Elaine Takes Charge
"Together we are going to move this revolution forward by leaps and
we're going to continue the consolidation of our efforts in one
city, this city. Oakland is the birthplace of this party. Oakland will be the
birthplace of revolution in the United States. And that will be so despite the
pigs. It will be so despite the criticism of the infantile leftists, who have
accomplished nothing. I t will be done despite the voodoo drums of the so-called
"It will be done because they can exile a revolutionary leader but they cannot exile the revolution. We will move forward with due speed!
it was an exhilarating madness I had inherited. The BPP Huey had left in my charge was still a force to be reckoned with. There was no question in my mind that it had to be saved.
As I began to speak to my comrades, I recommitted myself to pushing forward our struggle for the complete freedom of black people in America. I recommitted my life to the party, to fulfill its purpose of introducing socialist revolution in the United States, whether or not Huey returned. I believed with everything in me that it could be done. I believed with everything in me that I could do it.
In 1974 Huey Newton fled to Cuba and Elaine was left to hold and piece together the party. She took Larry Henson as her right-hand chief of staff, her muscle who dealt with any comrade, person, or group who stirred up trouble in the absence of Huey. He was instrumental in establishing a firm control for Elaine over the party. Several of the major events which Elaine was deeply involved in during her control of the Black Panther Party were:
Governor Jerry Brown
Very soon after Elaine takes control the Party finds an ally in Jerry Brown, a very liberal Californian governor whom the BPP had given the majority of the black vote for in his election. He appointed Tony Kline - previously a lawyer for the BPP - in a position seconded in importance in California only by Jerry Brown himself.
Elaine herself decides to run for City Council once again, and manages to secure endorsements from numerous workers' unions. Although two incidents involving cocaine found on Elaine's person and the unexplained murder of a woman Elaine sullied her image, Elaine continued the campaign with success. She lost the election, but had won forty-four percent of the vote.
That 44 percent was the sign of a new force in Oakland. Forty-four percent
was a force to be reckoned with.
As I embraced campaign workers, friends, and party comrades milling about the headquarters late into the night, I realized they actually did not see what we had done. Within five years, Oakland could become a base for black liberation. Within ten years, Oakland could become a base for revolution.
Intercommunal Youth Institute
A good deal of the BPP's funds at this time were being diverted to Huey's "private dream," the school. The school held at this time about two hundred students, who looked to the school not just for education but for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, medical and dental check ups, and sometimes even clothing and a place to sleep!
The school (eventually renamed Oakland Community School) received an award for setting the highest standard of elementary education in the state in 1977.
Also in 1977, Elaine brought the Black Panther resources to bear in electing a promising candidate, Lionel Wilson, as mayor of Oakland. The Black Panthers needed to gather together the black and working class votes in Oakland, and among their other endeavors, Lionel Wilson supported and pushed for the creation of a freeway and City Center project, which created ten thousand new job openings. Through their connection with governor Jerry Brown, the Black Panther Party secured every single one of those jobs for the working class and the Blacks. In April, Lionel Wilson became the first black mayor of Oakland, and the first Democrat to be elected since World War II.