black panther party 40th reunion
oct 2006 oakland ca
Lisa, Coleman, Bryan, my brother David, and I attended the Black Panther Party's 40th reunion in Oakland CA, Oct 14th & 15th 2006. We met Stephen Shames at his book signing (Bobby Seale was stuck on the East Coast & couldn't make it), went to the banquet dinner, and photographed many of the Panthers on the Alameda County Court House steps.
The boys, Lisa, and I attended the "Black Panther Rank and File" exhibit at the Yerba Beuna Center for the Arts in March. There we met Ilka Hartmann, a photography who captured great shots of the early days. We also had a chance to catch up with our friend Pirkle Jones, noted for his pictures of the Panthers especially Huey Newton. Coincidentally I bought a photo of Pirkle's at a YBCA online auction the night we flew down to Oakland.
I wasn't a member of the Party. I'm a little young (b. 1953) and my activism in the 60's & 70's centered around the anti-war movement. My one degree of separation is that one of my acupuncture school teachers, Don Halfkenny, was a Panther. I collect fine art photography, focusing on images of African-Americans including Pirkle's, Ilka's, and Stephen's photos of the Panthers.
The reunion was a wonderful affair. While we didn't attend the Saturday daytime sessions, the dinner was fraternal and loving. A women next to us in line was from Seattle, as were two gentlemen at our table. In fact Michael and Mark attended the same middle school as my two sons! The photo shoot Sunday morning was loud, joyous, and defiant. I shot lots of stills and a couple pieces of video using my camera. Street photography at its best so you know I was happy.
Without hesitation I say that these are proud and fierce people. Lots of gray but a spirit that I still give thanks to. My love and respect for the Panthers leaves my kids a bit confused given my professed Buddhist inclinations. A two-part answer: it was a different time and life is usually gray, rarely black and white.
elbert 'big man' howard
h. rap brown
party members attica prison riot 1971 the lumpen charles garry elaine brown peoples party II
bobby seale jane fonda sds, the left & the panthers l.a. shootout larry clayton powell malcolm x fbi wanted posters