two black women distribute food to a table of black schoolchildren

Power Hungry: Women of the Black Panther Party and Freedom Summer and Their Fight to Feed a Movement

by Suzanne Cope Author

In the beginning of 1969, Cleo Silvers and some members of the Black Panther party met at a church and began cooking donated food for neighborhood children. By that time next year, they were feeding more people every day than the entire state of California. On the other side of the country, Aylene Quin was undertaking a similar project, bringing members of the Black community and civil rights leaders together at her restaurant in McComb, Mississippi, feeding the hungry, and organizing community power. The Black Panthers are often credited with forcing the hand of the government when it came to providing free school meals, because they themselves were so effective at using food as a means of bringing people together and building power. The FBI sought numerous times through the infamous COINTELPRO program to discredit and prevent the organizing of Cleo Silvers and Aylene Quin, including turning a blind eye to the firebombing of Quin's house while her children were inside, destroying thousands of pounds of food intended for poor children, and declaring a community breakfast program a major threat to public safety. In this thoroughly researched and powerfully written history, author Suzanne Cope tells the story of how two women used food to push the civil rights movement forward and build power in their communities, and the absurd and brutal lengths the government went to to try and stop them. A must read, especially in our current post-George Floyd era.