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THE WARMTH OF SANKOFA By Mae Catherine Godhigh Kathleen and Angela – The Truth cannot be Silenced

I thought about International Women’s Month and what it really means.

Mae Catherine Godhigh pic 1Remember the Virginia Slims slogan, you’ve come a long way baby? Later in the 1990s campaigns followed with “It’s a woman thing!”and “Find your voice!” Resistance and oppression is not a new thing. Without Human Rights, you have no rights.


This is the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party. Rewind to the turbulent 1960s. Angela Yvonne Davis was first exposed to me through a purchase of the Black Panther newspaper. I bought my first paper from a local activist by the name of Mark Clark. I knew Mark from our youth days serving at the NAACP. At the time I was unaware that he was the president of the Peoria Chapter of the Black Panther Party. I took my copy home to read. At first sight I noticed two afro clad black women on the front lines of the movement. They were Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver. For the cost of .25 I was able to critically rethink our political and judicial system. The quiet revolution burned within me and I continued to purchase the paper. The more they spoke, the more I listened until I decided to fill out the membership application. I wanted to support this movement because I saw “the good” these young people wanted to bring to our communities. Here is a short list of the good mainstream media forgot to cover.

The most famous and successful of their programs was the Free Breakfast for Children Program, initially run out of an Oakland church. Survival programs were free services such as clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics, lessons on self-defense and first aid, transportation to upstate prisons for family members of inmates, an emergency-response ambulance program, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and testing for sickle-cell disease.

In 1971 -The BPP also founded the “Intercommunal Youth Institute” with the intent of demonstrating how black youth ought to be educated. Personally, I could not travel to Oakland, California but my meager finances could. I was proud to support this movement. Here are mini bios of the careers of these great women.

godhigh1Kathleen Neal Cleaver was born on May 13, 1945. She is an African American educator, lawyer, writer, and activist.

1967 to 1971, Cleaver was the communications secretary of the Black Panther Party, the first woman member of their Central Committee.

Graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in history from Yale University in 1984, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

1989 – Received a J.D. from Yale Law School; An associate at the New York law firm of Cravath, Swain and Moore.

While an assistant professor of law at Emory University, she served on the Georgia’s Supreme Court Commission on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts.

Board Member – Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights.

Cleaver has co-edited a collection of essays entitled Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party (Routledge, 2001).

Her writings have appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including Ramparts, The Black Panther, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe and Transition. She has contributed essays to several books, including Critical Race Feminism, Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, The Promise of Multiculturalism: Education and Autonomy in the 21st Century: A New Political Science Reader and The Black Panther Party Reconsidered.

godhigh2Angela Yvonne Davis – Angela Davis, born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, AL.

Angela Davis is an activist, scholar and writer. She continues to advocate for the oppressed.

Master scholar who studied at the Sorbonne, Davis later went to Brandeis University in Massachusetts where she studied philosophy with Herbert Marcuse.

1960s – Graduate student at the University of California, San Diego,

Joined several groups, including the Black Panthers. But she spent most of her time working with the Che-Lumumba Club, which was all-black branch of the Communist Party.

Joined the U.S. Communist Party; was jailed for charges related to a prison outbreak; ultimately cleared.

Advocate for Soledad brothers, after spending roughly 18 months in jail, Davis was acquitted in June 1972.

Today, she is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she teaches courses on the history of consciousness. Davis is the author of several books, including Women, Race, Class and Are Prisons Obsolete?

Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis are not smart; they are brilliant. They are not dead, their sacrifices and legacy’s will live on for eons. The BPP continues to be a party of evolution and revolution.

The truth cannot be silenced; only skewed and spun. Power to the People!

References: The Book of African-American Women, 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters by Tonya Bolden and