“Revolution’s just another word for change,” former Black Panther Party members Gene Washington and Hank Jones (one of the San Francisco 8) say almost simultaneously. “But people are afraid of change.”
And so it was in late 1967 or early ’68 when Hank Jones decided to sign up to join the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
“I signed up so I could learn to defend myself,” Mr. Jones of Altadena states. “I was married and had three kids.”
Did it give you pause, we wonder, knowing that joining the BPP could not only be dangerous but put your life at risk?
ar”No,” Mr. Jones says. “No pause.”
Mr. Jones had been a community organizer before he joined the BPP in San Francisco/Oakland. Mr. Washington joined the party in 1970 and worked with the liberation schools and black student unions in south L.A. They believed in the Panthers’ social programs; the Free Children’s Breakfast Program (that now exists in schools all around the nation), free medical clinics, free schooling, free clothing, and “decent” housing, which were all part of the Ten Point Plan.
The reason for the exhibit RISE. Love. Revolution. The Black Panther Party at Art Share L.A. through March 21st, is twofold. The immediate reason is to raise funds from receiving 25% of the proceeds of each sale (the BPP alumni wanted the artist to make the largest percentage—50%—and convinced the gallery to take an uncharacteristically low twenty-five percent). The monies that are raised, Mr. Washington explains, will go to the National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party to help members who are incarcerated and who they consider to be the only political prisoners in America that the U.S. Government won’t admit to (i.e. Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim); help members and their families who are in financial need and have medical costs; and even to pay for memorials.
“No one’s getting any younger,” Mr. Jones says.
During the month of February and Black History Month, Mr. Jones and Washington have been making the rounds. They day before the exhibit opening, they led a panel at Pasadena City College encouraging “today’s youth to take up the cause.” The issues still exist, they explain. Mass incarceration, unequal application of the law, inadequate schools, inadequate housing, etc.
“The problem is not the individual, but the system. The system is designed to resist change. The Civil Rights Movement had to go outside of regular process and protest,” says Mr. Jones. “We always had to resort to the extreme even to be heard.”
RISE. Love. Revolution. The Black Panther Party
Exhibit opens Friday, February 21st, 6 p.m.
Art Share L.A., 801 E. 4th Place, L.A. 90013
For more info, visit RISEArtsCollective
Or call 626.578.5767
Exhibit curated by Lester Grant, Nery Gabriel Lemus, Rosalind McGary, and James O’Balles.