Bill's Liquor Store

Leveraging political figures for the Cause

For the Black Panther Party, some political leveraging was necessary in order to achieve certain ends. In the case of Bill’s Liquors, that involved congressman Ronald V. Dellums drafting a settlement between the Party and African American store owner Bill Boyette. Panthers had staged a successful boycott of Boyette’s business in response to his refusal to donate to their community initiatives—called “Survival Programs.” Video footage (linked below) shows Party members picketing outside the business on August 13, 1971 and giving its grocery goods away to black community members a few days later.
With the help of Dellums, an agreement was reached between Boyette and the Party in January 1972. A Lodi News-Sentinel article (linked below) says “Boyette and other members of his Ad Hoc Committee for the Promotion of Black Business agreed to make donations to a ‘United Black Fund of the Bay Area’.” The article goes on to say that Party leader Huey Newton planned to extend such boycotts to white businesses to garner more support.
Dellums’ understanding of and support for the Black Panthers was an important element of their success. Before the 1970 election, Vice President Spiro Agnew called him an “out–and–out radical” and an “enthusiastic backer of the Black Panthers.” He had, after all, gone so far as to deliver the keynote address at Huey Newton’s birthday party in 1968 despite Newton having been convicted of killing a police officer. Saying so did not keep Dellums from winning the seat and in his first term is quoted as saying, “I am not going to back away from being called a radical. If being an advocate of peace, justice, and humanity toward all human beings is radical, then I’m glad to be called a radical.” (HR History below)
For #BlackLivesMatter activists, finding similar support in state and federal government has proved challenging. They’ve had to push against Ferguson, MO mayor James Knowles III defending corruption in the Ferguson PD. They’ve had to fight dismissal of their cause by those who cite “black on black crime”—a term made famous by New York City Mayor Rudy Guliani.
Most recently, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has been focusing their efforts on finding a presidential candidate who best serves their interests. Movement leader Deray McKesson went so far as to release an assessment of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s policy proposals. The statement (linked below) discussed meetings held with both candidates in detail. In concluding he states, “We will continue to demand actionable plans from the candidates that directly address issues of race, equity, and criminal justice, and will hold them accountable once in office.”
Regardless of the outcome, #BlackLivesMatter will likely be a major factor in the 2016 presidential elections.

Access Information:

Formerly 2520 Grove St.
Grove was renamed to M. L. K. Jr. Way in 1984.

Street Address:

2520 M.L.K. Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94612 [map]

Cite this Page:

Camille J. Brown, “Bill's Liquor Store,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed September 20, 2018,

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