As a white kid growing up in America I “knew” the Black Panthers were scary, radical, militant and dangerous. As an adult, I was more skeptical of what I knew about the Black Panthers, but it really was not until earlier this year, when PBS ran Stanley Nelson’s film The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution that I began to learn the real story. (Everyone needs to see it). It is a more nuanced and complex story of a militant activist group that created so much positive change. It is a story of community empowerment and a story of people coming together to improve lives.
Today I got over to the Oakland Museum for their new exhibit All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50. After a grim week, where the most hateful and racist elements of American society have remerged to remind us that they are still there – it was a wonderful thing to visit a museum for such a positive and uplifting message reminding us that when we come together we can accomplish so much good.
I come to expect the best from the Oakland Museum and was not disappointed. It is an excellent exhibit that infuses art and artifacts placed within both a historical past and an active present. The exhibit website provides more details, but I particularly like seeing both the art from the period, for example the art of Gayle Dickson that appeared in the Panther newspaper and new work that includes powerful, disturbing and yet aesthetically pleasing pieces. For example We The People, a quilt made by Hank Willis Thomas from decommissioned prison uniforms and Ellen Bepp’s word piece made of the names in hand cut paper titled 100 Unarmed African Americans Killed by Police in 2014.
Every year there is one or two “don’t miss” exhibits that come to the Bay Area. This is the one. You have until February 12, 2017.