The Black Panther Party opened many People’s Free Medical Clinics all over the United States beginning in the 1970’s. They give higher quality medicine to marginalized communities that are excluded from quality health care. They emphasize the health of Black communities, children, and poor communities. They also work to demystify medical knowledge, teaching the basics of personal medical care to the people who recieve medical services. They ran an alternate system of ambulances, allowing people who had been ignored by mainstream ambulance services due to racist drivers and rules. In an annoucement of the PFMC in Berkeley:
"We have initiated a Free Health Clinic to combat the health problems which exist among poor and oppressed people. We realize that a person’s health is his most valuable possession. We also realize that helath care and inadequate facilities can be used as a tool to perpetuate genocide against a people. We know that as long as the oppressor controls the institutions within our oppressed communities, we will be subjected to institutionalized genocide whether it comes from inadequate housing, the barrel of a pig’s shotgun, or for inadequate medical attention…[We] must create institutions that are controlled and maintained by the people."
They also emphasize the importance of health to revolutionary work—acknowleding the physical toll that activism takes on the body.
People’s Free Medical Clinics still exist around the U.S., although their heyday was in the 1970’s.
This info is so important!!!! It totally resists the common mainstream constructions of the Black Panther Party. The current existance of these clinics is also important to recongize—the Party still is active and revolutionary!
Info AND IMAGES come from the extremely interesting book Body and Soul: The Black Panter Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson. I really recommend reading at least this chapter, available online: http://redwingblackbird.wikispaces.com/file/view/peoples_free_medical_clinics.pdf
An interview with Alondra Nelson
“The clinics were established to not only help the broader communities that the Panthers were working in, but to help the Panthers themselves,” Nelson told BET.com. “In interviewing about the clinics, people conveyed to me that this was a place that they felt comfortable going to, that was nearby, and it was also the case that the Panther clinics were open late in the evenings, say 5 to 9, so people could go after work and seek medical care.”
However impressive the success of the clinics, Nelson says it was mostly the Party’s involvement in a self-constructed sickle cell screening program that piqued her interest in the organization’s healthcare work and served as the inspiration for the book.
“I thought to myself, ‘These are people who are teenagers and in their early 20s doing a large-scale genetic screening program — talk about revolutionary!’” she said.
The Black Panther Party organized a clinic post-Hurricane Katrina
“The Panther imprint is also present in post-Katrina New Orleans. The idea for the Common Ground Health Clinic, which arose fill the gap left by the collapse of the city’s medical infrastructure, was inspired by similar programs that co-founder Malik Rahim developed as a member of the New Orleans chapter of the Party. Now an established institution, this Black Panther-inspired clinic has served more than sixty thousand people since it was established in September 2005.”