Blog Entry Health & Healing

Where We Go From Here: Healing & Building Upon the Legacy of the Black Panther Party


This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. In honor of this landmark moment, a wide array of commemorative events took place in Oakland, California including an informative conference, a powerful exhibit still on display at the Oakland Museum of California, and a celebratory gala of which CBMA was a major sponsor. 

During the anniversary festivities Dr. Phyllis Hubbard, who leads CBMA's Health and Healing Strategies Initiative, got to sit down with Oakland native and Executive Director of The Hidden Genius Project Brandon Nicholson to discuss healing and building upon the legacy of the iconic and revolutionary Panthers.

Dr. Phyl: Can you describe how the panther's legacy has empowered you as a black man living in America today?

Brandon: Because I grew up in Oakland, the impact of the Black Panther work was omnipresent for me, almost in a surreal way because people from all over the world read their history and heard stories about them and we pretty much lived, breathed, went to the grocery store and prayed next to members of the Black Panther Party. I’m so fortunate to have learned the history over time that didn’t necessarily make it into the history books. These were people who worked extremely hard to make sure that we, throughout the United States and the world, could enjoy a better quality of life. So much came from their work. I grew up to see Lionel Wilson, the first black mayor elected to the City of Oakland, because of the campaigning of the Black Panther Party which had a huge impact on me.

Dr. Phyl: Where do you think we go from here?

Brandon: The most significant legacy of the work that the panthers did locally and elsewhere was the community anchoring of the work. So you had the 10 point platform and all the different programs that the panthers introduced into the community. And so we now have the Campaign for Black Male Achievement working to drive narrative, provide convenings and platforms for people to come together to do the work. I think that the spirit of the panthers is about thinking globally and acting locally. Whether it is black folks, black folks in coalition with other communities of color or with white folks, the most fruitful activities begin with community driven strategies starting block to block to unify people and to provide better support to people from all walks of life.

Dr. Phyl: What lessons can we learn from the Black Panthers to help us move forward?

Brandon: Having a mother involved with the community, certainly one of the lessons is that we have we have to learn how to listen to and embrace intersectional viewpoints. The first time around the panthers fought for social justice issues around race and social economic status, but women did not always have an equal voice in the movement (even as there were many powerful women within it). We need to be able to fold in and understand the diversity of identity. We as Black people are whole people. We have to be able to accept and empower all of us because we all play a part in the movement whether we identify as different genders, sexual orientations, religious or political backgrounds, we can still build and advance together and empower everyone to play an integral part in the movement.

Dr. Phyl: What is the single most important health and healing strategy needed for leaders in the field of Black male achievement today?

Brandon: We need to take the first step and allow ourselves to acknowledge our own experience – to acknowledge that we have healing to be down within ourselves. This is particularly true with Black males who try to be strong for other black males. We can understand where we missed the tools or communication needed to help us understand our own moments of self-doubt and insecurity. We are fully capable of doing the work, but we have to be able to tell the truth that we have to first do the work within ourselves. And then we can say “Because I said this out loud, I know I need to heal.” From there we can leverage the different health and healing strategies to help us move forward such as taking time for self, eating healthier foods, exercising or take time to seek therapy. To be born is in and of itself a traumatic experience. To be born Black and a Black male brings the potential for greatness but also a great deal of traumatic things that we may want to put away into a little box. So we need to be able to process that and do that work to make sure that it doesn’t sneak out of the box in unfortunate ways that may sabotage our good efforts.

Dr. Phyl: How do you see your work playing into the greater work of the Black Panther movement today?

Brandon: I feel grateful that I get to do work that is relevant. Most of our staff is comprised of Oakland natives, so we are history and legacy in action. Through the mission of the Hidden Genius Project, we’ve answered the call to action and are furthering the work started by the Black Panthers in our own way.  It is a great honor for us to have had panthers support and fund our work. We also have a free breakfast program and we provide nourishment through technology and entrepreneurship education. We do not take this work for granted. We want our impact to extend far beyond Oakland to continue the legacy of the Black Panthers.

Brandon Nicholson is the Executive Director of the Hidden Genius Project. The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities. You can learn more about their work at

Dr. Phyllis Hubbard is Project Manager for CBMA's Health & Healing Strategies Initiative. She is also Founder of Radiant Health Strategies, LLC, a privately owned holistic health educational business that helps individuals and groups achieve radiant health through strategies that integrate an array of holistic health methods, professional and lifestyle skills. You can follow Dr. Hubbard on Twitter @GetRadiant.


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