Documentary Film Project

Rosa Parks, Ericka Huggins and OCS students when Parks visited OCS during May 1980, Oakland, CA. (Courtesy of Ericka Huggins). 

Point 5: The Black Panther Party’s Oakland Community School

Angela LeBlanc-Ernest (M.A.) and Mary Phillips (PhD) are producing of a sixty minute documentary film on the history and legacy of the Oakland Community School, a landmark elementary level-school and BPP community program.  

In the 1973-1974 school year, The Black Panther Party’s Oakland Community School, an elementary level institution, opened its doors in East Oakland. It was an outgrowth of the BPP’s general commitment to education and its liberation schools. 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.

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