Party People is playing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre now until Nov. 16. It is the story of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords told by Universes, a theater ensemble company that uses music and multimedia platforms in their performances.
Here are 10 things I learned about the Black Panthers from viewing the play:
1. They inspired the New York-based Puerto Rican Young Lords, who had a 13-point program and platform based on the Panthers' 10-point program and platform.
2. J. Edgar Hoover, the former FBI director, called the Black Panthers "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and used COINTELPRO (the FBI's counterintelligence program) to infiltrate the group.
3. I knew about the free-breakfast-for-children program but not about the free-shoes-for-children program or the neighborhood-garbage pick-up, free school lunches, preschool, and low-cost health care provided by the Panthers.
4. 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers.
5. Fred Hampton was only 21 when he was assassinated by the FBI and local police as he lay sleeping in his bed, drugged by an FBI informant.
6. The question "What kind of Negroes are these?" was posed and answered.
7. The full name of the organization was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
8. Policing the police was a main tenet of the Black Panthers.
9. It wasn't just black folks; they allied with white liberals around the anti-war movement. "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?" was a frequent chant.
10. They were active draft resistors, but as their full name implies, they were armed and invested in protecting themselves.