Interview with Huey P. Newton

Something very specific, the action began in traffic light in front of Sante Fe grammar school. It was really dramatic. Could you describe what happened, how that changed and how you went about trying to do that and also the use of theatre and drama as a way and symbolic gestures in terms of political transformation for Blacks?


Ah, yes I went to Sante Fe elementary school in North, in North Oakland. And, ah, while I was there the, the many children was, were hit by cars and so forth. There was no traffic light in front of the school. There was a very busy street, Market Street, crossing the school. Ah, so one of the first, the first action of the Black Panther Party was to, ah, go down with our arms and, ah, ah, be traffic police. We, at 3 o'clock when the school was let out, we would stop the traffic and allow the children to pass. Of course this would bring an army of police, ah, in the area. They would take over the traffic jam that would occur. So, ah, and also they would, ah, attempt to arrest us for bearing arms. But, ah, ah, they would become aware, which they were not, that the law provided for us to, ah, bear arms at that time. So, ah, we, ah, went to the City Council and asked them to put up a traffic, the Planning Commission of the City Council, the Oakland City Council. So the Oakland City Council said that they had already, ah, passed some, ah, ah, policy to put up a traffic light but it would be about five years, ah, from '66, October '66. And, ah, we weren't satisfied with that. So we went to the community and gathered a, a few hundred or maybe even a thousand or so signatures. And, ah, and, and took those to the City Council. We also would, ah, still police, when the police were not there we would, ah, we would, ah, police the area. And every time we would try the police would take over so, ah, the purpose was served anyway. Ah, the traffic light quickly went up in about three or four months after that event.