February is Black History Month.  In schools across the country, teachers are using the opportunity to educate students on positive societal contributions from the African American community and notable figures in history.  While the idea of Black History Month might conjure images of historic figures like Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington or Martin Luther King Jr., one Minnesota school district has come under fire for including the revolutionary socialist Black Panthers in their lesson plans.

Celebrating Black History Month    with the Black Panthers?

At the center of the controversy is a poem read over the PA system at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minn.  In honor of Black History Month, social studies teacher Tishanna Brown reportedly read A Black Child’s Pledge, a poem written by Shirley Williams originally published in The Black Panther Newsletter in October, 1968.

The school says the intent of the poem was to inform students about the civil rights era and the role the Black Panthers played.  One concerned parent obtained a transcript of the announcement that her son heard last Thursday morning:

I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO MY BLACK PEOPLE.

I PLEDGE TO DEVELOP MY MIND AND BODY TO THE GREATEST EXTENT POSSIBLE.

I WILL LEARN ALL THAT I CAN IN ORDER TO GIVE MY BEST TO MY PEOPLE IN THEIR STRUGGLE FOR LIBERATION.

I WILL KEEP MYSELF PHYSICALLY FIT, BUILDING A STRONG BODY FREE FROM DRUGS AND OTHER SUBSTANCES WHICH WEAKEN ME AND MAKE ME LESS CAPABLE OF PROTECTING MYSELF, MY FAMILY AND MY BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

I WILL UNSELFISHLY SHARE MY KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING WITH THEM IN ORDER TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE MORE QUICKLY.

I WILL DISCIPLINE MYSELF TO DIRECT MY ENERGIES THOUGHTFULLY AND CONSTRUCTIVELY RATHER THAN WASTING THEM IN IDLE HATRED.

I WILL TRAIN MYSELF NEVER TO HURT OR ALLOW OTHERS TO HARM MY BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS FOR I RECOGNIZE THAT WE NEED EVERY BLACK MAN, WOMAN, AND CHILD TO BE PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY STRONG.

THESE PRINCIPLES I PLEDGE TO PRACTICE DAILY AND TO TEACH THEM TO OTHERS IN ORDER TO UNITE MY PEOPLE.

The announcement continued:

“Good Morning, East Ridge! I’m _____________. ‘Power to the People’ and ‘Black is Beautiful’ are two of the slogans associated with todays “Black History Month” person, or should I say, “People” of the day.  Today we commemorate Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, co-Founders of The Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

In October of 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. In the most part to address the rampant police brutality faced by many black communities around the country.  The Panthers practiced militant self-defense of minority communities against the U.S. Government, and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community based programs such as free lunch and medical programs. The party, consisting mostly of men and women under the age of 25, was one of the first organizations in U.S. history to militantly struggle for ethnic minority and working class emancipation” (SIC)

Interestingly enough, the language in the above paragraph is STRIKINGLY SIMILAR to (read: plagiarized from) a Marxist website.  The site, Marxist.org, describes the Panthers this way:

In October of 1966, in Oakland California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The Panthers practiced militant self-defense of minority communities against the U.S. government, and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community based programs. The party was one of the first organizations in U.S. history to militantly struggle for ethnic minority and working class emancipation — a party whose agenda was the revolutionary establishment of real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines.

Wow, there are just so many things wrong with this picture:

1.) A teacher seems to have lifted material from a source without attributing it to the original author.  When I was in school, teachers frowned on this sort of thing.

2.) The teacher took to the school-wide PA system to “educate” kids using Marxist propaganda.

3.) While people are parading through the streets of Los Angeles protesting on behalf of a cop-killer, kids in a Minnesota high school are being taught that such “militant self-defense” is a noble and historic cause.

Instead of highlighting the actual accomplishments of the African American community, East Ridge High School chose to honor Newton — a guy with a long history of confrontations with law enforcement, several convictions and fled to Cuba to avoid prosecution, and Seale — a guy who may or may not have ordered the murder of a police informant and his wife’s lover, and the Black Panthers, a group they founded on the principle of obtaining freedom “by any means necessary.”

This as opposed to someone like Frederick Douglass who said things like, “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”  Makes total sense.

Author’s note: Special thanks to reader Michelle V. for the tip!