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By Alex Mosher
In the 1960s, when police brutality threatened the people of Oakland, California, Bobby Seale’s response was to learn his constitutional rights, pick up a gun and patrol the police.
By the 70s, Seale was nationally recognized as one of the founders of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a party that started with around 50 people and resulted in chapters across the nation.
On April 22, Seale spoke to over 300 people in the Joe Crowley Student Union Milt Glick Ballroom about starting social movements. One point that Seale touched on several times throughout his speech was the necessity for marginalized groups to seek political representation.
“Here these guys are trying to run and holler ‘black power this and black power that,’ and I said, ‘Well you guys don’t have any power,’” Seale said. “If you’re talking about black power you have to go after power seats.”
By starting with protecting the people of Oakland, Seale hoped to unify the community to eventually elect who it believed would move them forward.
Seale continued to say that the Black Panther Party started with giving power to African-Americans, but would ultimately stand for power to all people.
Jody Lykes, student development coordinator at the Center for Student Cultural Diversity said Seale’s message can be applied to university politics.
“If there’s a group on campus that feels like they’re marginalized, then they need to be participating in ASUN (Associated Students of the University of Nevada),” Lykes said. “ASUN has a budget of 2 million. Our campus needs to be involved in the political process that happens in this space.”
Lykes said apathy is something he witnesses often at the university, and unfortunately apathy will not progress society.
In Seale’s biography “Seize the Time,” he writes about his disdain for the African-Americans on his college campus who preached theories about socialism and communism, but weren’t enacting change in their community.
But Lykes is not saying that it’s only racial minority groups who need to become engaged, but rather that it is the campus as whole.
“If you’re in a position of privilege and you want to help, let’s do this, let’s get the power to the people,” Lykes said. “To the students on this campus, let’s get the student voice.”
Because as Bobby Seale would say, it’s not about black power, Hispanic power or power to any one race, it is about power to the people.
Alex Mosher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.