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The Black Heritage Society hosted an official unveiling of donors and supporters at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Statue in Mac Gregor Park on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Although it was a way to acknowledge supporters, Ovide Duncantell was the star of the show and received his flowers while he can smell them.
Councilmember Dwight Boykins, District D, served as Master of Ceremony for the occasion. He is known for his praise of Duncantell and also told of his long history with him and his influence over his life. DeWayne Lark, President of the Harris County Council of Organizations also offered words in the same manner.
“Ovide Duncantell is selfless. This is about the friends that made this happen, but for me it is about a visionary and the fact of how many other visionaries are here inspiring,” said Lark.
Elected officials such as Constable May Walker, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Rep. Harold Dutton and State Rep. Ron Reynolds came out to give their gratitude to Duncantell for his leadership over the years.
Affectionately called a “Rebel Rouser”, Duncantell’s reputation for fighting for people of color earned him many praises and also led to the MLK statue in which everyone gathered at in the rain to celebrate.
“It is a distinct honor to have a token of appreciation,” said State Representative Ron Reynolds. “Thank you for being a trailblazer and being consistent over the years, you have sacrificed your time and we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you and the Black Heritage Society. It’s important to give you your flowers while you’re alive.”
His appreciation and thanks were given to Duncantell with a flag flown over the State Capitol on November 19th.
Duncantell was cited as the reason why many people began their political careers while paving the way for them. He planted the seed in them to become political, he was their inspiration.
Minister Robert Muhammad who also worked along Duncantell on the MLK statue had words of wisdom for the community about how elders are treated.
“This is Mr. Ovide Duncatell’s dream to have this statue, my job as an elder in training is to make sure that one of our elder’s dreams get fulfilled in his lifetime,” said Muhammad. “I get tired of passing around the bucket and the basket to bury our elders or to buy funeral programs for them when they paid the price for us to be standing where we are.”
He went on to credit the donors and supporters by saying, on this program the important people are the names on the back of the program. Those are the people whose names are on the plaques on the tree of life, along the chronology wall and down at the opening on the pathway leading to the statue.
“He is an icon in the community, he brought about something that none of us would have imagined,” said Muhammad. “The partners that are here, the corporate partners and the governmental partners would not have come to the table if it wasn’t for Mr. Duncantell’s will to get it done.”
The icon soon stepped up to receive his “flowers” and praise but in the fashion of Ovide Duncantell he reminded everyone of the struggle of the African American people in Houston. He also honored his friend Johnny Mata for his work alongside him over the years to improve the lives of all people of color.
“I believe in us having our own. We don’t need to wait for anyone else to give us power. When you are strong and united like a fist you can take power, they don’t give it away,” said Duncantell. “They said Dr. King name would never rise in this town. It took 30 years for us to get here. We took up the mantle.“
Although this was an event for the donors, those who gathered definitely acknowledged who paved the way for the event with all the gratitude they could muster.
“I pray that God will bless all of us to give people flowers while they live. I’m not naming a park or a street or an alley after Ovide Duncantell after he is dead. It was in my heart to make sure this got done so he could see and touch it, so we can give him his flowers while he lives,” said Minister Robert Muhammad.
Many kind words were given to Ovide Duncantell throughout the morning. His hard work has not gone unnoticed. The MLK statue is just a visible testament to Duncantell’s work and character. A promised fulfilled and a wonderful place of enjoyment for generations to come.
Black leather, big, beautiful, perfectly molded afros and strong Black men and women carrying huge Dirty Harry style guns is the impression that comes to mind when hearing the co- founder of the Black Panther Party is in Houston for the 48th annual anniversary of the organization.
Instead, three members, Co- Founder/Chairman Bobby Seale, Stephen Edwards of the Houston Chapter and Jonina Abron Irvin, the former Editor of the Black Panther Party Newspaper, who looked like normal grandparents sat before the press with bounds and bounds of stories and memories that were as captivating as an story grandma or grandpa could ever tell.
