Fifty Years Later, Black Panthers’ Art Still Resonates

The Black Panther Party was founded 50 years ago in Oakland, on Oct. 15, 1966, and within two years it had chapters across the country. The New York Times is taking this opportunity to explore the Black Panthers’ legacy, through their iconic use of imagery and how they were covered in our own pages.

The Black Panther Party is often associated with armed resistance, but one of the most potent weapons in its outreach to African-Americans in cities across the country was its artwork. In posters, pamphlets and its popular newspaper, The Black Panther, the party’s imagery was guided by the vision of Emory Douglas, its minister of culture.

His art came from many sources. As a teenager in San Francisco during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Douglas found himself incarcerated at the Youth Training School in Ontario, Calif., where he got involved with its printing shop. He went on to study graphic design at San Francisco City College, where he developed a deep interest in the Black Arts Movement, the artistic arm of the Black Power Movement.

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“Vanguard of the Revolution” is Liberal History, Strips and Omits Socialism from History of the Black Panther Party

[Bruce Dixon provides an important (but beginning) critique of the new Stanley Nelson film, which portrays the Panther’s iconic nature as helpful survival programs and electioneering.  The film shows the Panthers as beaten by police, but gives no lessons for contemporary self-defense or revolutionary systemic challenge.  The film in this sense plays a similar role as SELMA:  a superficial memorial.  The strengths and weaknesses of the film are being discussed and debated.  Reactionaries and white supremacists hate it, liberals love it, but revolutionary organizers today will not find it contributing much to the materials which could guide new efforts on the ground today. — Frontlines ed.]
https://i2.wp.com/alicenter-bucket.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Large-Panthers.jpg

Stanley Nelson’s documentary on the BPP is “history” by and for lazy American liberals. He turns the BPP into a pop culture icon a T-shirt. Nelson mentions guns hundreds of times, big naturals and swagger a few dozen times but not the word “socialism” once in 2 hours. The BPP described its Breakfast For Children and Free Medical Clinics every day as “socialism” in person and in our newspaper, to each other and to the neighborhoods we served.

“Vanguard of the Revolution” is Liberal History, Strips and Omits Socialism from History of the Black Panther Party

by Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce A.Dixon, February 17, 2016
“Stanley Nelson is what Americans call a “liberal” and that’s what Vanguard of the Revolution is…. a liberal’s take on the BPP.”
 

I used to have a Che Guevara T-shirt. It was a pretty good shirt, but it told me nothing about the man or his life’s work. It had Che’s face on it, but by itself the face is just a pop culture icon, shorthand or short-brain for everything you want to know, or everything think you already know about it. That’s what Stanley Nelson’s film, Black Panthers, Vanguard of the Revolution does to the Black Panther Party. He made the movement of my youth an icon. A T-shirt.

On the plus side, it’s a pretty good T-shirt. Vanguard of the Revolution contains some great interview footage from Erika Huggins, Elaine Brown, the freedom fighting Freeman brothers and Wayne Pharr, my old comrade Michael McCarty and several others. On the minus side, Nelson omits and obscures the domestic and global political context the BPP came out of and thrived in. According to Vanguard of the Revolution, the BPP arose out of black northern frustration after the passage of civil rights legislation. It caught on due to the irresistible appeal of its naturals, big guns, the murdermouthing rhetoric of Eldridge Cleaver, downright sexiness, and black is beautiful, all of which earned the BPP pop culture stardom. And pop culture stardom needs no further explanation. Cue the music, fists in the air, and power to the people…

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Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era

Since the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, Black people throughout the United States have been grappling with a number of critical questions such as why are Black people being hunted and killed every 28 hours or more by various operatives of the law? Why don’t Black people seem to matter to this society? And what can and must we do to end these attacks and liberate ourselves? There are concrete answers to these questions. Answers that are firmly grounded in the capitalist dynamics that structure the brutal European settler-colonial project we live in and how Afrikan people have historically been positioned within it.

The Value of Black Life

There was a time in the United States Empire, when Afrikan people, aka, Black people, were deemed to be extremely valuable to the “American project”, when our lives as it is said, “mattered”. This “time” was the era of chattel slavery, when the labor provided by Afrikan people was indispensable to the settler-colonial enterprise, accounting for nearly half of the commodified value produced within its holdings and exchanged in “domestic” and international markets. Our ancestors were held and regarded as prize horses or bulls, something to be treated with a degree of “care” (i.e. enough to ensure that they were able to work and reproduce their labor, and produce value for their enslavers) because of their centrality to the processes of material production.

What mattered was Black labor power and how it could be harnessed and controlled, not Afrikan humanity. Afrikan humanity did not matter – it had to be denied in order create and sustain the social rationale and systemic dynamics that allowed for the commodification of human beings. These “dynamics” included armed militias and slave patrols, iron-clad non-exception social clauses like the “one-drop” rule, the slave codes, vagrancy laws, and a complex mix of laws and social customs all aimed at oppressing, controlling and scientifically exploiting Black life and labor to the maximum degree. This systemic need served the variants of white supremacy, colonial subjugation, and imperialism that capitalism built to govern social relations in the United States. All of the fundamental systems created to control Afrikan life and labor between the 17th and 19th centuries are still in operation today, despite a few surface moderations, and serve the same basic functions. Continue reading

Blood On Their Hands — The Racist History of Modern Police Unions

[During the Occupy Movement against the “1 %”, many activists were ambivalent about or opposed to including such issues as “stopping police killings” and “ending mass incarceration”, because some organizers insisted on including the police (“unionized workers”) in the over-broad concept of the “99 %”  —  thereby siding with police repression and state-sponsored violence against Black and Brown people.  This article breaks down some of the history of these police unions and how they ensure I’m,unity and prevent accountability for police who murder.  —  Frontlines ed.]
by Flint Taylor, In These Times, January 14, 2015

Police unions have always played a powerful role in defending cops—no matter how brutal and racist their actions. (Ben Musseig / Flickr)

Outraged by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s statements concerning the killing of Eric Garner, Patrick Lynch, the longtime leader of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the NYPD’s officers union, recently made the outrageous assertion that the Mayor had “blood on his hands” for the murder of the two NYPD officers.

