When James Henson was younger, he idolized the famous civil rights group known as the Black Panther Party. Now, he is working to establish his own chapter of Young Black Panther Party out of Lansing.
Henson, a 22-year-old former student at Lansing Community College, was inspired to act after the protests that occurred in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in police custody. Henson created the party, which he describes as a team, in early June 2020. Besides himself, the party consists of four other leaders that Henson said are in different parts of the United States.
“The original Panthers was a team at first before they even became an organization,” Henson said.
Henson said that he wanted the party to be a team to show others that people can make progress without establishing an official organization.
In 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, founded the Black Panther Party, which was first called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The party was originally created to monitor police activities in Black community but later moved onto social projects, such as giving out food and opening free health clinics.
Henson plans to replicate this idea of giving through his Young Black Panther Party. He currently teaches self-defense to those that wish to learn, including Filipino martial arts and Muay Thai, and is planning ways to help hungry families in black communities.
“Right now, I am donating some seeds to Black families that know how to plant,” Henson said.
The seeds, which will produce food for these families, are the beginning of a larger project for Henson and his party. He aims to establish gardens in Black communities in order to feed families and teach them how to grow their own food.
“I pretty much want to tell the people that we need to do everything that we can to help out our community without relying on the government,” he said.
He also plans to use Herbert Covey’s 2007 book "African-American Slave Medicine" to replicate herbal remedies originally used by slaves in the United States and to explore the practicality of these medicines, which Henson said were used to treat things like scars and muscle pains. If they are safe and useful, Henson wants to distribute some of these remedies to Black families for free.
Henson said that The Young Black Panther Party is looking for new members that are 16 years of age and older. He encourages those interested to contact the team on its website.
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