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Authors: Aaron Dixon

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My People Are Rising

BOOK: My People Are Rising
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Contents

Praise for
My People Are Rising

“Dixon has that uncanny ability to convey to his readers the feelings that came along with the party's triumphs and defeats. Most readers will be amazed to discover what it took to create and then sustain the Black Panther Party's many community service programs. They will be equally shocked at how close party members were to the ever-present threat of death. Unlike previous autobiographies of BPP leaders, this one does not sugarcoat the organization's shortcomings, nor does it glamorize its hard-fought and often well-deserved victories. It does, however, provide a valuable, though painful, reminder of the high price of real change in these United States.”

—Curtis Austin, associate professor of history, The Ohio State University


My People Are Rising
is the most authentic book ever written by a member of the Black Panther Party. Aaron Dixon does a superb job of presenting life in the party from the perspective of a foot soldier—a warrior for the cause of revolutionary change and Black Power in America. He pulls no punches and holds nothing back in writing honestly about those times as he successfully presents a visual picture of the courage, commitment, and
sometimes shocking brutality of life as a Panther activist. This is an unforgettable, must-read book!”

—Larry Gossett, chair, Metropolitan King County Council

“There have been many books about the Black Panther Party but never has there been a Panther book as illuminating as this memoir by Aaron Dixon. It's the story from a different perspective than we've ever seen: the former member who has remained a long-distance runner for revolution. It's indispensable for anyone with an interest in Black politics or the politics of change in the United States.”

–Dave Zirin, the
Nation

My People Are Rising

 

© 2012 Aaron Dixon

 

Published in 2012 by Haymarket Books

PO Box 180165

Chicago, IL 60618

www.haymarketbooks.org

773–583–7884

 

ISBN: 978-1-60846-179-0

 

Trade distribution:

In the US, Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, www.cbsd.com

In Canada, Publishers Group Canada, www.pgcbooks.ca

In the UK, Turnaround Publisher Services, www.turnaround-uk.com

In Australia, Palgrave Macmillan, www.palgravemacmillan.com.au

All other countries, Publishers Group Worldwide, www.pgw.com

 

Cover design by Erin Schell. Cover image is a portrait of Aaron Dixon that appeared on the cover of
Seattle
magazine in October 1968.

 

Published with the generous support of Lannan Foundation

and the Wallace Global Fund.

 

Library of Congress cataloging-in-publication data is available.

 

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Foreword

Aaron Dixon has written
an extraordinary book that is grounded in the ordinary. He tells the story of a boy's journey into adulthood. Born in the heartland of America, Dixon takes the reader on a trek that begins in Chicago, travels to Seattle, and takes a detour to the Bay Area, with stops in Texas before finally returning to the Pacific Northwest many years later.

My People Are Rising
is filled with heart-pounding stories and gripping accounts of Dixon's life both as a civilian and as a member of the Black Panther Party in Seattle and the Bay Area. The product of a healthy, two-parent home, Dixon experienced a supportive and loving home life of the type that many kids, regardless of race, long for. To understand how Dixon became the leader of the first chapter of the Black Panther Party outside of California, one must have an appreciation for the history of activism within the Dixon family. Dixon's father was an admirer, student, and follower of both Paul Robeson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hence, neither Dixon's parents nor his friends were surprised when, as a teenager, he decided to join the Black Panther Party. Even if Dixon surprised himself at times, he could not escape the fact that activism was in his gene pool; it was a part of who he was. Dixon's two younger brothers followed suit and also joined the party, making their commitment to the Black Panther Party a family affair.

My People Are Rising
is neither a tell-all work nor a sensational or score-settling diatribe, elements that have characterized a number of autobiographical accounts during the last twenty years or so, especially where the Black Panther Party is concerned. Nowhere in the book does Dixon denigrate or speak ill of anyone inside or out of the Black Panther Party. Instead, Dixon's book is a rich, down-to-earth story of his life, much of which chronicles the day-to-day goings-on in the most widely known of the Black Power groups and arguably the most effective Black revolutionary organization of the latter half of the twentieth century. As a member of the Black Panther Party, Dixon spends the better part of his young adult life as a soldier on the front lines of the Black Power Movement. The decision to do so, however, comes with great personal sacrifice.

Dixon puts a human face on the many young people who, like him, left the secure confines of home, risked their lives, and devoted themselves to the struggle for Black liberation. Dixon is particularly effective in enabling the reader to visualize the many women Panthers who not only helped keep the party afloat but also played an integral part in the Black Panther Party's success. The book introduces us to a number of vivid characters and stand-up men and women who have heretofore not gotten much attention from previous writers, including Leon “Valentine” Hobbs, one of the party's unsung heroes.

I would especially encourage young people to read this book, as it provides a perfect illustration of the impact that young men and women made in Black communities throughout the country during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Dixon also paints a more complete portrait of the Black Panther Party than have most writers. The Black Panther Party consisted of more than just patrols of the police and the Free Breakfast for School Children Program. By discussing the Panthers' broad array of community-focused Survival Programs, Dixon provides the reader with an accurate and balanced depiction of the party's activities generally and in Seattle specifically.

Dixon, a stand-up guy, has written a stand-up book about his life before, during, and after the Black Panther Party.
My People Are Rising
deserves a broad hearing. This is a book that will, in fact, appeal to readers of all ages, regardless of their political persuasion or their opinions of the Black Panther Party, the most maligned and misrepresented organization of the twentieth century.

 

Judson L. Jeffries, PhD

Professor of African American and African Studies, The Ohio State University, and author of
Huey P. Newton
,
The Radical Theorist
;
Comrades, A Local History of the Black Panther Party
; and
On the Ground: The Black Panther Party in Communities Across America
.

Acknowledgments

On August 27, 1989,
Huey P. Newton was gunned down on a lonely street in West Oakland, not far from one of the old National Headquarters of the Black Panther Party. Three days later a memorial service for our embattled leader was held in Seattle. At the service I was approached by Anna Johnson, the former owner of Open Hand Publishing. She asked me if I would be interested in writing a book about my experience in the party.

And thus began a journey of more than two decades, as I attempted to tell my story and the stories of so many others regarding one of the most significant, most intriguing, and brightest moments in modern American history. Writing this memoir has not been an easy task for a single parent suffering from some form of undiagnosed PTSD, raising not only my own kids but also the kids of others because the traditional family system had collapsed. It took a lot of support and encouragement, at times seemingly an entire village, to bring this project to completion. So I must acknowledge and thank all those who have helped along the way.

During the earlier years, a number of people helped the manuscript get off the ground. My first typist was from Pike Place Typing Service, which kindly provided discounted typing service, and later, my friend Pam, who worked for the City of Seattle, donated her time to typing my handwritten pages. My good friend Virginia Wyman stepped up to provide valuable assistance and support. Dean Patton worked with me as a writing coach. Deborah Green, the widow of Dr. John Green, volunteered her time to edit the first draft of the manuscript. And I am thankful to my good friend Gilda Sheppard, faculty at Evergreen Tacoma, for reminding me that I had a lot to say.

I thank all my Panther comrades. If not named directly here in these acknowledgments, my gratitude and love for my Panther comrades are in the pages of this memoir. Bill Jennings of the website It's About Time BPP fielded my constant questions and gave me ongoing reminders to finish this book. Bobby Seale had long phone conversations with me, discussing details. Emory Douglas provided steady encouragement, as did Leila McDowell. My good friend Valentine Hobbs and I had daily conversations about our years in the party. I am amazed how the memories of those days are fresh in our minds. I'd also like to thank original BSU members Larry Gossett and Gary Owens, who have become my close friends over the years.

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