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The Vanguard: Powerful photographs of the Black Panthers
01.05.2017
12:57 pm

Topics:
Activism
Art
Politics
Race

Tags:
Black Panthers


 
This week saw six people, including the president and the director of communications of the NAACP, arrested at the office of Senator Jeff Sessions in Mobile, Alabama. At issue was Sessions’ impending nomination as President Trump’s attorney general; the protests addressed Sessions’ history of opposition to the civil rights movement in its broadest incarnations. The list of problems is quite impressive: Sessions has denied any existence of voter suppression efforts directed at minority communities and once purportedly warned a black attorney to “be careful how you talk to white folks” in addition to joking that his only problem with the Ku Klux Klan was its drug use. Further, Sessions has referred to the NAACP as “un-American” in the past and has called the Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation.”

Sessions’ elevation to the top law enforcement officer in the nation is far from the only signal that Donald Trump has some sketchy views on race. If ever there was a moment in which one might actively pine for a return of the Black Panthers—real Black Panthers, not the Fox News bogeymen—the the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president is definitely it.

While it wasn’t a perfect organization, the three most salient facts about the Black Panthers are that (a) the resistance they advocated was richly justified, (b) they were thoroughly fucked with by the FBI, and (c) they did a huge amount of good in African-American neighborhoods, in the form of community organizing of the kind that Republicans have been known to deride. That they carried around scary machine guns, behaved like a paramilitary group and said things about armed resistance that scared the shit out of white people, well, consider what they were up against.

The 2011 documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 and the 2015 documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution are both eloquent defenses of a group that constantly threatens to be lost to history in some sense. If historians are not vigilant about defending the group to white audiences, it will always risk caricature as a radical, violent organization, which the Panthers (mostly) were not.
 

 
In 1970 a book of photographs was published documenting the resistance efforts of the Black Panthers surrounding the 1968 trial of Huey Newton and its aftermath. The book was by two white photographers, a married couple named Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones. It was titled The Vanguard: A Photographic Essay on the Black Panthers. (A similar book of Baruch and Jones’ photographs was published in 2002 under the title The Black Panthers 1968.) The 1970 book includes a number of informative texts, such as “Review of Panther Growth and Harrassment”, “Rules of the Black Panther Party”, and the “Black Panther Party Platform and Program.”

The photographs were taken the same year that J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.” You don’t have to be Ta-Nehisi Coates (whose own father, Paul Coates, was a member of the Black Panthers and was internally discussed as a candidate for assassination by the selfsame FBI) to consider that judgment to be a mite premature…...... 

As they used to say of Richard Nixon, we can now say of the Black Panthers: Now, more than ever…..
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Movin’ On Up’: How the Black Panthers invented ‘The Jeffersons’


 
Somewhat like top basketballers before Michael Jordan (thinking of you, Dr. J….) the reputation of Norman Lear’s sitcom The Jeffersons suffered somewhat by poor timing and the shows that came after it. Cheers and Seinfeld are regularly lauded as among the greatest sitcoms of all time, but The Jeffersons, whose impressive 253 episodes were spread across a whopping 11 seasons (1975-1985), never seems to get mentioned with the same respect.

If you eliminate animated series and long-running staples from the dawn of TV history, the longevity of The Jeffersons puts it in a special category with Two and a Half Men (262 episodes), Cheers (275), M*A*S*H (256), Frasier (264), Married ... with Children (258), and Happy Days (255).

At a minimum, The Jeffersons is arguably the greatest put-down show of all time!

And it never would have happened but for an intervention by the Black Panthers.

Norman Lear, creator of a fair portion of the most successful sitcoms of the 1970s, including All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, and Maude, is the subject of an upcoming PBS American Masters telecast under the title “Just Another Version of You,” which is expected to get a theatrical run in the summer before appearing on PBS affiliates in the autumn. Since the 1970s Lear has become more or less synonymous with the introduction of ethnic diversity in American TV as well as the foregrounding of what might be termed a liberal consciousness in televised comedy.

Remarkably, the creation of The Jeffersons was a direct outgrowth of an intervention staged by three members of the Black Panthers political organization at some point during 1974. A trio of pissed-off revolutionaries went to Lear’s office to complain about the “garbage” they were seeing on TV, specifically Lear’s show Good Times, which ran from 1974 to 1979 and focused on a black family in the projects of Chicago. You wouldn’t think that the Black Panthers would object to a popular sitcom calling attention to poverty in urban America, but they wanted to see a broader palette of Black America on TV.