In Milwaukee this past fall, the Police Association called for, and obtained, a vote of no confidence in MPD Chief Ed Flynn after he fired the officer who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed African American; subsequently, the union’s leader, Mike Crivello, praised the District Attorney when he announced that he would not bring charges against the officer.

In Chicago, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), a longtime supporter of racist police torturer Jon Burge, is now seeking to circumvent court orders that preserve and make public the police misconduct files of repeater cops such as Burge, by seeking to enforce a police contract provision that calls for the destruction of the files after seven years.  And in a show of solidarity with the killer of Michael Brown, Chicago’s FOP is soliciting contributions to the Darren Wilson defense fund on its website.

Such reactionary actions by police unions are not new, but are a fundamental component of their history, particularly since they came to prominence in the wake of the civil rights movement. These organizations have played a powerful role in defending the police, no matter how outrageous and racist their actions, and in resisting all manner of police reforms. Continue reading

Film Review — “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”

[Almost all bourgeois media depictions of the Black Panthers have been highly sensationalized, racist, and scarified, designed for bewildered viewers to dismiss.  Some have had a more sympathetic, even empathetic, edge, though usually told in terms that say, “that’s in the past, it won’t happen again.”  But this review connects this new film with its relevance  today in a society riveted and outraged by  the everyday, country-wide, routine police killings of blacks. — Frontlines ed.]

Wickham: The Black Panthers redux

by DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, February 17, 2015
New documentary tells another story of revolutionary group than the one we’ve been told.
NEW YORK — The Black Panther Party is back.
Not the one-dimensional, gun-toting, leather-jacket-wearing caricature that dominated news coverage of the black revolutionary organization during its heyday in the 1960s.
And I’m not talking about the Black Panther Party that was both the target and creation of COINTELPRO, the secret FBI counter-intelligence operation that sought to “neutralize” the Panthers by virtually any means necessary.

Mumia: Execution by Medical Neglect?

 

[4/3 UPDATE: Abu-Jamal has reportedly been moved by the Dept. of Prisons back to SCI-Mahoney’s infirmary, where there is no specialist on diabetes, despite his apparently still being in an acute health crisis. Sigificantly, his supporters note that this shift makes it even more difficult for family members, supporters and reporters to monitor his treatment and condition.To help Mumia immediate action must be taken. You can help by Calling Pennsylvanian Department of Correction Director of Health Care Services Richard Ellers at 717-728-5311 (rellers@pa.gov) and express your concern for Mumia’s medical treatment. You can also call SCI Mahoney Pennsylvanian Department of Correction Superintendent John Kereste at 570-773-2158, to express your concern. Take action now to help save Mumia’s life!]

Pennsylvania’s Prison System is Torturing Mumia Abu-Jamal and His Family Too

by DAVE LINDORFF, This Can’t Be Happening!, April 1, 2015

 

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical Philadelphia journalist convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer in a trial fraught with prosecutorial misconduct, witness coaching and judicial prejudice back in 1981, spent nearly three decades in solitary confinement in the deliberately designed hell of Pennsylvania’s supermax SCI Green prison before a panel of federal Appeals Court judges eventually ruled that he’d been unconstitutionally sentenced to death.

He, of course, received no apology for the state’s making him illegally and improperly spend all those years in solitary waiting to be wrongfully executed. Instead, with that ruling (after a few years of legal stalling by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office), he was simply switched over to a sentence of life without possibility of parole and moved to the SCI-Mahoney prison in central Pennsylvania.

Now, it appears the state, which lost its chance to execute him, may be trying to kill him another way, as word comes that this world-renowned political prisoner had to be rushed to the hospital this week, unconscious from an undiagnosed case of severe diabetes.

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What Would Malcolm X Think?

An Opinion column in the New York Times, February 21, 2015

By ILYASAH SHABAZZ

Malcolm X — Credit: Associated Press

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — FIFTY years ago today my father, Malcolm X, was assassinated while speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. I think about him every day, but even more in the last year, with the renewed spirit of civil rights activism after the tragic events in Ferguson, Mo., on Staten Island and in countless other parts of the country. What would he have to say about it?

People still look to Malcolm as a model for strident activism. They lament the lack of such a prominent, resonant voice in the modern dialogue about race. But they might not like some of the critical things he would have to say about the strategies of today’s activists.

Of course, my father would be heartened by the youth-led movement taking place across the nation, and abroad, in response to institutional brutality. And he would appreciate the protesters’ fervor and skillful use of social media to rapidly organize, galvanize and educate. In a sense, his ability to boil down hard truths into strong statements and catchy phrases presaged our era of hashtag activism. Continue reading