By Godfrey Lee
An exhibit – “Architects, Activists and Avengers: The Black Panther Party 1968” – will be on display through Nov. 5 at the Hannah Gallery in Marin City.
The gallery is located in 170 Donahue St., next to Best Buy in Marin City. The space is open from Thursday to Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed Sundays. It will be open from Monday to Wednesday by appointment only.
The exhibit displays the photographs of the Black Panthers taken by Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which had its roots in resistance to police brutality, was active at a time when African Americans were marching for civil rights, huge protests against the Vietnam War rocked the college campuses and the nation, and the county was devastated by the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
The Panthers were organized on the principles of self-determination and community control. The party’s activists paved the way for programs such as free health care, community-based education and access to free breakfast and lunches for poor children that we enjoy today.
Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch photographed not only the militancy of clenched fists and raised weapons of the Black Panthers but also their interactions with the community. The photographs illustrate the strength, dignity, commitment, and hope the Panthers had for their movement and cause.
The exhibit also includes Panther newspapers and other memorabilia collected by Billy Jennings, Huey Newton ‘s bodyguard, which follows the movement beyond 1968, and chronicles the police and federal assault on Panther leadership as well as the group’s transition to electoral politics and the emergence of the party’s community outreach programs.
“I am so excited by the opportunity to host this exhibit,” said Bettie Hodges, Executive Director of the Hannah Project. “Not only does the Marin City community have strong ties to the Panther Party, but the movement influenced the lives and careers of a number of our community leaders and framed their approach to community empowerment and advocacy (regarding) the disenfranchised of all races.
“It is important that our youth learn about the Panther Party and the impact it has had on communities of color throughout the country,” said Hodges.
“The Panthers were just kids then,” she said. “But it is impossible to ignore the similarities between the issues that now polarize political debate and the proposals they put forth during the height of their movement.
“Will we be a country that gives voice and support to the poor, or will we be a country that rewards the rich? That is the fundamental question the Panthers raised.”
For information go to TheHannahProject.org or call (415) 419-1605.