Occasionally I find I still have to make the case to people that Black People do care about the environment, which includes health. For Black History Month here’s yet another example: In January, 1969, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense launched the Free Breakfast for Children Program. Their motto was “Serve the People, Body and Soul.”
Before the US government gave breakfast at school the program was initiated at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland. By year’s end it spread to cities nationwide, feeding over 10,000 children every day before school.
The reason was simple, children who have a nourishing breakfast every morning learn better. One of the children they fed would grow up to be Public Enemy frontman Chuck D.
At one time there were children that passed out in class from hunger, or had to be sent home for something to eat. But our children shall be fed, and the Black Panther Party will not let the malady of hunger keep our children down any longer.” -Huey P. Newton, Black Panthers co-founder
Just months later J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, publicly stated the Panthers are the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country.”
“…If you read the FBI files you will see that even Mr. J. Edgar Hoover himself had to say that it was not the guns that were the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America; it was not the guns, it was the Free Children’s Breakfast Program that was the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America. Grits. Now why was it the Free Children’s Breakfast Program?
It was the Free Children’s Breakfast Program because the Free Children’s Breakfast Program engendered a certain following on the Black community’s part, a certain respect on the Black community’s part. I mean, nobody can argue with free grits. So Hoover saw it as a kind of…infiltration.
That’s ridiculous isn’t it? Infiltration? How are Black people, who are born and raised in the Black community, who live and work in the Black community, going to infiltrate their own Black community? If anybody’s infiltrating I think its J. Edgar Hoover.” -Roger Guenveur Smith, A Huey P. Newton Story
All these years later we have First Lady Michelle Obama focusing on childhood obesity and nourishment for children. Well then, maybe there’s something to this healthy breakfast thing after all. Did you eat breakfast today?