Founded in Dallas, the group today is especially active on the East Coast, from Boston to Jacksonville, Fla. The group portrays itself as a militant, modern-day expression of the black power movement (it frequently engages in armed protests of alleged police brutality and the like), but principals of the original Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 1970s— a militant, but non-racist, left-wing organization — have rejected the new Panthers as a "black racist hate group" and contested their hijacking of the Panther name and symbol.
In Its Own Words
"Our lessons talk about the bloodsuckers of the poor… . It's that old no-good Jew, that old imposter Jew, that old hooked-nose, bagel-eating, lox-eating, Johnny-come-lately, perpetrating-a-fraud, just-crawled-out-of-the-caves-and-hills-of-Europe, so-called damn Jew … and I feel everything I'm saying up here is kosher."
— Khalid Abdul Muhammad, one of the party's future leaders, Baltimore, Md., Feb. 19, 1994
"Kill every goddamn Zionist in Israel! Goddamn little babies, goddamn old ladies! Blow up Zionist supermarkets!"
—Malik Zulu Shabazz, the party's national chairman, protesting at B'nai B'rith International headquarters in Washington, D.C., April 20, 2002
"I hate white people. All of them. Every last iota of a cracker, I hate it. We didn't come out here to play today. There's too much serious business going on in the black community to be out here sliding through South Street with white, dirty, cracker whore bitches on our arms, and we call ourselves black men. … What the hell is wrong with you black man? You at a doomsday with a white girl on your damn arm. We keep begging white people for freedom! No wonder we not free! Your enemy cannot make you free, fool! You want freedom? You going to have to kill some crackers! You going to have to kill some of their babies!"
— King Samir Shabazz, head of the party's Philadelphia chapter, in a National Geographic documentary, January 2009
The New Black Panther Party (NBPP) is a black nationalist group that believes black Americans should have their own nation. In the NBPP's "10 Point Platform," which is a takeoff on the 10-point platform of the original Black Panther Party, the NBPP demands that blacks be given a country or state of their own, within which they can make their own laws. They demand that all black prisoners in the United States be released to "the lawful authorities of the Black Nation." They claim to be entitled to reparations for slavery from the United States, all European countries and "the Jews."
The NBPP is notable for its anti-white and antisemitic hatred. Its leaders have blamed Jews for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for the slave trade. The late former party chairman Khalid Abdul Muhammad has said, "There are no good crackers, and if you find one, kill him before he changes." A document on the NBPP website entitled "The Nationalist Manifesto" claims that white men have a secret plan to commit genocide against the non-white races. It also refers to black people who condone mixed-race relationships as the "modern day Custodians [sic] of Uncle Tom's Cabin."
NBPP members also hold black-supremacist religious beliefs. Some think that blacks are God's true "chosen people" and that the people normally called "Jews" actually are impostors (this ideology is remarkably similar to the white racist theology of Christian Identity, which says whites are God's real chosen people). They believe that blacks are naturally superior to people of other races. In September 1997, Khalid Muhammad said that he could not be antisemitic because Jews had no claim to the term "Semite."
Members of the original Black Panther Party, which has no connection to the NBPP, have heavily criticized the New Black Panther Party. An open letter from the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, which is run by members of the original Black Panther Party, decries the NBPP for being a hateful and unconstructive group. Bobby Seale, a famous founding member of the original Panthers, calls the organization "a black racist hate group."
By injecting themselves into racially charged and other high-profile events, the NBPP has won considerable press attention. When members march, they often wear coordinated, military-style uniforms — black boots, black pants, a black shirt with NBPP patches on it, and black berets.
The NBPP claims to have been founded in 1989, although the group was not active until 1990. That year, Aaron Michaels, a Dallas radio personality, assembled a group of black citizens to engage in community activism. He called the group the New Black Panther Party. One of its main goals was to increase black representation on the Dallas school board. The group also attempted to reduce drug dealing in certain black neighborhoods. In 1993, the group organized an event called the National Black Power Summit and Youth Rally, which had around 200 attendees. White supremacist Tom Metzger spoke at the event as a special guest. Although Metzger is no friend of blacks, both he and NBPP members believe that whites and blacks should live in their own separate countries. At that 1993 meeting, Michaels made the likely exaggerated claim that the NBPP had formed 20 chapters.
