Monday, March 27, 2006

Black Panther Rank and File

This is a great fuckin exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center or the Arts in downtown San Francisco. The website for it does not do it justice at all.

I'm a bit partial to the exhibit because I really love the idea and the activism and a whole bunch of other stuff surrounding the Black Panther Party, and I'm also into politics. It's hard to say how much I would have liked the exhibit without those personal traits.

That said, this show had so many cool things I didn't know about the Black Panther Party. Did you know they ran their own newspaper? Did you know two college students in Oakland started it after hearing about Stokely Carmichael's work? (we actually don't remember which video clip we saw this in, only that we've seen it, and we like it, a lot)

What's good for America? What's good for America? LATER for America! What's good for black people?!

We can learn a lot from these cats (get it? niiiiice.). They started by community organizing - personally helping kids cross the street at an intersection where the city kept refusing to install a traffic light - even though kids kept getting run down. Eventually, they got the city to install a traffic light. That's organizing. That's action.

Most Americans simply have no clue how much the U.S. government terrorized black party leaders during the civil rights movement. I mean, they still work hard to terrorize them in everyday life today, but back in the day, if you had any visibility, the U.S. government was working overtime to terrorize you. And when they couldn't shut you down quietly, they just used brute force and murdered you. Straight up.

UPDATE: We didn't realize, from the way the exhibition website is put together, that there are actually links to other reference material. The best link is to "It's About Time" - the Black Panther Party Legacy and Alumni group (the link on the YBCA exhibition website is still broken at this time, but ours works).

SFist pointed out some things about the exhibit that we didn't catch. And we admit that we got out of there pretty quickly - it's just too overwhelming.

Chicago is trying to get a street named after the activist who the Chicago PD/FBI murdered - but the terrorists who killed him don't like the idea so much.

The Murder of Fred Hampton - the movie. We don't know much about Mr. Hampton, ourselves, but what little we have heard has been pretty unbelievable. I mean, this dude sounded like he was pretty much the second coming - of activism, of justice, of something. No shit. So, check him out.

UPDATE: We've been looking all over for some posters we saw at the exhibit, but nobody seems to know if they exist, who might have them, etc. But we at least managed to find a pseudo-replica of them - it's one poster/handout, with the slogans of all three posters that we wanted included in this one hand-out. It's a bit brutal, but that's part of what makes it so powerful. We got the image from this website. The text on the poster includes the following:

Uncle Sam wants YOU nigger

Become a member of the world's highest paid black mercenary army!

Support White Power – travel to Viet Nam, you might get a medal!

Fight for Freedom... (in Viet Nam)

Receive valuable training in the skills of killing off other oppressed people!

(Die Nigger Die – you can't die fast enough in the ghettos.)

So run to your nearest recruiting chamber!

And the organizer listed on the bottom of the poster is this:

Issued by: HARLEM PROGRESSIVE LABOR CLUB, 336 Lenox Avenue, New York 10027
For additional copies send to: Progressive Labor Party: Chicago: 2049 North Dayton St.,
Los Angeles: 218 East 82nd Place, San Francisco: 3382 18th Street, California

Imagine these slogans in big, colorful, antagonistic posters, and you'll start to get a sense for the power to provoke feelings of fury and rage in the person looking at them. At least, that was what I felt. Those posters made me want to get up off my ass and organize.

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