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The Black Panther Party and Its Dedication to Sickle Cell Awareness

February 16, 2016 by Andrea
Photo: Twitter

Photo: Twitter

 

A couple of weeks ago, we kicked off Black History Month by recognizing the contributions of several Black Americans to sickle cell disease. This week, we're continuing that recognition by highlighting the efforts of the Black Panther Party (BPP). This is especially significant given the fact that so many people still have strong misconceptions about the Party, misconceptions that came to light again recently after Beyoncé payed tribute to them (this year being the 50th year since they began) during her Superbowl performance.

"Serve the people, body and soul" is actually what the Black Panther Party was all about. This motto was more than a mere tagline or hashtag-worthy saying to the group, though. It was actively practiced through initiatives, such as the free school breakfast program, the free ambulance service, model schools, and the establishment of the People's Free Medical Clinics in several cities across the country. One of the functions of these free clinics? To screen people for sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait, which they began doing in 1971.

As discussed in the book, The Black Panther Party Reconsidered, "Panthers were at the forefront of an educational and medical campaign to eradicate sickle cell anemia ... In a front page article in The Black Panther, entitled "Black Genocide, Sickle Cell Anemia," the Party accused the United States government of refusing to conduct research to find a cure for sickle cell anemia." By the time 1973 rolled around, the federal government decided to get involved and began funding research into SCD. While this was a win for sickle cell overall, this move also unfortunately disrupted the Party's work. If it hadn't been for them, though, there's no telling how long it would have taken the government to begin work on SCD research.

For more information on how the Black Panther's pushed for sickle cell awareness and research funding, check out the links below:

The People's Fight Against Sickle Cell Anemia Begins
A Huey P. Newton Story: Community Survival Programs
The Black Panther Party: Service to the People Programs


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