Remembering A San Diego Civil Rights Chief

Trunnell Price, one of the founders of the San Diego Black Panther Party who later became Secretary of Information and Education for the local group, died on January 26 in San Diego. He was 72 years old.

His wife, Michele Price, said the cause was complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Price became a key figure in the San Diego Black Panther movement by educating members about the group’s 10 point strategy to educate, employ, house, and ensure the government treats them fairly.

In a 2017 interview with KPBS, Price described the harsh realities faced by residents of the largely black neighborhoods of southeast San Diego in the 1950s and 60s, particularly when they came into contact with the police.

“If for any reason we have been approached by the San Diego Police Department, pick one. We were usually knocked down and brutalized by Father Joe in the lumberyard,” Price said. “We were beaten or persuaded or insulted.”

With grim eyes and a strong voice, Price described exactly what it meant to be black or brown, while the city’s racist fault lines ran deep.

“San Diego was a conservative city, and most of the people outside the black community didn’t want to interact with the people of southeast San Diego, the people of Logan Heights,” Price said.

The city’s racial lines may not have been marked, but he said most colored people back then still understood where they were.

“I think the line between Logan Heights and southeast San Diego was probably Balboa Park,” Price said. “And that’s urgent. Everything else was basically forbidden … You were harassed by the police who told you, “Get out of here. Go back where you came from. ‘”

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Reported by Amita Sharma

RELATED: History of the Black Panther Party in San Diego Marked by Social Work and Police Clashes

Price wore the trademark Black Panther beret almost as a second skin. It was an antidote to what he had seen and lived, some of which was a paradox in the late 1960s.

Southeast San Diego was in the midst of a cultural revival of music, clothing, and thought, much like the black communities of Detroit, Chicago, and Harlem. But Price said there was a downside.

“There was a lot of social unrest at that time, a lot of disappointment in the black neighborhoods and black communities in the United States,” Price said. “San Diego was no different. We also had many social, economic and political inequalities. “

The landmark of the Black Panther Party in ...

The conditions for activism were ripe in 1967 when executives from the Black Panthers National Headquarters in Oakland contacted the Black Student Union at San Diego State University. They wanted the students to start a local chapter. Price and others took the chance.

“I was immediately drawn to it because it enabled me to help the black community,” Price said.

Price said the local Black Panthers provided meals for the elderly, opened community health clinics, and served food to the homeless. And they started a breakfast program for children.

“We were more excited than people because we made our commitment,” said Price.

Henry Wallace, a black panther from San Diego, met Price when the local party was forming.

“He’s been hardworking,” Wallace said of Price. “He was always an angular guy. He was so serious, so serious about learning about our people and our place. There was so much dignity. It’s hard to believe he’s gone. “

RELATED: Trump’s Presidency Inspires Black Panther Party reactivation in San Diego

The San Diego Black Panthers were reactivated in 2017 after Donald Trump was elected president. However, poor health in recent years prevented Price from ever repeating his role as Secretary of Education and Secretary of Information in full.

Even so, he was still tall. Robert War Williams, chairman of the San Diego Black Panther, said he learned a lot from Price just by “sitting at his feet.”

“He would pass on all of the history of the San Diego Black Panther Party,” said Williams. “Trunnell Price has been key to helping individuals who come to battle and members of the community see how powerful we can be as a collective.”

That belief was underscored last year when people of all races gathered after George Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck.

In 2017, Price spoke of the ongoing police brutality, saying that everyone would benefit if law enforcement carried out a mass inspection.

“If you do that, God willing, you will see that everyone has the right to life, freedom and happiness,” Price said. “It’s about respect. Many of them think the people in the church should fear them. No man should fear another man. “

Price is borne by his wife Michele, mother Ruby Vryes, brothers Melvin Price Jr., Larry Price, Narvell Price, Michael Price, Rodrick Price and sister Rosalind and son Leonard Price, grandchildren Dylan and Joshua Price, great-grandchildren Parker and Anderson Price and survives stepdaughter Nicole Ventura.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 20 at 11 a.m. at New Seasons Church in Spring Valley.


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Photo by Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma

Investigative reporter

Open quotation marksclosing quotation marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I’ve helped uncover political scandals and deal with stubborn topics like sex trafficking. I raised difficult questions about how the government treats foster children. I highlighted the problem of pollution in poor areas. And I’ve recorded corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes pays for them.

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