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BLACK PANTHERS: 50TH ANNIVERSARY

BLACK PANTHERS 50TH ANNIVERSARY EXHIBIT

I visited the Oakland Museum of California recently to see the exhibit honoring the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers. There was a variety of displays showing their true history (as opposed to the Capitalist Pig version obediently manufactured by mainstream media for decades) which included video & audio displays, newspaper clippings, photographs, FBI documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (heavily redacted, of course), copies of the original Black Panther Party newspaper, artwork, pieces of buildings from Oakland that were destroyed through a gentrification project (intended merely to displace poor Black families for the financial benefit of wealthy white landowners) and a wall with hooks on which people are allowed to hang a piece of paper with the name of a Black Panther member they want remembered.

The exhibit tells the basic story of the Black Panther Party from its founding by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (who met at Merritt College) in Oakland in October of 1966 to the relentless surveillance and violent attacks by the FBI and local police departments, the operation of food programs & health clinics, political aspirations, social inspirations and the assassinations across the country by law (order) enforcement officers. It gives basic information for young people who know little of the group’s history, but also has something to interest those of us who have been around long enough to have lived through some of what went down all those years ago.

I’m not going to write a history of the party. It’s been done many times by more talented writers with more extensive knowledge on the subject as well as by people with relevant personal experiences. I’m just going to share my experience of the exhibit and hope that it inspires a couple of people to do their own research and find the truth about the one of the most misunderstood and viciously maligned groups in recent history.

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One of the video displays is a collage of a diverse group of people reciting poetry, telling personal stories of prominent Black Panther members and events, sharing their experiences relating to the issues involved or telling about when they first became aware of the Panthers. The level of emotion varies, getting deeply intense at times.

Another was a psychedelic video display with audio of important political speeches. There was a microphone in front of it that people are allowed to use to express their feelings while the audio isn’t playing.

The walls are filled with short stories, quotes, art (by legendary BP artist Emery Douglas and others), photographs and old newspaper clippings from around the country (though mostly from the Oakland area), but on one section of wall hangs dozens of FBI documents showing the details of ruthless surveillance (and harassment) by the FBI which betrays the delusional paranoia of their evil, psychopathic leader (at the time), J. Edgar Hoover. (Hoover called the BPP “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and should be one of the most reviled figures in U.S. history, but far too many people refuse to face the truth about his obvious mental and emotional illness).

All the way inside, at one end of the exhibit, something I found interesting was the wall with hooks on which people can hang a piece of paper (available on a table in front of the wall) with the name of a Black Panther a person wants to commemorate. It hadn’t been filled when I was there, but I’m sure it will be soon.

The following are pictures my wife took during our time there:

The exhibit is a “must see” for anyone who cares about truth or is interested in history. One of the people featured in the video the museum made of people expressing their feelings on the Black Panther legacy was co-founder Bobby Seale, an iconic figure in the Civil Rights movement for decades. A person who should have been included (but obviously couldn’t be) was the other founder, Huey Newton, who was murdered in Oakland in 1989 under somewhat mysterious circumstances. This was a brilliant, caring man who saw the injustice of an obscenely corrupt system and spent the rest of his life trying to right it. I’d like to close this by paraphrasing Dr. Newton (my additions are in parentheses):

“You can jail (or kill) the Revolutionary, but you can’t jail (or kill) the Revolution.”

Important words. Peace to all…

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2 comments on “BLACK PANTHERS: 50TH ANNIVERSARY

  1. When I taught in Milwaukee’s inner city middle schools in 1969, local Black Panthers volunteered to help teachers keep order in the classroom. When children became too disrupted, I would send one of the kids to the office to get a Black Panther. They didn’t really need to do anything but sit in the front of the classroom. The students had immense respect for them.

    • That’s cool. I remember (before Curtis Sliwa turned wacko) when the Guardian Angels patrolled areas in NY that street crime dropped and people seemed to feel safer. Of course, it didn’t nothing for the big criminals – the white collar type who were manipulating our economy and sending people into the street to potentially become street criminals.

      Thanks for the comment.

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