Bobby Seale visits Madison College, impacts students

    Black Panther Party cofounder Bobby Seale and Madison College student T'asya Thompson.

    Special promotional content provided by Madison College.

    On Feb. 25, 2020, Black Panther Party Co-founder Bobby Seale packed the Mitby Theatre at Madison College. Hundreds of community members turned out to listen to the legendary civil rights activist talk about his life and his passion for fighting social injustice. 

    While Seale was on campus, Madison College students were there to assist him, leading him to meetings, a book signing and helping him during his presentation. Kewiana Pollard, president of the Madison College Black Student Union, found Seale to be inspiring, humble and the overall experience to be motivational.  

    “It was amazing! I got to spend a day with a civil rights hero,” said Pollard. She added, “Because of meeting him, I can foresee myself having an impact, because we talk the same way, we know the same things. I can do it too.” 

    Liberal arts student T’asya Thompson also acted as a guide for Seale during his visit. “He was really humble. It felt like I was around one of my uncles,” T’asya stated about Seale, who is known for his wisdom and frank delivery. 

    Audience members of all ages who attended Seale’s presentation remarked on the learning experience it provided them. Many people still carry misconceptions about the Black Panther Party and its purpose. Decades ago, an iconic photo of Black Panther Party leaders holding guns was dispersed with misleading information that gave a false impression. 

    “They didn’t teach us about the Black Panthers in school. And what they did teach was dehumanizing,” T’asya shared. “The theatre was full, but I wish even more people could have heard him speak.”

    Bobby Seale covered a lot of territory about his life and the foundations of the Black Panther Party during his presentation. Seale was always a smart and curious individual, who spent time in the military and through the years felt compelled to take a more active role in the fight for civil rights.

    President of Madison College, Dr. Jack E. Daniels, III, was also able to spend time with Seale. Daniels says he toured the main Truax building with Seale, who declared Madison College to be one of the best college campuses he’s ever visited. Seale, who has visited colleges and universities around the world, was astonished at what Madison College is able to offer its diverse student body.

    Dr. Daniels shared that his and Bobby Seale’s histories intersected. For starters, the Black Panther Party started in Oakland, CA, around the time Daniels worked at Merritt Community College nearby. 

    “Talking with an icon of that part of history was very impactful for me,” says Daniels. “It brought that era back to life. When he talked about the ’68 Democratic Convention, he brought it all back to me.”

    Daniels mentioned another connection he had to Bobby Seale. Daniels once worked with the brother of Huey Newton, who co-founded the Black Panthers with Seale. 

    Audience members of all ages mentioned how much they learned about the Black Panther Party mission and the expectations placed on members. For instance, student T’asya Thompson shared her surprise at finding out that party members were required to spend at least two hours a day reading up on laws and civil rights. 

    The Black Panther Party worked from a “Ten Point Program” that remains relevant today. The Party has always addressed civil rights injustices and tried to help fulfill basic needs that African-American communities were being denied. 

    As Dr. Daniels stated, “If the only thing you know about the Panthers is based on a picture of people with guns standing on courthouse steps, you have a false image of them.” 

    In fact, the Black Panthers’ Ten Point Program worked to address housing issues, police brutality, food insecurity, and discrimination in employment and education. The party put several programs into place to address these issues head on in their fight for basic civil rights. 

    Seale’s messages of arming oneself with education and fighting for what is right rang true for all audience members. Students in particular walked away from their time with Bobby Seale with more than a fuller picture of the Black Panther Party, but with inspiration to do their part to improve the world.

    Madison College student Jacob Vang said, “When you only see things in books and in movies, you get the view of a director. But hearing it from someone who actually lived it is a lot more meaningful. Seeing Bobby Seale inspires us to go make a change.”

    Kewiana Pollard added, “He said voting is the best way for us to fight for what we need right now. People are not always aware of what is happening, they accept things as they are. He encouraged us to keep asking questions.” 

    Bobby Seale’s recent presentation at Madison College was just one of the ongoing events sponsored by the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement. One of Madison College’s core values is a commitment to students and diverse communities.