One of the organizers of this month's Black Panther fiftieth anniversary celebration is Saturu Ned, who's been with the Party since nearly the beginning. Now 67, Ned is a speaker, educator, and entrepreneur based in San Leandro — but still influencing social-justice and change in Oakland and throughout the Bay. The Express spoke with Ned this past week on the Party's legacy and critical issues in social and racial justice today.
On his first experience seeing the Panthers:
"I ended up going to downtown [Sacramento]. And I'm standing there that day, the day that [The Panthers] came to the Capitol. ... And all of the sudden I see [Gov.] Ronald Reagan break and run; his people took him. ... And I could see these guys walking in, they were in all black. ... It made an impression on me. Who are these people. ... I'm thinking to myself 'Why would a seventeen-year-old ... dedicate himself to this organization?' So, I really started looking into the concept."
On Colin Kaepernick:
"What Kaepernick did was the beginning, and he's growing in social consciousness, and in time I think we're going to see him do some great things."
On the FBI working to disassociate Ned from the Party:
"[The FBI told my track coach that they] would give me a full ride, anywhere, any school that I go to — which tells me they're always looking at full development potential of what you could become, and the influence that you could have on people."
On what his mom told him about self-defense:
"'If you ever let anyone beat you that way, I'll beat you myself. You have a right to preserve your life and defend yourself.'"
On what Martin Luther King Jr. told him about self-defense:
"'Follow your heart, do what you think is right.'"
On Black Panther artworks and illustrations and The Gipper:
"But of course it was pissing [then-Gov. Ronald] Reagan off. ... People started walking around Reagan and going 'oink, oink.' ... So, I guess you could say that I had a personal relationship with [him]."
On his arrival in Oakland:
"It was 1970, and we were called first to Richmond, and then I went to Oakland, and ended up on Tenth Street. ... I went over there to run the community center, to create what I'd call 'total community saturation.' Basically, we had block leaders, and then we had sub-section leaders, who might be responsible for a two-or three-mile area ... and they would cover the area based on issues, door to door, face-to-face ... long before there was technology, long before all the tools we have now."
On what he says Rep. Barbara Lee told President Barack Obama:
"'If it hadn't been for the Black Panther Party, I wouldn't have been elected — and you wouldn't, either.'"
On the Panther funk band, the Lumpen:
"We were singing, we all sang. ... We had several more, and we toured, even with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. It was amazing because ... of the influence it had, like on John Lennon, the list goes on. And what it did was a create an era of socially-conscious music."
On teaching at Panthers schools in Oakland:
"People like Maya Angelou would come and do poetry, and kids would get meals. We started [teaching] at two years old, and we'd teach people to read by three."
On accepting recognition and praise:
"It's very, very difficult for many of us. Because we didn't do it for that reason. We were supposed to be killed, wiped out by the FBI. We're not the kind of people to stand up and wave our hands and suck up claps."
On this year's election:
"I hope that most people begin to realize how degraded politics have become, how degraded and unimportant the office of the presidency is. ... And I hope America realizes that the power has shifted, in so far as who really runs the country. It's not the person who gets elected president. It's Wall Street. It's the backers of the super fund PACs that elect the president."
On Obama's legacy:
"I really think most of us in the community think it's a legacy of misdirection. It's been eight years, and our community is [in] worse condition that it's ever been."
On the displacement of longstanding Oakland residents:
"It's terrible, because what is happening is it's not just the people [leaving], but also the culture and the influence that made the Bay Area great."