Interview with Deborah Johnson

What were some of the programs that you were personally involved with, and how did it make you feel to be part of those programs? What were you able to accomplish during the time you were in the party?


Some of the things that I was involved in, the programs that, ah, the Black Panther Party had were, um, they had a free breakfast program. And we would go to various community centers, churches, and ask people if we could have this program for kids, to feed kids before they went to school. We would solicit donations from various companies, various stores, ah, and we would feed the kids. The beautiful thing about that program was that nobody had to fill out a form. Nobody had to, ah, let us know was there a father at home? Did their mother work? What their income was, or what did they eat last night for dinner? You know? The program was just there to serve the community. And that was the beauty, beauty of it. People basically, I think, shy away from programs when you've got to go through all that bureaucracy. And we didn't involve people in that. Also, um, we had a free, Spurgeon "Jake" Winters Free Medical Center. That was on the west side. I was involved in, ah, door-to-door canvassing, having people fill out questionnaires. Soliciting doctors to volunteer time, and donations: monetary or medical supplies, whatever anybody could give, volunteers to work at the medical center, and, ah, whatever people were willing to give, um, it was acceptable to us. You did not have to be a Black Panther to give something to the community. And everybody had a talent or something that they can give back. We, the Black Panther Party also had a free prison busing program, in that families of, ah, people that were incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout Illinois and some Michigan prisons also would be allowed, we would take a bus trip to these prisons and jails, um, two or three times a week. And if there was a charge, if people could afford it, it would be minimal in terms of, ah, the gas or whatever. But we thought it was very important that while these brothers were incarcerated they--