American Steel Studios in Oakland, CA
October 15, 1966…on this day in Oakland, California a revolutionary organization known as the Black Panther Party for Self-defense came to fruition. This influential, black liberatory organization sought freedom and justice for the Black community, an education that taught the true history of Black people, equal housing, and an end to police brutality and murder of Black people, among numerous other things. At its core the Black Panther Party was prepared to nurture, protect and serve as an armed citizens’ patrol that monitored and challenged the oppressions of the Black community in Oakland, CA. 50 years later we celebrate the achievements of the Black Panther Party, while simultaneously fighting some of the same issues of past.
On October 7th, Black Girl Nerds had a wonderful opportunity to take part in the unveiling of the ICONIC Black Panther Art Exhibition presented by SEPIA Art Collective and curated by Rosalind McGary and Kelly Paschal-Hunter. The collective art exhibition featured local Bay Area and internationally renowned artists along with original art from founding Black Panthers. Some of the artists included: Emory Douglas, Dr. Samella Lewis, Tarika Lewis, Bugsy Malone, Kristine Mays, Shepard Fairey, Karen Seneferu, Fab 5 Freddy and Pablo Cristi.
Much of the art on display blends the history of the Black Panther Party (i.e. the “Peoples Free Food Program”) and also addresses current day situations, some of today’s freedom fighters and the battles they are fighting (i.e. the flooding in Haiti, Black Lives Matter and Trayvon Martin). In a way visiting this exhibition is like taking a course in history and visual art with a focus on the Black Panther Party and Black Life! This is an exhibition that I would also recommend for families. The energy of the art is sure to bring back and create memories, initiate conversations, expose others to a rich history. I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions that have left a lasting imprint.
When speaking with co-curator Rosalind McGary one could definitely feel that this exhibition was truly a project of love and dedication. Each of the artists bring so much passion and pain into their work that you cannot help but be drawn to their work. Each of the pieces brings life to the past, sheds light on the present, and opens the door to the future. Through the many works of mixed media art, paintings, sculptures, murals, and drawings, the Black Panther Party is truly center stage! As historian and featured painter Dr. Samella Lewis states, “Through art we can trace history, and as a consequence gain insight into our future.” Art becomes a visual griot, and the ICONIC Black Panther Art Exhibition becomes a visually, vibrant example of a lasting legacy.
The ICONIC Black Panther Art Exhibition will be in Oakland till November 6th, 2016 and will then travel to Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. If you live in any of these cities, or can travel to them it is truly worth your time and attention. This exhibition is a treat you do not want to miss.
“Power to the People!”
~Grace D. Gipson