No downstairs seats were left vacant in Lee Hall Friday for the panel discussion titled “Black Talk: Our Thoughts, Our Issues,” sponsored by the Student Government Association and the Minority Student Leadership Academy.
The panel included: Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, Sharon J. Lettman, the Rev. John F. White II, Talitha V. Coverson, Anthony E. Dixon, and Phillip Agnew.
The panel opened with a brief discussion on the history of The Black Panther Party.
“We were a political revolution organization,” said Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party. “In order to start a revolution, you must perform extensive research and study African-American culture.”
Seale said his first influence was the Rev. Martin Luther King when he heard him speak in 1962 to a crowd of 7,000 in Oakland, Calif.
Elaine Brown, a former leading member of the Black Panther Party, also clarified the group’s political stance.
“The Black Panther Party was not a civil rights organization; we became a human rights organization,” Brown said. “We fed and clothed people for free. The greatest legacy that we had was a correct analysis.”
The Rev. John F. White, II, pastor of New Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church in Tallahassee, spoke about political courage. “It takes guts to have political courage, you can’t be part of the crowd,” said White, expressing the importance of people standing up for their beliefs.
Talitha V. Coverson, a member of the Back Talk Poetry Troupe, agreed, saying black people need a collective agenda and need to hold representatives accountable for all of their actions. “Stop choosing to be ignorant, because that goes along with stupidity,” Coverson said.
Anthony E. Dixon, a visiting history and political science professor, said black people should stop living day-by-day and begin to think and act on a larger scale.
“We get so lost in the mass,” he said. “We must realize how great and powerful we are.” Sharon J. Lettman, a FAMU alumna, said it is all about being organized and strategic.
“Do not look for the U.S. government to speak for you,” Lettman said.
“Pull out your pens if you’re serious,” Lettman said, then gave the audience her “recipe to success.”
The 10 necessary things, she said, include: a strategy team, intelligence team, legal team, communications team, organizers, soldier team, care team, finance team, protocol team for disciple and a training team.
“Mediocrity cannot be your standard,” she said.
Some students thought the panel discussion was beneficial. Jeremy Gaines, 21, a sophomore computer information systems student from College Park, Ga., said the panelists encouraged students to come together as black people and not just students.
“I thought it was very insightful, and I walked out with a lot to remember,” said Stephanie Isaacs, a fifth-year business student from Fort Lauderdale. The 22-year-old also said the financial impact of the panel discussion was immense and inspired her to do better.
Jason Evans, 20, a junior mechanical engineering student from San Diego agreed.
“I always thought about entrepreneurship, but I never know how to go about doing it,” Evans said.
The panelists agree that there is still much work left to be done. SGA Phillip Agnew said a second march for Martin Lee Anderson will be held.
Anderson died after being beaten by guards at the Bay County Boot Camp in January. Currently no arrests have been made. “Justice delayed, justice denied. Once again the governor has lied,” said Agnew, sharing the new slogan for the march.
“Power to the people – economically, politically, socially” Seale said, concluding the panel discussion.