Tara Stamps, social activist and educator, visited the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association, 178 Forest Ave. in Oak Park, on Dec. 12 to talk about her late mother, Marion Nzinga Stamps, a well-known organizer and former Black Panther Party member.

“By the time I was brought up and aware of what was going on, Fred Hampton had already been killed,” she said. “However, my late mother worked with Fred in Cabrini Green to bring some of those programs to the community.”

Those programs, Stamps said, were directly related to the Black Panther Party’s 10-Point Program (“1. We Want Freedom … 2. We Want Full Employment For Our People …”).

Stamps said her mother came to Chicago from Mississippi “with a baby in one arm and another one in her stomach. My grandmother put her on a Greyhound bus the night Medgar Wiley Evers was killed because she did not want her to be killed in Mississippi. So activism is in my blood. My mother was trying to desegregate the public library in Jackson and then she came to Chicago and continued her activism.”

Stamps encouraged the more than 100 people in attendance to share with each other their thoughts about the Black Panther Party.

“The media did a very poor job of covering what the Black Panther Party was all about,” said Judy Eckberg, 79, chair of the Nineteenth Century Committee. “I got the impression that it was a gang and that they would do bad things.”

Sheila McNary said she was a member of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party, joining after Hampton was murdered on Dec. 4, 1969.

“The party was about empowering Black people,” McNary said. “I worked the free breakfast for children program in Cabrini Green. Sickle Cell Anemia was also something that people are not aware of and that the Black Panther Party educated the community about. But the media portrayed us as thugs.”

Stamps concluded her address by urging those in attendance to “leave with a thirst for truth and to know more about what happens in our country when many Black people stand up for Black people and try to organize for Black people.”

CONTACT: shanel@growingcommunitymedia.org

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