"WOW! Seeing you Mr. Dixon is like watching a piece of American history right in front of me." I said wide-eyed as I shook his hand.
He chuckled, "Well, that makes me feel old."
I thought I gave a compliment but he was clearly insulted by my reference to his photo that was taken half a century ago. It was my knowledge of history since I knew him based on a photo I saw as an undergraduate student.
A strong majority of my time traveling to Europe during my early young adult years was spent in Finland. One of multiple trips to Europe included a six month stay in Finland where I happened to meet one of the co-founders of the Seattle, Washington chapter Black Panther Party, Elmer Dixon.
Interview with Elmer Dixon
“Wasn't the black panther party labelled a black extremist organization back in the 60's and 70's?” I asked Elmer Dixon.
He responded, "The Black Panther Party is a revolutionary party that brought unity to the community through acts of service. It still goes on today. We've opened up free Public Health clinics to provide the necessity of healthcare. We fed the children before they went to school since schools did not provide breakfast back in the 1960's & 1970's. We provided a variety social programs but our most popular were food banks, and free legal advice."
"Why was legal advice needed?"
"We were black men and women carrying guns exercising our 2nd amendment rights. When the Black Panthers followed police cars around the neighborhood, we carried law books in the car. We studied the law as much as lawyers did. Police were upset when they saw how educated we were about our basic human rights. We simply studied what rights we had as we held policeman accountable when they broke the law as they did us."
"How were the goods and services you provided measured? How did you keep track of it all?"
The women within our community had aspirations of working long before they were given equal rights. They helped with the numbers. It was not like today's systems of keeping track for grants and proposals. They were very efficient with pen and paper. We did not turn anyone away. Anyone who needed assistance we welcomed. (#Leadership #Courage) The large population of young black men in the community was a challenging to keep track of but we made it work.
"What can someone like me do for the fight against inequality?"
“The fight is still the same, it's for justice. It just looks different in the modern world.” -Elmer Dixon
"Start where you are Schwartzen. This is the age of influencers. Where ever you have influence within your community is where I suggest starting. If you have an online following start there. If you have influence on your campus start there. There will always be a need for individuals solving the social justice crisis around the world. You can't take them all on, so start with one and build on it."
Elmer Dixon is a prime example of a hero that is still alive and well who does not need a cape to display his superpowers. I returned to the United States several months later to rebuild the Black Student Union organization on my university's campus. A position that allowed me to continue something positive for the community.
Though my encounter with Elmer Dixon was brief, it was the spark I needed to focus my mind on the bigger picture. Yesterday's heroes provided opportunity for today's heroes in order to prepare the world for tomorrow's heroes. (#BeYourOwnHero)