John “Oppress” Preston was a leading member of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP). His role within the party was to set up and distribute the BPP newspaper throughout the state of Illinois. Though the BPP started in Oakland, California in 1966, it was not until April 25, 1967 that they published their first official newspaper. By 1969 the newspaper had a nationwide distribution of about 250,000 copies. In Illinois, distribution climbed up to about 80,000 copies.Mr. Preston describes what a major operation it was to set up and distribute the paper. Many times the newspaper was used as part of Political Education or “P.E.” classes. It was automatically given to new members to sell. The Black Panthers were about being out and active in the community as well as educating the People. The office was primarily used as a place to stop over to eat with others from the community or to report in; very quickly members were back on the streets selling papers and talking with the People.The BPP Newspaper was used as a tool for discussion on the many corners where it was sold. In this way it also provided visibility, as individuals would wave or drive by honking their horns. The newspaper also provided guidance to the Young Lords and to the many other organizations that were connected in one way or the other to the Black Panthers. The Young Lords began to put out their own bilingual newspaper which was then distributed in Latino areas along with several other organizations. Although it was improving, it still lacked in the sophistication of the work done by Mr. Preston. He delivered the newspaper to the various branches and chapters in Illinois cities; they, in turn, would distribute it to their assigned geographical area. There was an accounting for each and every newspaper because the paper also provided income for the BPP chapters.
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