By Jessica Meditz
Dedicated to serving the community through empowering people, Ridgewood’s Panther Solidarity Organization (PSO) chapter seeks to further expand their mission and engage local residents.
The PSO essentially formed in 2020 as a result of a split in the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), when it was discovered that two members were counterrevolutionary, and did not align with the group’s mission. The United Panther Movement (UPM) served as their principal mass organization.
The NABPP reconstituted as the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP), as did the UPM to PSO.
Tea Bee, a Ridgewood resident who co-founded the PSO Ridgewood chapter in 2021, explained that the organization’s origins are in Newark, New Jersey, where the first PSO chapter was formed in 2020.
Bee said that one of the group’s primary initiatives is their Serve the People program, which is their vehicle to connect with the people, get to know them and build relationships with the community of Ridgewood.
PSO Ridgewood holds this event every weekend at Rosemary’s Playground, where members distribute free COVID tests, snacks and informational materials as well as have meaningful discussions with those who stop by. They hope to expand the program in a similar model to Newark’s.
“We have really been looking for our niche, what it is exactly that we want to do with our Serve the People program, because we want to do more,” Bee said.
“In Newark right now, they have a free breakfast program every Saturday. They also have a dinner program every week in one of the housing projects there. That’s what we’re building toward, having a set program.”
As a former abortion nurse and currently transitioning into working in outpatient care, Bee understands firsthand how essential it is for people to take control of their health, and encorporated that into PSO Ridgewood’s course of action.
PSO has worked on developing the People’s Health Education Program, which is a collaboration with New York City Socialist Rifle Association.
“It started off with just first aid training, but then I got involved and said, ‘What if we build beyond this and make it more holistic, more comprehensive, really teach the people and empower people with the skills, knowledge and resources they need — not just to take better care of themselves, but also each other, the community,’” they said.
“It’s especially important in these times of constant crisis and constant trauma, somewhat to the point where we’re all so desensitized,” Bee continued. “How do we better take care of ourselves and each other?”
Through that program, PSO Ridgewood was able to obtain free COVID tests in bulk from the city.
This Saturday, Oct. 29, the People’s Health Education Program will host a free first aid class from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Mayday Space, located at 176 St. Nicholas Avenue in Bushwick.
Guests will have the opportunity to learn CPR, how to stop severe bleeding, how to give narcan and more.
Free COVID tests, masks, first aid supplies, food and drink, childcare and political education and discussion will be offered, as well as a raffle and Halloween party with a DJ.
Bee also strives to share their knowledge and experience from working in reproductive healthcare, as well as spread mental health awareness.
Nat Winn, a social worker and member of PSO Ridgewood, advocated that the community learn how to deal with mental health crises without getting the police involved.
“The goal is to provide these skills so we don’t have to involve the police, and crisis doesn’t lead to imprisonment, because so many people in the prison system have mental health diagnoses or death,” he said.
“People were explaining to me recently that in some poor neighborhoods, there aren’t any clinics anymore. There are hospitals, but most hospitals are bordered along wealthier neighborhoods,” he explained. “This is a way that we, as the community, can address some of those glitches and some of the malfunctioning of the system. As healthcare workers, we feel we can provide these basic skills.”
Another issue PSO seeks to address through their activism is the mistreatment and neglect of Rashid Johnson, one of the founding members RIBPP and its minister of defense, who is currently incarcerated at Sussex 1 State Prison in Virginia.
Johnson was convicted of murder in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison, but maintains his innocence.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2022, and was not provided with cancer treatment, or even visits to a radiologist for some time.
Bee has also been informed that Johnson does not have access to any of his personal property, including hygiene supplies, his radio and TV.
PSO encourages all supporters to get involved and take action to help assist Johnson, such as by joining the Kevin Rashid Johnson Defense Committee, making phone calls to the prison in his defense and sharing his story on social media and through word of mouth.
Johnson is the writer of RIBPP’s Ten Point Program, which are essentially the beliefs one should align with if they plan to get involved in the organization.
“Since the time [he was convicted], he’s turned his life around. Rashid has dedicated his life to the things that he has talked about: serving the people and creating a better world,” Winn said.
“The Ten Point Program talks about healthcare for everyone, decent housing for everyone and the right to not be hungry for everyone,” he continued. “Not only for Black people, but for everyone. And that’s what Rashid has dedicated his life to.”
Bee emphasized that PSO is a voluntary organization, and those who join do not have to be a far leftist to join, but they should be in unity with the Ten Point Program.
“Ultimately, we’re here to do life-affirming work, and to uplift life and to cherish life,” they said.
“Obviously, we focus on the lives that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against violently, but we’re here to uplift life. That’s our mission.”
For more information, visit @psoridgewood on Instagram, @pso_ridgewood on Twitter or email [email protected] with any inquiries.