How Relevant Is The Black Student Union’s Ten Point Program and Platform Today?

In October, I had the pleasure of visiting the Black Power exhibit at the Schomburg Center with my fellow Black Panther Cubs and relatives. One of the displays was the Ten Point Program and Platform of the Black Student Union, modeled after the Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Program. As you read this, think of how many of these points remain very relevant to our communities.

We want an education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American Society. We want an education that teaches us our true history and role in the present day society. We believe in an educational system that will give our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to related to anything else.

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our school.

We believe that we will not be free within the schools to get a decent education unless we are able to have a say and determine the type of education that will affect and determine the destiny of our people.

2. We want full enrollment in the schools for our people.

We believe that the city and federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man a decent education.

3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black community.

We believe that this racist government has robbed us of an education. We believe that this racist capitalist government has robbed the Black Community of its money by forcing us to pay higher taxes for less quality.

4. We want decent educational facilities, fit for the use of students.

We believe that if these businessmen will not give decent facilities to our community schools, then the schools and their facilities should be taken out of the hands of these few individual racists and placed into the hands of the community, with government aid, so the community can develop a decent and suitable educational system.

5. We want an education for our people that teaches us how to survive in the present day society.

We believe that if the educational system does not teach us how to survive in society and the world it loses its meaning for existence.

6. We want all racist teachers to be excluded and restricted from all public schools.

We believe that if the teacher in a school is acting in racist fashion then the teacher is not interested in the welfare or development of the students but only in their destruction.

7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people. We want all police and special agents to be excluded and restricted from school premises.

We believe that there should be an end to harassment by the police department of Black people. We believe that if all of the police were pulled out of the schools, the schools would become more functional.

8. We want all students that have been exempt, expelled, or suspended from school to be reinstated.

We believe all students should be reinstated because they haven’t received fair and impartial judgment or have been put out because of incidents or situations that have occurred outside of the school’s authority.

9. We want all students when brought to trial to be tried in student court by a jury of their peer group or students of their school.

We believe that the student courts should follow the United States Constitution so that students can receive a fair trial. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by a jury of his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economical, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background.
To do this the court would be forced to select a jury of students from the community from which the defendant came. We have been and are being tried by a white principal, vice-principal, and white students that have no understanding of the “average reasoning man” of the Black Community.

10. We want power, enrollment, equipment, education, teachers, justice, and peace.

As our major political objective, an assembly for the student body, in which only the students will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of the students as to the school’s destiny.
We hold these truths as being self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
To secure these rights within the schools, governments are instituted among the students, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of student government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the students to alter or abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experiences have shown, that mankind are more liable to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and force, pursuing invariably the same object, reveals a design to reduce them to absolute destruction, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security.

February, 1969

[excerpted from G. Louis Heath, ed., Mutiny Does Not Happen Lightly: The Literature of the American Resistance to the Vietnam War (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press) 1976.]

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About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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