“Revolution is not a solution, its a process.” Black Panther

Yesterday in the early afternoon before meeting up with my friend Melissa, I wandered over to the New Museum to see the Emory Douglas: Black Panther exhibition. After running into New Museum curator Benjamin Godsill, and chatting a bit, I decided to take his advice and start on the 4th floor of the museum to see David Goldblatt’s photographs before venturing to see Emory Douglas’ work. I usually start at the top and work my way down at the New Museum, but on this particular trip, hadn’t planned on it! David Goldblatt is a South African photographer who has documented the landscape of the country both Pre and Post-Apartheid. While I’ve never been to South Africa, after my journey to Ghana, I found my eyes focus on environmental elements that were scattered in the photographs and connected with a familiarity. I even re-imagined the smokey smell of the tiny villages with their tin roofed homes. Yet the main concern of David Goldblatt’s imagery is the reminder and documentation of black separatism and what Apartheid actually was. Sadly, in our not so distant past segregation was still eminent throughout the world. Witnessing the photographs is a reminder and a perfect prequel to what is on the 2nd floor of the museum, that being Emory Douglas. The floors of both Goldblatt and Douglas hold hands (per say) and communicate with each other in a symbiotic fashion. Reading the manifestos of the Black Panthers after being reminded of Apartheid is extremely powerful and at times uncomfortable. The captions on the side of each image give both a time frame and sense of place as does the documented lithographic text.

A 20-minute video piece is also part of the exhibit and features contemporary interviews with Emory Douglas and other founding members of the Black Panthers along with the producer of Detroit post-punk band MC5 and poet John Sinclair who founded the “White Panther Party” giving white people against segregation a voice.

Looking at the stark graphic, illustrative declarations, I found myself thinking of the posters of German expressionists, and the Die Bruke movement. Anger and desperation are woven though the works and when remembering how our country was (and to some extent still is…) so racist that anger is validated. When a person wants his/her human rights acknowledged and is denied solely based on the color of his/her skin its easy to understand the frustrations that were felt in the persistent yearning for justice

Growing up I remember learning about the sometimes extreme actions and protests of the Black Panthers. I also remember learning of their lean towards violence versus the peaceful protest of Martin Luther King Jr. But I also can’t imagine what it must have been like to be around during that time. If I had been…..you better believe I would’ve been a white panther….fur sure!!

More soon.