Former Black Panther and artist comes to PNW
March 6, 2017
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In celebration of Black History Month, former Black Panther and artist Charlotte O’Neal visited PNW on Feb. 28 in Alumni Hall to speak about her life as a Black Panther.
O’Neal, also known as Mama C, was welcomed to PNW by the Black Student Union, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Multicultural Committee.
“Mama C is a gem to the black community. What she has done and the information she contains is precious. She is an artifact for us. She knows about the struggles of our race. She knows about the progress of our race,” Dwayne Hunter, president of the Black Student Union, said. “She has seen everything from segregation to us having our first black president, and her being so heavily involved in the movement of the Black Panthers is something that we value at a high level.”
The event began with Hunter playing on the drums while O’Neal sang to African music and called for the audience to shout out the names of their ancestors.
“When you get to play in that African culture, knowing it is a celebration to bring your ancestors, it makes a connection with you because it is a part of who you are,” Hunter said. “It felt like a part of me was unlocked and that was enriching to my experience and took me to another place. It felt so natural.”
O’Neal encouraged all who attended to create change within their community and explained that that was what the Black Panthers did, despite how they were portrayed.
“The Black Panthers were everyday people doing extraordinary things,” O’Neal said. “We were mothers, daughters and fathers. We were building unity with other cultures.”
At 17, O’Neal began to attend school to learn about African history. By 18, she was a Black Panther and married to Pete O’Neal, the Kansas City chairman of the Black Panthers. She gave up school and her scholarship because she wanted to fight for her beliefs.
Daquan Williams, sophomore communication major, was most inspired by how O’Neal dropped everything for her beliefs.
“I admire her resilience. She is very strong in her beliefs. The fact that she can bring a group of people together is not something that everyone can do. The quality to bring people together and the quality to know that the youth is the future is something that is important,” Williams said.
When O’Neal’s husband was exiled to Africa to escape imprisonment after his debated arrest for carrying a gun across state lines, she decided to go with him. In Africa, they established the United African Alliance Community center in Tanzania, where the center focuses on healing through the arts along with classes for children.
“This is what it meant to be a Panther: building love, community and unity,” O’Neal said. “Even in exile, community service traveled with us and that was an amazing revenge.”
Both Williams and Hunter hope that in the future, there will be equality for everyone and that racism will cease to exist.
“To have equality, it is kind of like Martin Luther King Jr.’s message. You can’t attack hate with hate. If you keep on attacking violence with hate you will get more violence and hate,” Williams said. “Keep the hate out of your heart.”
Williams and Hunter want to see people in the community take action to make a difference. As for O’Neal, she believes that is the foundation of leadership.
“We all have the ability to be leaders. Leaders are those who make a difference,” O’Neal said.