California Today: Images of Black Panthers Through a New Lens

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Remember how we said we’d be trying out some new things in the newsletter? Today, we’re going to let images do most of the talking.

This month, the San Francisco Art Institute and U.C. Santa Cruz will host an exhibition featuring archival photographs of Black Panthers by Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch, many of which were first shown 50 years ago at the de Young Museum.

Some of them, though, haven’t been exhibited before — and I’m excited to say we have an exclusive preview.

The original 1968 exhibition drew more than 100,000 visitors, according to The Times’s obituary for Mr. Jones — it included now-iconic images of young black men and women, clad in leather jackets and berets, solemnly holding guns or waving flags.

I was struck by how these pictures contain a kind of quiet normalcy. They show Black Panthers doing the things members of any community might do. Activists read on a lawn, their feet splayed casually. A woman kisses a little girl on the cheek at a rally.

Kat Trataris, who manages exhibitions, events and partnerships for the institute, said the latter was among her favorites.

“The intimate moments in these photos — that, I think is lacking from the vernacular around the Black Panther movement,” she said. “Not everything is about violence.”

Image
A Free Huey demonstration at Alameda County Court House during Huey Newton’s trial.CreditPirkle Jones/Regents of the University of California, Courtesy of University Library at UC Santa Cruz
Selling The Black Panther newspaper at a U.C. Berkeley rally.CreditPirkle Jones/Regents of the University of California, Courtesy of University Library at UC Santa Cruz
Free Huey rally at Bobby Hutton Memorial Park (formerly DeFremery Park) in Oakland.CreditPirkle Jones/Regents of the University of California, Courtesy of University Library at UC Santa Cruz.

Still, Ms. Trataris said images of Black Panthers should continue to spark debate. The party rose in response to police violence and economic inequality that disproportionately affected black people. Those aren’t problems that have been fixed.

In the new exhibition — which was largely put together by students, and guest curated by the artist Leila Weefur — work by young, local black artists will be shown alongside the photographs. That’s meant to “augment the conversation that’s been happening over the last 50 years,” Ms. Trataris said.

As for Mr. Jones and Ms. Baruch, they were at home in a Bay Area arts scene that has changed over the decades, but hasn’t stopped welcoming misfits.

“In the pictures of them, they look like they’re funny people,” Ms. Trataris said. But, she added, “I don’t think just anybody would’ve been allowed in these moments.”

At the Black Panthers’ free breakfast for children program, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church (merged with Trinity Church in 1975). Commissioned by the Swedish magazine Vi.CreditRuth-Marion Baruch/Regents of the University of California, Courtesy of University Library at UC Santa Cruz.

Here’s more about the show, “Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures.

(A note: We often link to content on sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times stories, but we’d also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

Yesterday was supposed to be payday for many of the 800,000 federal workers affected by the government shutdown, which has dragged out for more than two weeks. Now, thousands of those workers, including T.S.A. employees, National Park Service staff members and corrections officers in California could struggle to pay their bills. [The New York Times]

• Despite the president’s televised speech Tuesday night in which he doubled down on the need for a border wall, actual border residents in four states were largely unenthusiastic about the idea. “This is a contrived emergency,” said a San Diego immigrant advocate. [The New York Times]

• Here’s how high-profile Democrats, including a whole roster of Californians like Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Senator Kamala Harris, reacted to President Trump’s speech. [The New York Times]

• The Los Angeles Unified School District is planning to bring in highly paid substitutes and hold classes in large spaces during the teachers’ strike that’s expected to start on Thursday. [The Los Angeles Times]

• In keeping with tech’s expansion into Southern California, Google signed a 14-year lease for the entirety of the office space at what was once the epitome of a shopping mall, Westside Pavilion, where Cher Horowitz was able to gather her thoughts and regain her strength in “Clueless.” Developers say it’ll be a first-of-its-kind conversion. [Curbed Los Angeles]

• “We didn’t have any radius issues with Coachella, put it that way.” Imagine Dragons, Neil Young and Mumford & Sons are set to headline BottleRock Napa Valley. Here’s the rest of the lineup. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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