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Black Panther founders speak at Shippensburg

October 08, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Dissatisfied with the federal government's way of handling issues like medical health care, housing, education and police brutality, Bobby Seale and Leslie Johnston formed the Black Panther Party in Oct. 1966 to try to bring about change.

Thirty-one years later, the now husband-and-wife team told a group of Shippensburg University students Wednesday night that the issues they were struggling with in the 1960s through the 1970s still exist today, but the solutions will be realized at a new level.

"It's not about a fight. It's not about a shooting war. It's not about a separation anymore ... We need to elevate it to an educational level," Seale said.

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With the advent of communications technology, Seale told the students that the 1960s concept of organizing masses of people happens every day via computers and telecommunications.

"We're interconnected around the world through technology. Communication technology has to move to educate - move in a positive, progressive way," said Seale, who has his own Web site on the Internet.

Using his position on civil rights as a foundation, Seale is now focusing on environmental and youth issues and has created Reach, an organization focused on teaching the youth of the world effective community organization.

After hearing stories and reading about the Black Panther Party's role in the 1960s, several students said they were curious to learn about the organization through someone who was involved from the start.

"To actually hear it from him, from his mouth, it makes you think about what he's gone through," said Michelle Young, a sophomore.

"I wanted to hear his perspective because he was there. It gives you a better understanding," said sophomore Mark Campbell.

Seale and Johnston's free program, titled "The Origins and Legacy of the Black Panther Party," outlined the 1960s civil rights movement and explained the organization's part in it during what Seale called "the height of confrontational times."

"We were stereotyped as a violent black militant hate group, which we were not," Seale said.

The organization came up with what became known as its "10-point platform" which served as the party's agenda to promote and contribute to human change, Seale said.

At its peak, the Black Panther Party claimed more than 5,000 members in 45 chapters all over the country.

Seale and Johnston are co-authors of several books including, "A Lonely Rage" and "Seize The Time," soon to be a motion picture.

"I was really excited because he is history personified," said senior Hesanne Morgan. "I wanted to find out what he thinks about the world now and where it's going and what can we do as college students."

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