Monday, 30 November 2015

BLACK PANTHER IN BRAMPTON: PARTY, PRISON AND PRESENCE

AFRICAN CANADIAN HISTORY

BY: ANNISSA MALVOISIN

It was 1977 and he had just landed at the Pearson International Airport in Mississauga. Although his night was not spent where he may have anticipated. Rather, he found himself in a cold, concrete cell - while outside on Wellington Street East and Queen Street East his arrest had ignited a spur of support, protests, and overwhelming international media press.

By this time, you're probably wondering...who?

I'm speaking of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton.

The Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) is a cultural institution that was home to a prominent figure in the human and civil rights movement in the United States. Located in Brampton, Ontario, the trifold campus was renovated in 2012 (please check it out). The courthouse and jail were built in 1867 and the Registry Office in 1890. A little over a century later, the rarely-used prison was the subject on the cover of newspapers across North America.


Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives. (Image Soruce)

Black Panther Party leader Huey P. Newton on the right and co-founder Bobby Seale on the left. (Image Source)

My summer internship was research-heavy (which is always good), and I found some pretty incredible information while both living my life in the Peel Archives and on online libraries. Huey P. Newton, one of the original leaders of the Black Panther Party, was detained for five days on murder charges laid in the United States. Newton had a few run-ins with the law and eventually left for Cuba to avoid them. This incident followed his stay in South America. While stopping over in Toronto, he was arrested at the Pearson International Airport and brought to the Peel County Jail. Beginning with 1960's microfilm, the newspapers that I examined which covered the story were dominated by titles such as "Black Power Threat" and "Racial Problem in Canada". As I moved closer to the 1970's, I focused heavily on The Brampton Daily Times (please check this out too, if you like archived newspapers). Residents were afraid. Not of Newton, but of the intensifying solidarity between the Black community that generated as a result of his presence.


Research at PAMA. The title of the Brampton Daily Times newspaper article from 1977 reads "Panther Leader in City Jail". (Image Source: Annissa Malvoisin)

This reminds me of #BlackLivesMatter and the harmony between communities occurring today around the world as a result of the ongoing police brutality towards Black bodies. #BlackLivesMatter has played a critical role in spearheading a movement that seeks to bring awareness concerning Black people and the absence of their basic human rights in the face of state violence. To learn more about who they are and what they do, click here.

How did Newton's stay affect local Black communities? Well, it did to such a degree as creating this same sense of community with local members of the Black Panther Party and residents located right there in Brampton.

References

Black Panther Party. (2015). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/topic/Black-Panther-Party

Brampton Daily Times. (June 1977). Reel 1, Peel Archives, Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives.

Richmond, Norman (Otis). 2009. “Huey P. Newton.” Pan-African News Wire blog, August 27. Retrieved from http://panafricannews.blogspot.ca/2009/08/huey-p-newton-1942-1989-canadian.html

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