Last weekend Lear visited Dan Harmon’s weekly podcast Harmontown, which is taped live every Sunday at the Nerdmelt Showroom in Hollywood, to promote the American Masters documentary and shoot the shit with a well-known showrunner (Community) from a more splintered era of TV programming, namely, ours. Harmontown tapings are usually attended by GenXers and Millennials, so the appearance of the 93-year-old (!) legend of TV was an unusual event.
 

‘Good Times’ aired on CBS from 1974 to 1979
 
At about 42 minutes in, Harmon and his sidekick Jeff Davis engaged Lear on the subject of the beginnings of The Jeffersons:

Harmon: There’s this anecdote, about ... three Black Panthers show up, and come to your office and say, “We want to talk to the garbageman! I wanna talk to Norman Lear, the garbageman!” And they storm into your office, and say, “Good Times is bullshit” ... They read you the riot act ... You credit that moment as starting us down the road towards The Jeffersons. ...

You’re still listening! You’ve already proven that you’re the king of television at that point, and people are barging into your office to call you a garbageman, and you listen to them! And took their feedback and made another great television show, that was great from another perspective.

Davis: What was the Black Panthers’ [complaint]? ... Because they were living in the projects, because they were downtrodden?

Lear: Their big bellyache was, why does the guy have to hold down three jobs and occasionally—in an episode, it almost seems like he’s looking for a fourth—he’s so hungry to make some money to support his family and why can’t there be an affluent black family on television? ... They were pissed off that the only family that existed, the guy had to hold down three jobs.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Art of the Black Panthers’: Revolutionary designer Emory Douglas
04.06.2016
04:12 pm

Topics:
Activism
Art
Media
Race

Tags:
Black Panthers
Emory Douglas


 
Emory Douglas served as Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party and artistic director of The Black Panther newspaper from its inception in 1967. Douglas is unquestionably one of the most important artists and designers working in the political realm in the last several decades, and his work is a necessary component of anyone’s understanding of the lived experience of activism, advocacy, and resistance.

If you are trying to push an issue forward on the grass-roots level, whether it’s women’s health issues, the crimes of the 1%, or the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the work of Emory Douglas is relevant to you.

Douglas was a native of the Bay Area; as a “guest” of the California Youth Authority (today it’s called the California Division of Juvenile Justice)—basically prison for teenage offenders—he was told to work in the print shop, which he called “my first introduction to graphic design.”
 

 
Huey P. Newton asked Douglas to provide the Black Panther newspaper with an effective visual style. Douglas and Eldridge Cleaver did many of the early issues pretty much by themselves.

One inspiration Douglas had was to mimic woodcuts for their ability to communicate ideas very clearly in a simple and stark visual style, an approach that proved very effective for his entire career. One factor that influenced Douglas’ style was that the Panthers could only afford one other color (aside from black and white), most of the time. So the picture would be conceived in a powerful black-and-white way and then the single color would be used to highlight some portion of the picture. In a way, it helped that the pictures weren’t too complex in terms of the color palette.
 

1969
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Black Panther: The revolutionary art of Emory Douglas
11.13.2014
05:38 pm

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
Black Panthers
Emory Douglas


1969
 
One of the unique aspects of the Black Panthers as a political project was their emphasis on the cultural component of revolutionary work. In addition to community-based education and social programs for both children and adults, the Panthers had a house band (The Lumpen—check them out), and a Minister of Culture, the groundbreaking Emory Douglas, whose art for The Black Panther newspaper created a visual context for black liberation. Douglas’ political art came honest. His own impoverished childhood in the Bay Area was interrupted by a spell in a juvenile detention center, where he found a niche in the prison print shop. He later studied commercial art at San Francisco City College, which is where he joined the Black Students Union before being appointed Minister of Culture.

Douglas’ work is incredibly distinctive, often produced with very little budget or time. He favored bold, organic lines, thoughtful collage-work and saturated colors, creating imagery of both dignified black people and cartoonish political antagonists (often soldiers, cops or politicians depicted as rats or pigs). You’ll notice a lot of weapons—remember, the original name was “The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense,” and much of the original intent was protecting black communities from police harassment—but Douglas was also invested in producing joyful or righteous images of hope. Douglas struck a perfect balance between optimism and realism, a negotiation that produced an enormous and varied body of work that still bore his unmistakable style.