In 1966, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton recognized the disparities in the Black community of Oakland, California and the blatant racism. They grew tired but not weary. Instead of continuing to grumble they put their brains and muscle together to form one of the most influential and memorable organizations in the history of America.
Seale created a 10- point platform on the need for freedom and as a war on poverty. The party was formed on his birthday October 22, 1966. In the mid 60’s the country was amidst turbulent fighting for human civil rights and the anti-Vietnam movement, when a young Black college student with an aerospace engineering job inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quit his job and began organizing for youth jobs in North Richmond.
Soon a small group of men began to meet and to learn the law. Memorizing and understanding the law was the niche that made the Black Panthers so dangerous because they knew what could and couldn’t be done under the law and they could stand on it. They began patrolling the police. They would stand the mandated distance away with their weapons and tape recorders observing their actions.
“The police jumps up to tell us you have no right to observe us and Huey began to state the law. The looked around like what kind of negroes are they,” said Seale?
By Huey Newton, the Minister of Defense, knowing the law, they captured the attention of the police and the people.
“The first year we had 50 members. We had people like Eldridge Cleaver and his wife Kathleen by May of 1967,” said Seale. “In the early days the Black Panthers were for self defense and even women wanted to join and carry guns.”
Seale believed to really create change Blacks had to be elected into “power seats”. In the 60’s when the Black Power phrase was popular there were 50 Blacks in office across America, said Seale. The only way to change the racist laws was to be in some type of position of power to create legislation.
Changing legislation was exactly what happened but not for the party. Politicians began to change the laws where they stopped the Panthers from carrying weapons.
“We were rising up and resisting,” said Seale. “They made the Jim Crow laws and it had to be enforced. Its one thing to holler Black Power this and that but power comes from the ability to make phenomena act is a desired manner. They will kill you and murder you about taking that power.”
The Panthers did amazing work within California that began to spread in Black communities all over the country. The breakfast program started and community support systems were flourishing.
“The reasons schools have free breakfast programs now is because of us,” said Jonina Abron Irvin, Former Editor of the Black Panther Newspaper. “J. Edgar Hoover called the program a threat. He understood the power of feeding hungry children.”
The next phase was to apply the original intent, which was to get the proper legislation passed. They tried to get referendums passed in three cities, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco. San Francisco was the only city that received enough votes to get the Police Patrol Referendum on the ballot. It allowed for 3-5 community members who were duly elected to review and investigate police complaints.
The party began to dissolve by 1974 and Seale resigned from his seat as chairman. Political organizing mistakes, central community framework and mistakenly breaking down of chapters allowed for the dissolution of the Panthers after close to 10 years of service.
Seale passed down advice to the younger Black community that they should continue to run for political office.
“In 1960 there were 500,000 seats we (Blacks) could be elected to and we only had 50,” said Seale. “We couldn’t vote and it had to be changed and it was the reason we started the Black Panther Party. Now we have the Black Caucus and 42 power seats, we must keep those seat, its power.”
Seale went on to say that people don’t need guns in this day and age. They just need video cameras and an organizing mind and spirit. If the political seats can be gained and the community takes over the local government then a community can gain real control.
The Black Panther Party will celebrate their 48th Anniversary at the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Hall in downtown Houston on Friday, October 24, 2014 at 7:00 pm.
Thirty years later Ovide Duncantell’s promise to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s father came to pass on May 24th at Mac Gregor Park.
The unveiling was hosted by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. An array of elected officials paid homage but the main attraction came from Civil Rights elder, Rev. Lowery and Martin Luther King,III, who delivered the keynote address in honor of his parents.
The theme of the event circled around did Dr. King die in vain. The future generations progress and struggles also was a strong primary topic of speeches.
The MLK, Jr. Pavilion and statue is located at Mac Gregor Park at Mac Gregor and Calhoun.
This statue is the testament of the hard and diligent work of Ovide Duncantell, the Black Heritage Society and benefactor Attorney Benjamin Hall, III.