Curated by Black Panther Party Archivist and Historian Bill X Jennings, Louder than Words: A Portrait of the Black Panther Movement focuses on the Party’s social justice and community programs. The Collins Memorial Library exhibit features a broad range of artifacts, including original pamphlets, newspapers, memorabilia and copies of the books on the Panther reading list.
The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, California, by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton while they attended college. Motivated by the Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of Malcolm X, and riots in Los Angeles, the initial impetus for the party was to protect local African American neighborhoods against police brutality. However, the party was more than armed patrols. It also established free breakfast programs, health clinics, and some of the first drug education programs.
Billy Jennings grew up in San Diego and moved to Oakland in June 1968. He was a member of the Black Panther Party from 1968 to 1974. He currently works to maintain the legacy of the Black Panther Party, running the website It’s About Time which was started by former members of the Black Panther Party in Sacramento in 1995.
Bill Jennings will visit for an Archivist Talk on Monday, February 12th, at 4:00-6:00 p.m. in the Trimble Forum.
Exhibit student reviews:
By Jade Herbert:
When viewing the Black Panther exhibit, it reminds me of home in Oakland, California. I really like the pins from the exhibit because that is something they used to wear on a daily basis. I enjoy making pins myself and they are something that can be held onto for life. The small pins can pass down multiple generations, still look nice and still hold the same value and maybe even more value to the local community they represent.
From the exhibit I learned about who started the Black panthers– Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. Before I saw the exhibit I already had some previous knowledge about the Black Panthers. A close friend of mine is a Black Panther. He and some of his friends planned the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this event but I understand it was very special. He and his friends also took me around Oakland and showed me some of the locations where the Black Panthers used to meet. I interned with a writing center in Oakland on Telegraph Avenue which used to be one of the meeting spaces. One of the programs they used to provide was the free food program for kids and my internship was in the same building where the black panthers used to provide that service. I did not realized how much my life was connected to such an important group of amazing black individuals. The exhibit and the Black Panthers make me extremely proud of where I come from.
I wish I could have learned about the Black panthers in school as I was in the Oakland Unified School District. Their legacy should be taught to all students. It is a part of history, and when teaching black history there needs to be more focus on issues related this and the fight for equality. We often only learn the history of enslaved Africans. It is often seen as our only history, when in reality African history consists of so much more. I hope the Black Panthers can start more programs around educating students about who the Panthers are and what we can do to make a social change using some of their tactics in modern times.
By Katya Ramich:
In helping with the setup of the Black Panther Party Exhibit, I learned much more about who the Black Panthers were than I had anticipated. In school, we did not cover a lot about the movement, or if we did I just don’t remember, so my knowledge was very limited. One of the most interesting things that I learned as a result of this exhibit was the impact that the Black Panther Party had on not only the communities that it directly served, but also the lasting impact that many of their social programs had on America as a whole. In the exhibit there is a list of 65 different social programs that the Black Panther Party created and maintained; which included programs such as free employment referral, free health clinics, Liberation schools, SAFE (Seniors Against a Fearful Environment), youth training and development, and a free children’s breakfast program. This was surprising to me because I was not aware of the impact the Black Panther movement had on the community within Oakland. The Party did not aim all of its resources and programs towards a specific demographic either. The programs that were created had a large range of people whom they supported, from a WIC (women, infants and children) program, to elderly assistance programs, drama classes to martial arts classes, education and medical programs, domestic programs, and many more. They were responsible for bettering the lives of many people, both directly and indirectly, and to me that was one of the best things that I was able to learn from the exhibit.
Some of the most impactful artifacts from the exhibit were certain newspaper articles and flyers. In one of the display cases, the one labeled Social Programs, there are flyers advertising the free food program (where they were giving away 10,000 free bags of groceries), the Bobby Seale People’s Free Health Clinic, and a flyer about health screening for African American women. These were impactful to me because they were very personal. These programs that were being advertised were not frivolous and benefitted to the betterment of their community.
Overall, this exhibit taught me that the Black Panther Party was more than just a far left militant group made up of African Americans. They were active members in their communities, working to make the lives of others better, demonstrating on a smaller scale what they wanted to be done in America as a whole.
COMMENTS FROM BLACK PANTHER EXHIBIT
To escape the entrapment of being enslaved in our minds
Teach monogamy vs misogyny
Function vs dysfunction
Empowerment vs power
Create a National Agenda
To be fair & just
Not to be equal but equitable
To be neither black, African American any other title
Healthcare accessible to all–so everyone can be their best self
A just justice system
An end to sexism, racism, and bigotry
Sadly, pretty much like the same things we asked for last time we wrote this- has anything changed?
Universities that actually care about social justice on an institutional level
Single payer healthcare
Freedom from police terror, jobs, release of all political prisoners (aka- all POC (people of color) folks
To be free