In 1994, Khalid Abdul Muhammad became actively involved with the NBPP. Muhammad was formerly the personal assistant to Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as a black hate group since 1998. In November 1993, while still associated with the Nation of Islam, he gave a notorious speech at Kean College in New Jersey. He accused Jews of being responsible for the slave trade, called Jews "bloodsuckers," and asserted that white South Africans should be killed if they refuse to leave South Africa. The speech caused a controversy, leading Farrakhan to demote Muhammad from his position as national spokesman in February 1994. In May 1994, Muhammad was shot and injured by James Bess, a former Nation of Islam member.
A Dallas school board meeting was canceled in May 1996 after the Panthers threatened to come with loaded weapons. NBPP founder Aaron Michaels and Khalid Muhammad worked together closely during this time, appearing together at a press conference regarding the school board incident.
In 1997, Fahim Minkah and Marvin Crenshaw, two original Panthers from Dallas, won an injunction against Aaron Michaels disallowing him from using either the old Panther name or its logo. The injunction was never enforced and the NBPP continued to use the Panther name and the Panther logo to this day.
On June 7, 1998, James Byrd, Jr., was murdered in Jasper, Texas, by three white men who chained the black man to the back of a truck and dragged him to death. In the wake of the horrific murder, Khalid Muhammad led a group of armed NBPP members to Jasper where members confronted a group of Klansmen who rallied in the town. About 50 Panthers, a dozen of whom carried rifles and shotguns, faced off against about 20 Klan members. Police officers erected a barricade to separate the two groups. NBPP members twice tried to break through and confront the KKK protesters, but failed to do so. Frustrated, Muhammad called for his followers to attack the police, shouting: "Black people, we can take these bastards. We can run over the damn police and take their ass. Who's with me?" Police officers attempted to evacuate the Klan members, but a small group of Panthers surrounded one of their vehicles and started rocking it back and forth. As a result, one NBPP member was arrested. No further violence occurred.
In September 1998, Khalid Muhammad organized the Million Youth March in New York City. Then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani attempted to prevent the group from holding the event, denying them a permit and referring to the rally as a "hate march." But the NBPP won a court battle, forcing the city to allow the event. Malik Zulu Shabazz, the future leader of party, played a prominent role in organizing the event. On Sept. 5, about 6,000 people attended the march while 3,000 police officers oversaw the event. A few minutes after the rally was scheduled to end, police began to disperse the crowd, resulting in a scuffle that left 16 police officers and 12 attendees injured. Muhammad reportedly encouraged the crowd to attack police officers with chairs and bottles and even to take the officers' guns if attacked. Shortly after this event, Muhammad became the national chairman of the NBPP, making him the leader of the organization.
Muhammad served as chairman until Feb. 17, 2001, when he died of a brain aneurysm. That year, Malik Zulu Shabazz, a Washington, D.C., attorney who had run unsuccessfully for the City Council in 1995, took over leadership of the group. He co-sponsored an Oct. 31, 2001 conference in which he and a handful of Muslim clerics blamed the Jews for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Said Shabazz: "Zionism is racism, Zionism is terrorism, Zionism is colonialism, Zionism is imperialism, and support for Zionism is the root of why so many were killed on September 11." He also referred to Israel and the United States as "terrorists." Shabazz would later claim that Jews had received advance warning of the attacks, a false conspiracy theory that is also highly popular in white supremacist and neo-Nazi circles.
Shabazz worked to improve relations between the NBPP and the Nation of Islam, where many NBPP members had their roots, including former leader Khalid Muhammad. In 2005, Louis Farrakhan invited Shabazz to be the co-convener of the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. The groups also appeared together at events calling for reparations for black slavery. (That friendly relationship has continued. As late as January 2010, Shabazz was expressing his approval of the Nation of Islam and reiterating his commitment to support its efforts.)
In May 2006, Shabazz led a group of New Black Panthers in a protest on Duke University's campus in North Carolina. A few months earlier, members of Duke's lacrosse team had been accused of raping a black exotic dancer who they had hired to work a private party — charges that were ultimately shown to be false. The NBPP demanded that the accused players be found guilty and that all the students who were at the party be expelled. Several of the NBPP members came to the protest armed. Two brought knives, some wore bulletproof vests, and one brought a gun, which a police officer insisted that he leave in his car.
In August 2006, several members of the NBPP served as security personnel for former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney's primary campaign, which she lost. After McKinney lost the primary, a journalist asked her what she attributed her loss to. Hashim Nzinga, the NBPP National Chief of Staff, interrupted: "Why do you think she lost? You wanna know what led to the loss? Israel. The Zionists. You. Put on your yarmulke and celebrate." (The former Georgia Democrat and the NBPP's connection continues today. In May 2010, McKinney spoke at the NBPP Black Power Convention.)
