Black Panther Party 55th Anniversary Retrospective Exhibit on Display Now
Art | Power | Community: A Black Panther Party 55th Anniversary Retrospective is now on display at the UCI Libraries Orange County & Southeast Asian Archive (OC&SEAA) Center.
The traveling exhibit, which is cosponsored by the UCI Libraries, UCI Humanities Center, and The OCS Project, originated from UC Irvine’s Black Panther Oakland Community School (BPOCS) Community Archives, Activism, and Storytelling Research Cluster, features original photography by UCI senior Micherlange Francois-Hemsley (BA ’22).
Francois-Hemsley was one of the 10 UCI undergraduate interns who performed the archival work for BPOCS Research Cluster. The BPOCS Research Cluster was formed in spring 2021 to advance research, teaching, and learning about the Black Panther Party’s history and survival programs. Art | Power | Community was also inspired by the October 2021 commemorative events in Oakland, California that marked the 55th anniversary of the Black Panther Party (BPP) for Self-Defense, which was founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and the late Huey P. Newton.
In addition to Francois-Hemsley’s photographs and information about the BPOCS’ community programs, the UCI exhibit includes an array of Black Panther Party documents and materials from the UCI Special Collections and Archives.
OPENING EVENT AND PANEL
An opening event and webinar for the exhibit was held on May 4, 2022. The event included a panel discussion moderated by Tatiana Bryant, UCI Librarian for Digital Humanities, History and African American Studies, that included Micherlange Francois-Hemsley; Jilchristina Vest, Director of the West Oakland Mural Project; John "Bunchy" Crear, photographer of the Black Panther Party, and M. Gayle "Asali" Dickson, graphic artist of the Black Panther Party.
In her opening remarks for the May 4 opening event, Krystal Tribbett, UCI Libraries Curator for Orange County Regional History and Research Librarian for Orange County, explained the exhibit helps fulfill a key part of the UCI Libraries mission:
“We seek ways to share histories of underrepresented and misrepresented individuals who might be absent from the historical record,” said Tribbett. “This exhibit is an opportunity for us to learn more about the Black Panther Party and the Oakland Community School.”
One of the panelists, Jilchristina Vest, explained that that exhibit adds and diversifies the photo legacy of Black Panthers.
“The beautiful photographs in this display contribute to the iconography of the Black Panther Party,” said Vest.
Vest said including the women of the Black Panther Party, who made up 70–80% of party members, and sharing about its humanitarian programs helps complete the narrative of Black Panther Party.
Vest is the creator of the Women of the Black Panther Party Mural, a 2,000-square-foot public art piece that is featured in the exhibit. The mural in West Oakland, California is painted on the side of Vest’s 144-year-old Victorian private home, which also houses 1,000-square-foot museum on the first floor.
A recording of the panel discussion is available online:
The Art | Power | Community exhibit will be on display at the UCI Libraries OC&SEAA Center, near Gateway Plaza at UCI, through the end of June 2022. (See the UCI Libraries website for OC&SEAA hours, and visit Parking Services for a campus map and visitor parking permit.)
A complementary digital also exhibit is available on the Art | Power | Community webpage.