--- From the Black Panther photo essay Revolutionary Grain: Celebrating the Spirit of the Black Panthers in Portraits and Stories by Suzan L. Lamaina
Charles (Cappy) Pinderhughes was a member of the New Haven, Connecticut Chapter of the Black Panther Party
I joined the Boston chapter of the Party as a community worker in June 1969 at age 22. I had dropped out of college to do movement work – power structure research. When I discovered that a corporation with board members close to Richard Nixon were trying to buy the Black radio station, (WILD) in Boston, the only media outlet willing to publish the information was The Black Panther newspaper. When my article was published, I was recruited to do more information work, which was my main area of work for my time in the Party. I was part time through August as I was attempting to work past my probationary period on the studio crew of WGBH-TV. However, due to on-the-job racism (although hired as a trainee, I had to train myself when my probation was extended), I quit to join the Party full-time as soon as I worked off the probation. I was in the Party through the end of August 1970.
The Boston chapter wanted to create a newsletter for the community. I expanded it from a mimeographed sheet to a web offset booklet by the 3rd issue, when I was transferred to New Haven as part of the re-constitution of the chapter. Since the entire original New Haven chapter, founded by Ericka Huggins, was imprisoned in May with Bobby Seale to be added after the Chicago 8 trial, all facing the death penalty, our main task was to create an atmosphere outside of the courtroom for a political defense. When I arrived in New Haven in early October, I learned that not only was I now a Panther, but was also promoted to Lieutenant of Information of the chapter. My primary focus was putting out the People’s News Service (PNS) on a weekly basis. PNS was a combination of local articles and relevant materials reprinted from The Black Panther newspaper. The Panther Paper was sold, but the People’s News Service was distributed free.
People’s News Service became a very important tool for our dedicated cadre to circulate, especially in the Black community, as the Party had to overcome the saturation effects of 5 months of unopposed slanted propaganda from the mainstream media against the imprisoned New Haven Panthers. In the decades since, I’ve learned that New Haven’s People’s News Service was widely circulated and copied in Panther chapters all across the country.
In addition to my innovative work on the People’s News Service, I’m most proud of my contribution to the prevention of a US government-promoted riot during the 25,000 strong May Day Rally to Free the New Haven Panthers. At the end of the Saturday rally on the New Haven Green, using a van with a loudspeaker, I had to talk 200 angry protesters to safety. At dusk, with the National Guard moving in to clear the Green, someone had set the local Peace office – on the Green’s edge - on fire, (which was cattycorner to the courthouse where the trials would take place). I had to talk the protesters into evacuating across the Green to the Yale Yard for their own safety as the National Guard arrived firing tear gas. Despite repeated attempts to provoke mayhem and violence by government agents (the Friday bombing of a rally-related rock concert, Black police agents disrupting rally participant orientations in Yale buildings, etc.), we were able to make our point with rally events on Friday and Saturday. After we called off Sunday, announcing that we’d made our point, the Kent State shootings occurred on Monday, May 4.
Although I had socialistic sentiments before I joined, my Black Panther Party experience opened my eyes to the value of the tool of Marxism for oppressed peoples. After my service in the Black Panther Party, I developed myself into an independent Marxist. I have since participated in a variety of Marxist and mass organizations and am currently an assistant professor and independent Marxist sociologist teaching at a community college. In all of the community organizing work I have chosen, I have prioritized the peoples’ interests. My main sociological research is a re-assessment of internal colonialism theory – the analysis that ghettos, barrios and reservations are 21st century internal colonies – that echoes the 10th point of the Panther Program.