The San Antonio SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) chapter can be credited with many things including having one of the first marches against police brutality and in honor of Martin Luther King in 1968 and 1969. In April of 1969 SNCC members ran for office against the Good Government League (GGL) and handpicked candidate Rev. S.H. James. SNCC polled over 4,000 votes (San Antonio Register, April 4, 1969). A few weeks later, at the Kings River Parade, SNCC members organized a massive demonstration against police brutality and the murder of Bobby Joe Phillips. Thousands of marchers took to the streets behind a handful of SNCC radicals who sang freedom songs as they marched along Houston Street toward the Alamo. Interestingly, SNCC organizers used the Victoria Courts as a staging location just prior to the massive demonstration. A short time later, a group of armed Black men stood up to police brutality and stood their ground in the face of overwhelming odds at the SNCC office. This was a historic event in that this had not happened before in San Antonio in modern times.
It was against these events that six SNCC-Panther members served breakfast every school morning in San Antonio in 1969 at Antioch Baptist Church. The program was aimed at feeding the people and their children that lived in San Antonio’s most impoverished neighborhoods. These areas included the Victoria Courts, the Wheatley Courts, the Sutton and Carson Homes, and the East Terrace Housing Projects. Money for the program was donated by individuals and churches as the local SNCC-Panther chapter did not approve of receiving federal funds. Many of the children who ate at the program were students from Booker T. Washington and Pershing Elementary Schools who were picked up every morning, taken to Antioch Baptist Church and then taken to school free of charge.
At first the program was quite popular and remained so for most of the community. Rev. Claude W. Black supported the efforts of the radical organization at a time when many preachers were afraid to stand up for the community. On many Sunday’s SNCC-Panthers would stand before the church congregation at Mt. Zion First Baptist Church and ask for donations from the congregation. All of this was done using one old ragged car for transporting students to the program and then to school. Because the San Antonio SNCC-Panthers were critical of the racist mayor, Walter W. McAllister, pressure to end the program began to surface. McAllister was an FBI informant of sorts.
The SNCC-Panther Breakfast Program also taught young children and its members about the political realities of the day. This included SNCC-Panther Political Education classes that conducted classes against racism and the Vietnam War. Members and young people were taught about Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and the racist system that had persecuted these individuals and their organizations as a result of political repression. Every morning school children would learn about “Black Power” and the struggles of African Americans, Mexican Americans, and other oppressed people. Members and students were taught about the problems of police brutality and city mayor, Walter McAllister, who had made numerous racist statement against Mexican Americans and Blacks. Teaching the truth became too “dangerous” for the local authorities and this forced some Antioch Church leaders into submission. SNCC either had to begin accepting funds from the federal government and tone down the education or be thrown out of the church. Thanks to a few Uncle Toms this was accomplished.
The SNCC-Panther Program was disrupted thanks to a few greedy Uncle Toms as well, who wanted to use federal dollars and take credit for the establishment of the program. Despite these setbacks, SNCC-Panthers continued to establish “survival programs” modeled after the Black Panther survival programs that were developed across the nation. Unlike sell-out leadership at the time, San Antonio SNCC challenged Mayor Walter McAllister and the system of segregation directly and made it easier for moderate groups to negotiate for change.
SNCC-Panthers in San Antonio also developed a Sickle Cell Testing program, a legal defense fund, a police surveillance program aimed at catching rogue police officers, a free tutoring program, and the organization founded and organized most of the Black Student Unions in San Antonio on college campuses. However, these programs that SNCC-Panthers came up with was stolen by Uncle Tom leadership that had kissed up to the system for years for money and was secretly working with the FBI and racist politicians. This was one of the reasons why San Antonio Blacks stayed so far behind in many areas. The SNCC-Panthers of San Antonio deserve the full credit for starting the first free breakfast programs in San Antonio, which was later adopted by the San Antonio School District, and for speaking truth to power.