2 of Illinois’ Black Panther Party members deliver speech at Tarble

Hannah Shillo, Associate News Editor

Two members of the Black Panther Party Illinois chapter inspired students to question their previous knowledge Wednesday night.

Stan McKinney, who joined the Black Panther Party Illinois chapter in 1969, and Henry Nesbitt, who joined in 1970, shared their experiences as members of the party to students, employees and community members as the finale of Eastern’s semester-long 400th celebration.

Kayla Granat, a sophomore English education major, said what she had learned about the Black Panther Party turned out to be false after hearing testaments from McKinney and Nesbitt themselves.

“I was definitely really surprised at a lot of the things that the speakers had said because I had learned about the Black Panther (Party), but it was at a predominantly white school, so it was kind of interesting to see actual members talking about actual things that happened that I had no idea about,” Granat said.

Sharifa Hurtault, a freshman television and video production major, said she also had preconceived notions about the party.

“I think my biggest takeaway was how much information we know about them was skewed (and) how much good they have actually done,” Hurtault said. “I was like, ‘You know what, I probably should do some more research on my own instead of believing they were shooting up people and stuff like that.’”

Doing one’s own research is what Nesbitt and McKinney want students to start doing, especially because of how they were given misinformation when they were younger.

“When we were teenagers, we were lied to about everything,” Nesbitt said. “We were lied to about the Vietnam War, we were lied to about social conditions (and) we were lied to about our entire life in this society.”

Getting all sides to a story is the most important part, Nesbitt said.

“You guys may not want to listen to Fox News, and I’m not advocating for Fox News, but the thing about it is Fox News is the other side, the flip side,” Nesbitt said. “How can you have a position to argue with anybody if you don’t even know what your enemy or your adversary is talking about?”

Granat said she learned from McKinney and Nesbitt about the police brutality that people of color faced back when the Black Panther Party originated in the 1960s.

“I had no idea anything about that, so I definitely would encourage other students to go beyond their comfort zone and beyond what they were taught to actually accept other things,” she said. “I think it’s really important for students to … go out and actually do more research instead of just accepting what you’re told because obviously with the speakers here I had learned so much more.”

Hurtault said she realized she should question everything when she gets information from outside sources.

“Never fully trust what you hear,” she said. “You should probably talk to the original sources and the people that were there and get their take on it.”

In addition to learning to verify information, students also said they were inspired by the two Black Panther Party members.

Quintin Yearby, sophomore sport management major, said he thought McKinney and Nesbitt’s stories were interesting.

“I felt like it was very powerful to see members of the Black Panther (Party),” Yearby said. “It was definitely an honor to know more about the experience and what they’ve been through.”

Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]