The Black Panther Party Protected Elders When Police Wouldn't

Older Black Woman holding her arm
Zain Murdock
November 2, 2021

In 1970s Oakland, Black elderly community members took a trip to the Oakland Police Department to ask for protection. And not for nothing – 33% of crime victims at the time were elderly! But all the police could say was, “walk close to the curb.”

They called their new program “Seniors Against a Fearful Environment,” or SAFE. Instead of elders getting mugged while walking to cash their pension checks, the Panthers aimed to implement 24/7 transportation and escort services. 

They also offered prescription delivery services, self-defense lessons, and more, proposing a $195k annual budget. To put that number into perspective, Oakland spent $55,000 on ONE helicopter that year. 

But here’s the really special part.

They intended to hire Black, unemployed youth in the neighborhood for the job! Instead of pickpocketing, they could get trained in first-aid, escort safety, and other services – creating jobs while also uniting people of all ages within the community.

Many of the Black Panther Party’s original members were assassinated, incarcerated, or both. But we can still build on the blueprints they left behind. If we follow their community-building blueprint with each other, from elders to youth to everyone in between, we’ll prove that we can protect each other better than police “protect” us!

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