In Celebration of Kwanzaa, Black Panthers of Milwaukee Treat Children to Holiday Shopping Spree

King Rick, leader of the Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee, shops with children and their families at Pursenality. Photo by Pat A. Robinson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wednesday, Dec. 28, marked the third day of Kwanzaa, a special time dedicated to the African principle of Ujima or “collective work or responsibility.” In honor of the holiday, celebrated Dec. 26-Jan. 1, the Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee treated children from families who’ve lost parents to violence to a holiday shopping trip.

Each family was given $200 to shop and purchase gifts for the children, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. The young kids picked up everything from African-inspired jewelry to scented oils, clothing and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys. Each family also received a gift basket.

“We wanted to show not only the community, but our children, how much we love, honor and respect them,” said King Rick, leader of the local Black Panther group. “Because in African culture and African history, the complete village is our family. And we wanted to get back to that concept where we provide, protect, honor, love and respect our women, our children and our community by any means necessary.”

This was the first year the organization celebrated the Kwanzaa holiday, which honors African traditional values and cultural heritage, by treating children and their families to a shopping spree, King Rick told the Journal Sentinel. The Black Panthers’ charitable gesture came on the heels of their pre-Thanksgiving alms, in which they distributed coats, gloves, hats and turkeys to 50 needy families.

Wednesday’s shopping trip began at local Black-owned retail business, Pursenality, and continued at Walmart. Though the Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee pride themselves on servicing the Black community first, King Rick asserted that the group is not a racist organization.

“We don’t hate anyone because of their race, creed or color,” he explained. “We just hate oppression, racism and injustice. Those are the things that we’re fighting for.”

The local Black Panther group was in the news earlier this year when King Rick and a few other Panthers convened at Milwaukee’s City Hall to speak with council members after two nights of civil unrest sparked by the police shooting of Sylville Smith. Organization members also sat down with City Council President Ashanti Hamilton to lay out their concerns over the economic and social issues plaguing African-Americans in the city, Atlanta Black Star reported.

“Milwaukee is in dire conditions, and we need to change it,” King Rick explained to Hamilton back in August. “We need to change it by any means necessary. When we’re negative in so many statistical categories for African-Americans, you’re going to have mayhem. You’re going to have carnage and you’re going to have chaos.”

King Rick, a former schoolteacher who has been involved in the Black Panther organization since he was a “cub,” said the group also is working to break the negative stereotypes of African-Americans – especially African-American males – that have permeated society.

The organization’s leader told the Journal Sentinel it chose the third day of Kwanzaa for the shopping spree because, “if our families are hurting in our community, then so are we.

“If our brothers and sisters are hurting, so are we,” he added. “That’s why we picked this day of Ujima, collective work and responsibility.”

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