In 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) was created in Oakland, California in response to the physical and economic violence facing Black communities in the U.S. The organization quickly spread across the U.S. and overseas. As the party grew, so did their strategies to address the needs of marginalized people—including programs to promote skill building, health, education, and to provide basic survival items such as food. While the BPP worked to provide health and safety to the Black community, they did so in solidarity with members of other communities. These allies recognized the injustices experienced by Black communities across the U.S. and joined forces to amplify the cause.
The Black Panther was the organization’s self-published newspaper that discussed issues faced by the community, in their own words and on their own terms. It documented, through art and words, the struggle for liberation. Many of these images became iconic and still garner instant recognition today.
Over fifty years later the use of iconic imagery has become even more prevalent in social justice movements. The rise of camera phones and social media has democratized who can document, share, comment upon, and repurpose the images. With movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and the protests at Standing Rock, today’s issues of safety from police brutality, access to basic survival items such as food and clean water, and community building echo those that the BPP tackled five decades ago.
Paying homage to their example, ICONIC Black Panther presents the art of more than 50 artists representing a wide range of ethnicities, gender, age, and career levels. This exhibition exemplifies the enduring interest in the BPP, the scope of the injustices they fought against and the continued struggle for civil and human rights worldwide. The artwork continues the conversation through painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media and video.
Produced by Rosalind McGary and curated by Susu Attar of SEPIA Collective.