In this photograph, I, Alison Rose Jefferson, sit in the iconic fan chair, some identify as a symbol of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s–1970s, at the “All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50” exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California open until late February 2017.
Since I was a little girl, I have been inspired by the power and resistance the photograph of Huey P. Newton gripping a gun in his right hand and a spear in his left, sitting in the fan chair made of cane. I have a vivid remembrance of this poster on display with vendors at a Black Power rally at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles that I attended with my mother, grandmother and other relatives. My uncle Price M. Cobbs was on the program, speaking about his book (written with William Grier), Black Rage (1968).
It was an exciting day for me to attend this rally and hear all the speakers. I was particularly fascinated with looking at folks with Afro hairdos, along with listening to the messages of the speakers on the program and the Black Panther Newton imagery. It was a wonderfully inspiring day for this little girl.
As a big girl, my cousin and photographer Lewis Watts made a photograph of me in the fan chair at the exhibit. I see my photograph as a memento and memory vehicle for my contemplation of my work, and contribution of spreading knowledge as a form of power now and in the future.
The “…Black Panthers at 50” exhibit is a well-done intersection of artistic expression and history narrative that even includes as part of the artifacts on display a bibliography handout viewers can take with them. Providing a reading lists gives interested viewers a place to begin for more in depth research on their own about the Black Panthers ideals and their impact on the nation and across the globe. A reexamination of the Panthers complex story at this moment offers ideas about fighting injustice in our own times for our journeys and history that will be made in 2017.
Check your local event and institutions calendars for programming to celebrate the history of African Americans and women in your communities and elsewhere.