The World is the Children’s Classroom: The History and Legacy of the Black Panther Party’s Oakland Community School
Angela LeBlanc-Ernest and Mary Phillips are currently in pre-production for a 60 minute documentary film on the history and legacy of the Oakland Community School, a landmark community program of the Black Panther Party (BPP).
In the 1973-1974 school year, The Black Panther Party’s Oakland Community School, an elementary level institution, opened its doors in East Oakland. In existence for almost a decade, OCS was the BPP’s longest-running community Survival Program. As told through the lens of former students, teachers, administrators, and community supporters, this documentary draws connections between past and the present systemic educational inequities. OCS was unique and precedent-setting at a time when African Americans in Oakland (and nationally) were considered uneducable and did not receive a quality education. OCS modeled innovative approaches to student learning: critical thinking skills, yoga, mindfulness, and restorative justice, among others.
OCS offered a variety of youth and community leadership opportunities as well as after school and weekend activities for its students and the broader community. The Panthers’ approach to education generated national and international interest as a replicable program and leading BPP members were intricately engaged in and had an impact on local and national discussions about bussing and other educational inequities, including the growth of a law enforcement presence in schools.
We will explore the impact that BPP women had in the school. At this time in BPP history, women were the leading members of the Party. Similarly, women were the crux of OCS leadership, and we will explore issues related to this dynamic. This OCS documentary is the first installment of a broader documentary film project that will explore women’s experiences in the BPP.