The Revolution Has Come by Robyn C. Spencer

 Although the text is extremely well written and easy for the non-academic to read, Spencer fails to adequately discuss the most important term in its title: gender. Some attention is given to women in the BPP but the text does not give a voice to the women in the Black Panther Party. Writing the text through the lens of a Black women would have made this text applicable to disciplines such as Feminist Studies and a growing interest in Black women’s studies in local communities. With the author being a Black woman, the silencing of Black women’s voices is not only unacceptable, but depreciates the value of the text (as far as the title is concerned) and leaves the reader unsatisfied.

         As someone interested in organization development and management, texts such as The Revolution Has Come are necessary to push Black institutions’ toward a more radical and communitarian framework. For many, the Black Panther Party has served as an example of what a militant framework might look like. Robyn Spencer eloquently depicts the militant activism of the BPP by charting their historiography in Oakland, California. In her 2016 text The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland Spencer, Associate Professor of the History Department at Lehman College, utilizes manuscript collections, interviews, FBI records, and organization records to illustrate the political influence of one of Black America’s most radical organizations in the latter 20th century. With special emphasis on internationalism, Spencer argues the BPP in Oakland had a “commitment to making linkages with the revolutionaries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean [making] it one of the most effective ambassadors for Black Power” (Spencer, 3). This text also establishes the blueprint for revolutionary thought in Black political consciousness.
Spencer writes her text specifically to activists and community builders grappling with incorporating the legacy of Black Power in today’s Black Freedom Struggle. She asks her readers “What does Black Power have to offer in the context of drone warfare, deepening poverty, unemployment, immigrant detention, and a criminal justice infrastructure that is an engine of destruction in Black and Brown communities?”—all questions that can be directed to social justice organizations of the 21st century (Spencer, 5). Chapters one and two paint a geographical landscape of Oakland while providing insight to the community concerns that birth the BPP in Oakland. Spencer makes a point to highlight the academic genius of the BPP explaining the theories and world views that birth Black radicalism in the city of Oakland. From the identity crisis of the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense to the Sacramento incident, Spencer’s thorough research illustrates the developmental challenges of being a radical organization in the 1960s. By the close of these chapters, the BPP shifts in the consciousness of the reader from an all-black wearing, gun-toting troupe, to a group of Oaklanders promoting humanitarianism and dedicated to preserving their community (the complete opposite narrative most people have of the BPP).
Chapters three and four further transforms the BPP from a “local organization to a mass movement” while exploring the extremities of covert state-sanctioned harassment (Spencer, 61). These chapters dissect BPP coalitions and discuss the significance of increasing diversity in membership that ultimately, lead to political repression. These chapters also make a point to illustrate the flaws of historical figures such as Huey Newton. Readers obtain a comprehensive depiction of this Black leader and visualize him in human form. Activists and community builders can stop touting historical Black leaders and understand the importance of the good and the bad aspects of Black leadership. Lastly, chapters five and six bring the BPP into its demise revisiting the challenges of the BPP’s development. Spencer focuses on ways the BPP dictated community control—schools, health clinics, newspapers, and new relationships with the church. But, despite this hard work and short lived thrust into local politics, the BPP ended in 1982 with the close of the Oakland Community School.
Despite not digger deeper into the women of the movement, the reader does walk away with the ability to re-imagine radical organizing. Coupling this text with The Revolution Will Not Be Funded by Incite, can give readers a new and contemporary critique of ways “humanitarian” efforts have been co-opted by the non-profit industrial complex. Spencer’s text serves as a great precursor to The Revolution Will Not Be Funded because it explores the demise of the last radical organization in the Black Power Movement, the era immediately preceding the boom of the NPIC. The Revolution Has Come is extremely beneficial to the emerging field of Organization & Management Theory, as well as History, International Studies, and the Social Justice/Human Rights fields. The Revolution Has Come is also a very timely text given the current political condition of the nation. It seems as if every day, activists are being targeted for stepping outside of the boundaries of conservative advocacy. Spencer, with the evidence and history of the Black Panther Party, has given us the keys to imagine ourselves outside the realm of conservative community advocacy. Activists and community builders have the ability to learn from the mistakes and glorify the successful measures of the BPP. All we need to do as a people is follow in the footsteps of the BPP: keep the community first, create national and international coalitions, and trust in the power of unprecedented mobility.

 

Jalyn Gordon

Afrocentric Organization adviser

To order book press link below:

Spencer, Robyn C. The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

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