By JR Valrey
Black Panther Bill Jennings aka BJ, has been one of the leading archivists and historians in the world, that has made it his life’s work to document the history, legacy, and politics of the revolutionary Black Panther Party, co-founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale on October 15, 1966, in Oakland California. 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the It’s About Times archives, which has played a monumental role collecting photos and memorabilia, and also organizing a myriad of events, over the decades, that have paid tribute, and played a part in preserving the legacy of the Black Panther Party like: the 30th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party, Geronimo Day, Bobby Hutton Day, and the 2Pac One Nation Conference, to name a few. I sat down with Bill Jennings, the founder of It’s About Time, to celebrate this commemorative moment in archiving a major part of the Black revolutionary history of this country, in the times of the Black Panthers, and after the demise of the organization.
JR Valrey: How did It’s About Time begin? And who were its founding members?
Bill Jennings: A group of comrades got together to sponsor the 30th year reunion, in 1995. We realized that we needed to preserve our legacy to counteract the myths and distortions promulgated by mainstream media. That led to the beginning of the website and It’s About Time. The founding members were Clark Bailey, Madalyn Rucker, Bobby Bowen, Gloria Abernathy, Silvia Perez, and Jimmy Slater. Others joined as we progressed.
JR Valrey: What has Its About Time done in the past?
Bill Jennings: We have sponsored over 70 events, including (but not limited to) Bobby Hutton Days, Black Panther History Month events, Huey’s Birthday, Angola 3 Defense Committee events, Books Behind Bars, Book Signing Events, Community Awards Ceremonies, BPP History Tours, multiple reunions, and numerous photo exhibits and presentations.
JR Valrey: What is It’s About Time about?
Bill Jennings: We preserve and promote our legacy, especially in regard to the rank and file. The website and all events contribute to this, and our archives and the availability of our comrades to mentor young people also contributes. We get a lot of requests and are available to talk about our experiences and how it feeds into the concerns of today. Many times people are surprised that those photos exist. They obviously are proud and enjoy reliving those special times. I often get contacted through the website and facebook from family members of comrades who have passed on, who are thankful for the photos and always looking for more info.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about It’s About Times relationship with the Young Comrades, a young Black revolutionary organization that operated out of Oakland in the mid-90’s?
Bill Jennings: Our relationship with the Young Comrades developed while we were planning for Geronimo Day in Oakland, in 1997. We established our relationship because they were a group of progressive young activists, high school and college age, organizing around social justice issues.
JR Valrey: What is It’s About Time’s position on political prisoners?
Bill Jennings: It’s About Time stands for freedom for all political prisoners. We have been pleased with the long overdue release of several comrades in the last few years. We continue to talk about and support our remaining political prisoners.
JR Valrey: Do you think that being a part of the Anti-Trump movement negates the fact that the United States government is the problem?
Bill Jennings: At this time, we are in a desperate situation to counteract the rise of fascism in America. Putting energy into the anti-trump movement doesn’t negate the larger struggle for social justice. It is a necessary step right now, but the larger struggle will continue.
JR Valrey: What does It’s About Time have planned for the future?
Bill Jennings: Due to Covid, we will put our energy into planning for the 55th yr BPP reunion. We will also launch a new website – It’s About Time Archives. You can get more information on facebook at It’s About Time50th and Its About Time/BPP. All Power to the People!