(Charleston, IL) – Eastern Illinois University will host Stan McKinney and Henry Nesbitt, members of the Black Panther Party’s Illinois chapter, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 4 at the Tarble Arts Center. The event will be immediately preceded by a reception at 5:30 p.m.
The conversation will revolve around Black Panther activist Fred Hampton. Hampton was the chair of the Illinois chapter and the deputy chair of the national Black Panther Party. He organized communities across Chicago and formed the Rainbow Coalition of Revolutionary Solidarity. The Rainbow Coalition included Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, Mexican American, Chinese American, and White activists to upend oppressive socioeconomic and racial conditions. The Rainbow Coalition idea was later adopted by Reverend Jesse Jackson during his 1984 presidential campaign.
The Black Panther Party’s activities in the Chicago area, which included coalition building and community survival programs, eventually attracted the attention of the police. The Panthers’ community programs included free breakfast for children, free ambulance services, drug and alcohol programs, and testing for sickle cell anemia. Hampton in particular became a police target given his adept organizing ability and revolutionary socialist ideas. For his political activity, Hampton was assassinated December 4, 1969 during a police raid on his apartment.
This December 4 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Fred Hampton assassination. To observe this event at EIU, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Nesbitt will give a talk and lead a dialogue about Fred Hampton, the Black Panther Party, and their own experiences with the organization.
Stan McKinney was a rank-and-file member of the Black Panther Party’s Illinois chapter from 1969 to 1978. He was involved in Panther chapters and branches across the country, serving not only the Party, but also larger communities. McKinney was also a bodyguard to prominent Panther members, such as cofounder and Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton and Illinois chapter Deputy Minister of Defense Bobby Rush. Based in Chicago, McKinney continues to work in the community, teaching martial arts classes to youth across the city.
Henry Nesbitt was also a rank-and-file member of the Black Panther Party. He joined the organization after becoming aware of social issues amid the student demonstrations of the 1960s. He became associated with the Panthers in 1970 while still in high school, and he became a full member by 1971. Nesbitt worked in the distribution of The Black Panther, the organization’s newspaper. He also helped form the Southern Illinois Branch of the BPP, based in East St. Louis. He has spent the last four years researching and collecting materials on the Illinois chapter.
This event will wrap up the 400th— a series of events in fall 2019 observing the 400th year since the first Africans were forcibly transported to British North America. The Fred Hampton event is sponsored by Africana Studies, the Department of History, the Department of English, Latin American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the Department of Political Science, the School of Communication and Journalism, and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology.
For more information about EIU, or to learn more about its growing assortment of programs and services, visit the university’s website at www.eiu.edu, or call EIU’s public information office at (217) 581-7400.