In September 2007, three white men and three white women in West Virginia were arrested for kidnapping, torturing, and sexually assaulting Megan Williams, a 20-year-old mentally disabled black woman. In October 2007, Shabazz seized on Williams' case, demanding that all six of the defendants be charged with hate crimes — this despite Williams' previous romantic involvement with one of her assailants, which prosecutors said underlined how the crimes were not legally hate crimes. But Shabazz ignored the prosecutors, reaching out to Megan's mother, Carmen Williams, and giving her legal advice and supposedly working to raise money for her daughter.
On Nov. 3, 2007, Shabazz held a rally in front of the federal courthouse in Charleston, W.Va., where he demanded that all the defendants be charged with hate crimes. The rally drew about 1,000 people. The NAACP refused to endorse the event, presumably because of Shabazz and the NBPP's racist views. But Shabazz was supported by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who reportedly attended and later had Shabazz on his radio program, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which also reportedly endorsed the rally. After the event, Shabazz announced that he had collected at least $5,000 on Williams' behalf, and pledged to continue to raise money. Two weeks later, Logan County prosecutor Brian Abraham petitioned the court to appoint a legal guardian for Williams. He was worried that Williams' mother and Shabazz were not acting in Megan's best interests, and that the publicity was not good for Megan or her case. Shabazz challenged the guardian petition and it was denied. But many of those close to the case remained concerned about Shabazz's advocacy. In October 2009, Megan's attorney, Byron Potts, said, "I know for a fact she [Megan] has been manipulated. … People raised money for her, she never received that money."
On Nov. 4, 2008, two NBPP members showed up, wearing military-style fatigues and berets, at a Philadelphia polling station, supposedly to protect black voters from having their rights violated. King Samir Shabazz, the local NBPP chapter leader, brandished a nightstick and made threatening remarks to voters (much of this was captured on a videotape reportedly made by GOP poll watchers). An eyewitness claimed that Samir Shabazz said, "Cracker, you are about to be ruled by a black man." Jerry Jackson, a certified Democratic poll watcher who also wore NBPP garb, accompanied him. Police officers arrived at the scene and forced Samir Shabazz to leave, though they allowed Jackson to stay. After the incident, the NBPP distanced itself from Samir Shabazz's actions and suspended the Philadelphia chapter.
The Justice Department filed civil charges of voter intimidation in January 2009 under the Voting Rights Act (the Bush Administration, which filed the charges in its last hours, chose not to pursue a criminal case) against King Samir Shabazz, Jerry Jackson, the New Black Panther Party and Malik Zulu Shabazz. They won the case by default in April 2009 when the defendants did not appear in court. But DOJ officials under the Obama Administration decided to drop most of the charges, saying the evidence did not substantiate the allegations that votes were suppressed or that the party or its leader were culpable. They did, however, get an injunction against Samir Shabazz that forbade him to bring a weapon to any Philadelphia polling place until 2012.
In January 2010, Samir Shabazz was reinstalled as head of the newly reactivated Philadelphia chapter. On April 23, 2010, he wrote in a reference to the prosecutors who investigated the case against him, "You are nothing more than a modern day lynch mob." In May 2010, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez defended the Department of Justice's decision to drop the charges. He cited local officers' decision to allow Jackson to remain when they removed Samir Shabazz (suggesting that Jackson was not intimidating voters) and the fact that there were no similar incidents at other polling stations. These facts, Perez argued, exonerated Jackson, Malik Shabazz, and the NBPP from charges of voter intimidation. Nevertheless, a wide array of right-wing and conservative individuals and groups attacked the DOJ's decision as supposedly revealing the Obama Administration's refusal to pursue cases against black racists.
The group made headlines across the country in March 2012 when Mikhail Muhammad, a New Black Panther leader in Florida, said the NBPP was placing a $10,000 “bounty” on a neighborhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African American, in Sanford, Fla. When asked whether he was inciting violence, Muhammad said, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” The group also called for the mobilization of 10,000 black men to capture the Hispanic man who shot the unarmed teen as he was walking through a gated community wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying only some candy and iced tea. The lack of charges against the gunman, who claimed he was attacked by Martin, sparked nationwide outrage.