Interview with Deborah Johnson
QUESTION 25
TERRY ROCKEFELLER:

Talk to me about the party.

DEBORAH JOHNSON:

Thinking back on all of this, I think what really fired me up about the Black Panther Party, and it all had to do with my, my brother bringing me this sign saying the Black Panthers are here, seeing them on television, hearing Fred speak, hearing about the programs that they were doing. It was that, in my mind, at this time, Black people's freedom and poor and oppressed people's freedom was not dependent upon the good will or the good nature of our oppressors, that we had the power to determine our own destiny, and the Black Panther Party, it, everything that they were doing said that to me. That, now at this point in my life, I have some control over what my future is. You know, and not going to someone that, a system that's oppressing me, denying me, not individually, collectively, education, housing, clothing, justice and peace, I don't have to say, "Can I have this?" I have a right to fight for that and to get those things, and I could make a difference, and, ah, effect a change in this society. So I think that's what really fired me up about the Black Panther Party and really made me excited about working with them. Of course, Fred Hampton, put, gave that to people when he spoke and everybody could not, you know, bring that across. Everybody is not a speaker, and everybody cannot convince you of their sincerity without putting that effort into convincing you. You just see it in everything they do and everything they say, but--



TERRY ROCKEFELLER:

OK, one more time, what was it that made the Black Panther Party so crucial?

DEBORAH JOHNSON:

That's the plane again. One thing that, it's amazing, I guess, that I remember, what really got me fired up about the Black Panther Party, was, it spoke to, it, it said that no longer do we have to depend on the goodwill of those that are oppressing us or denying us basic, our basic freedom. It, it, we're not dependent upon them to give us what we need to survive in this country. Ah, we have the power to determine our own destiny. That we have a right to fight and demand those things. And not only just with my brother bringing the flier home with the Black Panther on it that appeared to be walking across the page. Not only with seeing Fred, um, on the talk show and hearing him speak, and, all of this spoke to that, that we have the power to determine our own destiny. Of course, everybody cannot just speak and fire people up and have them believing in your sincerity, that you really believe in what you're doing. But Fred could do that, he could really bringing it across without really putting an effort in trying to convince you. You just saw him work. You heard him speak. And you knew that he believed it, and you believed it to, because you just get really dedicated about it because you're serious. You're about taking care of serious business. And that's what it was. It wasn't a game. One other thing I want to say.

TERRY ROCKEFELLER:

OK, keep going.

DEBORAH JOHNSON:

Well, a couple of other things. I remember when, ah, I was, ah, in jail, going to court for the bond hearing for myself. I remember looking out of this window and seeing my brother, and he's saying, "Right on, sister." And that, and I felt so down, like I was abandoned, and I didn't know if I was going to be killed or my baby was going to be killed, and seeing my brother standing out there, saying, "Right on, sister," that really made me feel good. Also, when I was in jail, I was not going to let them search me. You know how they search you, ah, for drugs, in case you've put them inside your body. And, ah, it was a matron there, she was real rough looking and I was just, you're not going to search me, and they said, "Put her in the hole." And I was terrified. Because I had heard all these stories about the hole, it's a little room with a hole in the ground, and there's rats running around and all this, and so I, I let them search me, but, I really didn't want to do that. And talking about this reminded me of that.

TERRY ROCKEFELLER:

Thank you.