New Exhibit Celebrates History Of Black Panthers

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Long before the Black Lives Matter movement, the Black Panther Party was fighting to end police brutality in the Bay Area.

The party was founded 50 years ago in Oakland.

This weekend, a new exhibit opens at the Oakland Museum of California to tell the story. Founded in West Oakland in 1966, the party made its mission clear by outlining its goals with a 10-point party platform.

That list of demands included employment, affordable housing, quality education and an end to police brutality.

“The Black Panther Party has become even more relevant today,” said Rene de Guzman, Senior Curator of OMCA.

He says not much has changed.

“At the heart of our exhibit is the 10-point platform,” said de Guzman. “It’s the set of demands the Black Panthers created to develop their organization. We also have the rare opportunity to look at the handmade draft that Bobby Seale wrote.”

With the Black Panthers exhibit, the Oakland Museum is telling their stories though personal accounts, photos and artifacts.

“It’s a bronze replica that refers back to the peacock chair made famous by Huey Newton,” de Guzman explained as she gestured to a sculpture. “So the public is invited to come and sit in the chair to complete the artwork.”

The party also published their own newspaper.

“It was an important independent media outlet for communities that did feel like their stories were being told,” said de Guzman.

One display includes a rifle used by a Panther and later confiscated by the police.

“The biggest misconception of the Panthers is that they’re a bunch of black men with guns,” said de Guzman. “That’s simply not true. At some point two thirds of the Panthers were women.”

“What I hope is they don’t prejudge,” said OMCA Director Lori Fogarty. “Come in with an open mind and an open heart, and I think they’ll leave in a different place than they entered.”

The exhibit opens to the public starting Saturday. For more information, visit the Oakland Museum of California website.

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