This morning, brewery owner Gayle Benson announced there is a “process underway to change the name of Dixie Brewery and all Dixie-branded products.”
Given the proximity of the Dixie brewery to where the Black Panthers were unceremoniously rousted from the Desire public housing development back in 1970 we’d love to see her rename her beer-making concern Black Panther Brewing.
All future proceeds from the business would then be donated to the Black Panther party.
It would not mark the first time that a coalition was formed between the Black Panthers and disparate groups. Back in 1968 Panther member Bobby Lee ventured into a poor northern Chicago neighborhood filled with white migrants from the South, and coaxed them into joining the Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton’s ‘Rainbow Coalition.’
It took a lot of fortitude for a Black man to step into the so-called “Hillbilly Harlem” of that place and time.
“They were poor. It was a slum. You could smell it.” Lee would recall.
It didn’t hurt that Bobby Lee’s given name was Robert E. Lee. A fact that he was not shy about pointing out to his white audience. Oh, and his oratory skills were superb.
We are going to have to deal with the concept of poverty, man. We are going to erase the color thang, see…There’s welfare up here…There’s police brutality up here, there’s rats and roaches. There’s poverty up here. That’s the first thing we can unite on…Once you realize man, that your house is funky with rats and roaches, the same way a black dude’s house is…Once you realize that your brothers have been brutalized by the cops the same way the Westside and Southside (are). Once you realize that you are getting an inadequate education in these high school and junior high schools over here, the same way the Southside and the Westside (are). Once you realize that you are paying taxes, taxes for them to come in and beat your children, you’re paying them to run you off the corner and you’re paying them to kill you, deal from there. The same thing is happening on the Southside and the Westside, and if you can realize that concept of poverty…a revolution can begin
Lee didn’t stop there. Once he had the white folks from the rural South on board he started signing up Puerto Rican gang members as well. Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez, head of the Young Lords street gang went all in, and suddenly the Rainbow Coalition was a real thing.
The former ‘Dixie’ Brewing exists as a business in New Orleans East, an historical Black neighborhood that has been marginalized for decades. Imagine how much good could be done in that section of our city if the millions of dollars in revenue that Dixie Brewing earns could be disbursed back into the community via the Black Panthers?
Gayle Benson took an important first step but that’s all that it was. With the newly-titled ‘Black Panther Brewery’ she could fully embrace the community where her business is ensconced and foment real, on-the-ground changes that go far beyond merely stripping an old-timey relic of a name from one of the arms of her empire.