Every year, UCLA’s Afrikan Student Union and the Academic Advancement Program, hold a ceremony honoring the lives of Los Angeles Black Panther members Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, 26, and John J. Huggins Jr., 33.
This year the event also honored the life of Hip-Hop historian and filmmaker Gregory Everett, who passed away from Covid-19 in 2021.
Everett produced and directed the powerful documentary “41st and Central: The Untold Story of The L.A Black Panthers.”
The documentary honors the Los Angeles Black Panther Party and the shoot out they had with LAPD in 1969. Gregory’s son Jeffrey was also present, speaking on a panel with former L.A Black Panther members and faculty.
Jeffrey hopes to attend UCLA upon graduating high school and has aspirations of becoming a lawyer.
Carter and Huggins were gunned down on campus in 1969, after an altercation with another Black political group on campus, the US organization.
These Black students were attending UCLA under a special initiative called the “High Potential Program,” which aimed to enroll Black and underrepresented individuals into the university.
In 1971, HPP was combined with the Educational Opportunity Program to create what is now the Academic Advancement Program, a collection of innovative programs serving students from multi-ethnic, low-income, first generation and multiracial backgrounds.Black Bruin History at UCLA
The university would love to distance the institution from this historical tragedy, especially concerning the history of Black political organizing in Los Angeles.
UCLA’s Black Bruins and the Academic Advancement program have made it a priority to honor the lives of these students and Black Panther members.
As someone who covered the stabbing death of a student while in college, I am all too familiar with how institutions fail to honor the lives of students who are murdered on, or near campus.
Mainly, because the university is seeking to avoid stigmas that could negatively impact enrollment. Students and supportive faculty are the ones who usually pick up the baton and organize when the university as an institution, drops the ball.
There is a long history of student organizing on college campuses throughout the U.S.
During the 1960’s, students were engaged in protests around the issues of racism, poverty and war on various college and university campuses.
In fact, the same day Carter and Huggins were shot in UCLA’s Campbell Hall, there were several protests happening on college campuses in California including San Jose State and UC Berkeley.
The shooting took place in a classroom building on the campus within hours of violent outbreaks at San Jose State College and University of California Berkeley. Heavy damage was done at San Jose State during a melee Friday and a police officer narrowly missed being hit by a bullet. At Berkeley, the governors car was pelted with eggs as he left a meeting of regents.The Desert Sun
Although the incidents leading up to the shooting are disputed, brothers George and Larry Stiner were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for their involvement.
However, the alleged shooter Claude “Chuchessa” Hubert, was never arrested.
The brothers would later escape prison with one remaining a fugitive until his death, and the other being apprehended after 20 years on the run.
The Los Angeles Police Department would later raid the headquarters of the BPP on 41st and Central following the murders at UCLA.
Police attempted to illegally gain entry into the premises with no warrant. A shootout would start between LAPD and the L.A Black Panthers, lasting 4-5 hours on Central Avenue.
In the end, BPP members would surrender with none of the members being hurt.
A former member mentions in the documentary that police were afraid to come inside the building, which is why none of the BPP members were killed that day. A woman was the first to step outside and surrender to police.
Tupac’s godfather, Geronimo Pratt would later be arrested and framed for a Santa Monica murder serving over 20 years in prison. Pratt would later gain his freedom after winning an appeal, where he was represented by the late Johnnie Lee Cochran.
Pratt was Deputy Minister of Defense at the time for the L.A Black Panther Party and also a decorated Vietnam war veteran.
The story of the Los Angeles Black Panther party illustrates how Black political organizing is viewed as threatening to the power structure and something to be disrupted. Many of L.A’s key BPP figures were either killed or sent to prison just like members in various states across the U.S.
When I spoke to students and guests during the event, I touched on the importance of Black people telling our own stories as oppressed people and the importance of the counter narrative.
I also mentioned the last conversation that I had with Everett prior to his passing and something that I always remember him saying:
Former L.A Black Panther members shared how they got involved with the organization and spoke on a time when Black people were more politically engaged in Los Angeles, prior to the crack epidemic.
They also spoke about Cointelpro and how those who were organizing politically with the Black Panther Party, became targets of the state with the support of paid informants.
They speak clearly to how white supremacy has historically used Black bodies in the pursuit of maintaining control and suppressing Black revolutionary thinking.
“I am truly blessed to be alive and to be free after all that we went through. I cannot just sit here and not mention those who lost their lives or went to jail. Some brothers never got out of jail since 1969.”
Murals by Enkone