The National Park Service was going to use nearly $100,000 in federal funds to memorialize the Black Panther Party before conservative backlash shut the project down.
What was the project?
The project was called the “Black Panther Party Research, Interpretation & Memory Project.”
Its goal would have been to “discover new links between the historical events concerning race that occurred in Richmond during World War II and the subsequent emergence of the BPP in the San Francisco Bay Area two decades later through research, oral history and interpretation,” according to a park service notice.
The project would also show how the Black Panther Party “impacted the visual arts, music, dance and styles of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s and underscore the vastness of its impact on American culture.”
The National Park Service initially awarded the project a $98,000 grant. It was led by Ula Taylor, incoming chair of the University of California, Berkeley’s African-American studies department.
How did conservatives respond?
The backlash was spearheaded by the Fraternal Order of Police, which sent a well-publicized letter to President Donald Trump on Oct. 19.
“Mr. President, as far as we are concerned the only meaning they brought to any lives was grief to the families of their victims,” the letter read. “According to our research, members of this militant anti-American group murdered 16 law enforcement officers over the course of their history.”
The letter also referenced the contradiction of the NPS funding a Black Panther project while the nation is in the midst of a mass removal of unflattering historical monuments.
“At a time when many in our nation feel strongly that memorials to aspects of the darker times in our history be removed from public lands, why would the NPS seek to commemorate the activities of an extremist separatist group that advocated the use of violence against our country — a country they perceived as their enemy?” asked Chuck Canterbury, FOP national president and the author of the letter.
NPS quietly backs off
Neither the National Park Service nor the University of California, Berkeley offered much insight into the reason for the cancellation of the project past acknowledging that it occurred.
“At present, I can confirm that the project in question will not receive funding from the National Park Service,” said spokesman Craig Dalby.
A UC Berkeley spokesperson gave a brief comment on the matter that referred all inquiries to the park service.
“In terms of why they were selected, the park service has the answer, not the campus," university spokesman Dan Mogulof said. “And in terms of why they rescinded it, they have the answer, not the campus.”
It’s possible that the project could move forward with other resources, but it will not receive any federal grants.
(H/T East Bay Times)