My Involvement with the Portland Chapter of the Black Panther Party

Sandra Ford

My name is Sandra Ford. I became involved with the BPP through Jeff Ford who was the captain of the Portland Chapter of the BPP (later on I would marry him and have children by him). My first involvement was working to establish a Free Health Clinic in Portland in 1969. We started organizing and found a location for the clinic, then started calling doctors and nurses to volunteer. It took us about a year before the clinic was ready to open. We named it Fred Hampton Free Health Clinic. The clinic was staffed by Party members and volunteers and was badly needed and embraced by the Portland community.

Before we opened the clinic, we started a Breakfast for School Children Program at Highland school. The breakfast program was open 5 days a week. We collected donations from surrounding businesses, merchandise as well as cash donations. We served between 100-150 kids a day. The children helped us with the mornings also, they cleaned tables and dumped trash and other helpful things to show their love.

After the clinic was open for a while we started working on setting up a Free Dental Clinic. We found an office as well as a person who taught at the Dental College and we got volunteers from there. The dentist's equipment was hard to get, very specialized. We finally got the needed equipment and opened up, and the clinic is still there today (2004), run by OSU (Oregon State University). It's name is now Cleve Allen Dentist Clinic, named after a brother who was shot and later came to work at the clinic everyday for years until he died.

Our Medical Clinic did Sickle Cell Anemia testing at schools and community affairs and we taught a Health class at the community college. The class was about health issues like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, diet and exercise, the things that people need to know about. This was a free class in which 20-30 people attended weekly. We had a nice connection with the people who lived in the area surrounding the clinic. We provided health care for them and we would even write letters for them about the service they weren't getting from local hospitals. Manuel Hospital was opposed to the clinic and even went as far as to steal the property the clinic was on forcing the clinic to relocate. A Black doctor was retiring and let us have his spot. We moved into a better location. The original location was at Vancouver and Russell Street and the new one was on Williams and Russell.

Since I helped open up the clinic, I had many roles. I aided doctors, helped them with female patients, went out and asked for volunteers and did scheduling, cleaned the clinic and ordered supplies. Through this experience I developed an interest in health care, went to school and then returned as a practitioner at the clinic. I occasionally worked as a dental assistant. We were especially concerned about making things nice. This was a free clinic, but we made it a clean, nice place to come to.

We got a lot of harassment. One day the cops came by and said, "Kent, the next Panther clinic will be named after you." Most of the clinics were memorial clinics. They would call on the phone and say, "We’re gonna get you."

I stayed in the Party until the late seventies, but I've always been an activist. I was in the youth group of the NAACP when I was 15 and have participated in many boycotts and marches. After I left the Party, I got some more training and later worked in a Community Mental Health Clinic for several years.

My son is Patrice Lumumba Ford. He is 33 years old and was arrested Oct. 4th by the FBI. He is being held in Portland with six other brothers, all Muslims. Their charges are traveling out of the country to aid the Taliban, money laundering because he sent his friend $500, and a weapons charge although the weapon he had was legally bought. The government is spending a lot on this trial. We believe they were singled out because they went to China, trying to get to Afghanistan to work for the Red Crescent, which is like the Red Cross except it is a Muslim organization.

The government used that as an excuse to pounce on them. We believe this is a political move by Bush to keep people fearful, especially afraid of Muslims, take their minds off the economy and the erosion of civil rights and to help him get reelected. (They recently worked out a plea bargain.)

By Sandra Ford