Black Power, a concept and consciousness born in 1960’s America that’s still resonating in community organizing and advocacy today, is the focus of the new “Black Power!” exhibition opening next week at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Manhattan.
Debuting Feb. 16 in the Schomburg’s the newly-renovated Main Exhibition Hall, the exhibition continues the center’s s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Black Power movement.
A host of historic photographs and memorabilia have been assembled for the exhibition, showing the generations-spanning scope the Black Power model, conceptualized in 1966 by Stokley Carmichael and Willie Ricks, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known popularly by its acronym SNCC.
The Black Panther Party, the Black Nationalist organization founded in 1966, had a prominent, visible and impactful role in the Black Power movement and that’s reflected in the new exhibition.
Formed to address the lack of economic and political power, and police brutality in African American communities, the Panthers spread news of the organization’s activities and goals through “The Black Panther” publication. The exhibition boasts a copy of the first mimeographed issue of periodical, produced initially by founding members Bobby Seale and Elbert (Big Man) Howard, the publication’s editor.
In the U.S., the Black Power movement had a unifying effect, bringing together organizations of varied backgrounds to support causes. Highlighting this united stance among groups of the era is the exhibition’s Black Panther Coalition Flyer. The historic handout shows the joint effort of the Panthers, the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the white Young Patriots, the Chinese-American I Wor Kuen, and the Inmates Liberation Front to gain the release of the Panther 21. The Panther members, who were who were arrested in 1969, were later acquitted on charges they planned to suspicion of planning to bomb some New York City sites.
Also featured is a letter to activist and Black Panther ally Angela Davis from The Arab Women’s League of Jordan highlighting concern for political prisoners in the U.S. – another indication of the Black Power movement’s international impact.
Also emphasizing the international impact of Black Power is a striking image of Black Panther Party members in Israel. Made up of the Mizrahi community of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East, the party members in Israel battled against the economic and cultural domination of European Jews in that country. And the photo shows a leading group member sporting a T-shirt that reads Black Panthers, in Hebrew.
A two-part digital exhibition titled “Black Power 50” started in February 2016, in partnership with Google Cultural Institute. Since then, the Schomburg’s continuing Black Power commemoration has included public programs featuring Black Power movement leaders, such as Kathleen Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Iris Morales, and Black Arts Movement luminaries Nikki Giovanni, Askia Touré, and Sonia Sanchez. The new exhibition’s catalog Black Power 50 has also been released.
The Schomburg Center is at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. (at W. 135th St.). For more information about Schomburg’s collections and programs, visit schomburgcenter.org or call (917) 275-6975.
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