‘Black Power’ Forum Topic

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Wednesday, January 8, 1969.

Black Power was the topic of discussion between black and white student in a forum Dec. 19 sponsored by the Student Union Association.

Harvey Smith, Jim Woodward and Loran Lewis composed a panel, answer the questions, “What is Black Power” and “Is there Black Power at Washburn and in the community?”

Harvey defined Black Power as economic, social and political gains equally, “Black Power is a state of mind,” he said, “a new bag after 300 years of white power…for the first time…black people will not play the games of white man’s rule.”

Jim said Black Power is “an awareness of on’e own black past…the rejection of handouts and the demand for rights of Blacks. Black Power realized a riot makes the white man listen.”

Loren defined Black Power as “black control over black lives.” It is support of black politicians committed to the blacks – “changing the color of the situation doesn’t change the situation,” he said. Stokely Carmichael was mentioned by one panel member as being suited for such a black political spokesman.

Education and self-sufficiency was one solution given to the question of what should be done in the black community to accomplish the economic, political and social goals of Black Power. “The black man will have to be educated,” a black panelist said, “we need black businesses in black communities…don’t go to East Topeka, build a white business and take the money back to West Topeka to build a fine home…now, theres not one thing in this nations for blacks that has not been started by whites.”

The panel was then confronted with the question from the audience of how long blacks would support non-violence and what they would accomplish if they did resort to violence.

Harvey answered, “There really is no more non-violence,” and compared black violent revolution to the American revolution, “what did George Washington expect to accomplish by revolution. What are you expecting to accomplish in Vietnam by out and out war?”

“The Detroit riots,” a black member of the panel said, “was not black power, but frustration…for awareness…”It was noted also that similar riots in the Watts district of California got hospitals and black-owned businesses built.

Integration was not accepted as a means for accomplishing the goals of black power. Integration, it was thought, means coming up to white standards.

The black power aims and frustrations seemed to be summed up by the following dialogue between a white member of the audience and a black panelist.

Black: “Im not here to make your mattress more comfortable, I’m here to make mine comfortable.”

White: “But I’ve got the mattress.”

Black: “For now.”