadelphia Chapter Chairman King Samir Shabazz.

Shabazz, chairman of the Philadelphia chapter for 8 years, was suspended from the organization for a year following an incident outside a Philadelphia polling place during the 2008 presidential election.

The incident prompted a controversial voter intimidation lawsuit; the Justice Department dismissed most of the charges against King Samir and the Philadelphia chapter. It is a decision the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is now investigating.

During last week's election, a New Black Panther member was back at the same Philadelphia polling site; this time greeting voters and handing out sample ballots.

Action News spoke with King Samir about his suspension at a Panther meeting in North Philadephia.

"It humbled me because it showed me that there is a greater mission other than just myself," said King Samir. "I learned from the past on what not to do."

What King Samir doesn't hesitate to do is express his views on the white race.

"I hate the white man," he said.

He does not exclude the use of violence in its quest for change.

"You can't talk about freedom without talking about bloodshed," he said.

Is the New Black Panther Party planning to wage war against white America? "That's up to God. Whenever God decides to destroy this wicked white man, it will then take place," said King Samir.

The New Black Panthers made it further clear how they feel about whites with a sign posted at the front door that reads "Colored Only No Whites Allowed." The members would also only allow blacks to interview and video them for this story.

"The Black Panther Party were not revenge nationalists," said original Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale.

Seale says their actions do not reflect what his organization represented in its protest movement.

"My organization was all power to all the people whether you're black, white, blue, green, yellow, or polka dot," said Seale. "We believed in black unity, but only as a catalyst to help humanize the world," he added.

"We do not accept white people in the New Black Panther Party," said Minster Samir Shabazz.

Seale denounces the rhetoric racist comments of the New Black Panthers and points to his organization's survival programs that unified the community. Everything from free ambulance and breakfast programs to free health clinics and pharmacies.

"Real life programs that people really received. Not rhetoric, not just talk," said Seale.

King Samir says the New Black Panthers of Philadelphia provide bottled water to neighborhoods that they hope to develop adult education classes.

The group is expecting a shipment of rice, which it says it will distribute to the homeless and low income in the community.

A vacant lot in West Philadelphia is a planned site for a community garden.

National Chairman Shabazz says he's determined to be a positive force in the black community.

"Whatever you think of us in the past, that is fine. But, watch what we do in the future," Shabazz said.

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