Though Douglas continued producing art well after the Panther’s dissolution (most notably for the black-oriented newspaper, The San Francisco Sun Reporter) the work below is all from his tenure as Minister of Culture (between 1967 and the 1980s, though the dates for individual works are often unavailable or contested.). It’s only been since the 2000’s that Emory Douglas’ work has been curated into larger retrospective exhibits, and only since 2014 that his work has been collected into a (fantastic) book, Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas
 

1969
 

Date unknown
 

 

The text says, “We are from 25 to 30 million strong, and we are armed. And we are conscious of our situation. And we are determined to change it. And we are unafraid.”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975


 
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 utilizes dozens of hours of 16mm footage shot by Swedish documentarians during the height of the Black Power movement to tell the era’s story of radical revolutionary promise and what happened when that promise went unfulfilled. The film sat in the basement of a Swedish TV station for decades.

Contemporary director Göran Olsson (who also helmed 2009’s Am I Black Enough for You? doc about the Philly music scene) used this footage, including interviews with Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and Kathleen Cleaver, along with modern commentary from Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Talib Kweli and Melvin Van Peebles, to create this new film, now being released by Sundance. After a limited NYC/Los Angeles theatrical run, it’s supposed to air on PBS.

I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff anyways, but damn this looks amazing:
 

 
(via Nerdcore )

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Black Woodstock 1969

image
 
While hippies enjoyed “three days of peace and love” in Woodstock, another equally important music festival was staged in Harlem. What’s become known as Black Woodstock was a series of concerts, held at 3pm on Sundays, at Mount Morris Park, between 29 June and the 24 August, 1969. The Festival was headlined by B.B. King, The Staples Singers, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone and attended by over 100,000 concert-goers.

The concerts came soon after the Watts Riots, and the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.  At the time, the local NAACP chairman likened Harlem at the time to the vigilante Old West. The NYPD refused to provide security for the Festival, which was provided instead by the Black Panthers, some of whom had been indicted of a bombing campaign across Manhattan.

Black Woodstock was a mix of religious gathering, rock concert and civil rights rally, as the black community was encouraged to take power into its own hands, most notably when Reverend Roebuck Staples, of the Staple Singers, injected a sermon into his performance:

“You’d go for a job and you wouldn’t get it. And you know the reason why. But now you’ve got an education. We can demand what we want. Isn’t that right? So go to school, children, and learn all you can. And who knows? There’s been a change and you may be President of the United States one day.”

The Harlem Festival was filmed by television producer, Hal Tulchin, who hoped to sell the footage to the networks. None of the networks were interested, which says much about the politics of the time, and the fifty hours of filmed material has since been kept under lock and key. The odd snippet has been sneaked on to You Tube, and Nina Simone licensed film of her performance for a DVD release, but why the whole concert has never been released or even shown on TV is a damning indictment on America’s media. As Alan McGee asked last year

Why is Black Woodstock still sitting in the vaults? For me, this is not just a concert, but a valid historical document capturing the height of the black power movement, positivism and the tension within their community. I remember a poignant Simone quote from 1997 when asked why she left the US: “I left because I didn’t feel that black people were going to get their due, and I still don’t.” It’s hard to disagree with her when a cultural event as significant as Black Woodstock has been gathering dust in a vault for over forty years.

 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Huey Newton compels William F. Buckley to side with George Washington, 1973

image
 
Huey Percey Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, would be 68 years old if he hadn’t been shot in Oakland on this day in 1989 by Tyrone “Double R” Robinson, an alleged member of George Jackson’s Marxist prison gang The Black Guerilla Family.

Here he is engaging William F. Buckley on his show Firing Line in a preliminary thought-game before getting deep into the kind of civil dialogue on political theory that’s absolutely impossible to find on television today.
 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
The Revolutionary Art Of Emory Douglas
09.25.2009
06:47 pm

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Black Panthers
Emory Douglas

image
 
Opening this week at New York’s New Museum, Emory Douglas: Black Panther:

Some of Emory Douglas?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment