The Black Panthers are remembered through their most controversial moments and audacious leaders. But in a new book, a collaboration between photographer Bryan Shih and historian Yohuru R. Williams, portraits of ordinary members today combined with their biographies and testimonies tells a different kind of story about the group which looms so large in the American consciousness, in both fair and unfair (see Megyn Kelly and the New Black Panther) ways.
During our moment of Black Lives Matter on the one hand and Trump-enabled open racism and hatred on the other, connecting to the stories of a previous generation of activists feels vital, and in these portraits, quite stunning.
Below, find a selection of images provided to Flavorwire, excerpted from The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution edited by Bryan Shih & Yohuru Williams.
Copyright © 2016. Available from Nation Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
M. Gayle Dickson (aka Asali, b. June 27, 1948) is a lifelong artist who drew for and helped put together the Black Panther newspaper in Oakland. She was also a teacher at the Oakland Community School. She received a master of divinity and is an ordained minister.
Jamal Joseph (b. January 17, 1953) was one of the Panther Twenty-One in New York. He later spent five-and-a-half years in Leavenworth Federal Prison for harboring a fugitive wanted for the Brinks armored truck robbery. During his incarceration, he wrote his first play and earned two college degrees. He is a professor and former chair of Columbia University’s Graduate Film Division, artistic director of the New Heritage Theatre in Harlem, and director of IMPACT Repertory Theatre, a youth leadership and arts training program in Harlem. He is the author of a memoir, Panther Baby, along with Tupac Shakur Legacy, an interactive biography. He is also director of the feature-length film, Chapter and Verse.
Marion Brown (b. February 15, 1952) was born in New Orleans, where she joined the party. She worked a variety of jobs afterward in New Orleans and in the San Francisco Bay Area, including telephone operator, police dispatcher, and insurance processor.
Nana Ohema Akua Anum Njinga Onyame Nyamekye (formerly Patti Byrd, b. May 27, 1952) joined the Baltimore Chapter of the party, where she was a rank-and-file member. She later became an emergency medical technician (EMT) and worked in the emergency room and cardiac unit of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She retired from the federal government, where she assisted mothers with drug-exposed newborns, and is a board member of the National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party.
Patrice Sims (b. June 26, 1951) joined the Newark, New Jersey, Chapter of the party. She later worked as an arts teacher.
Stephen Edwards (b. December 27, 1949) grew up in Houston, Texas, where he joined Peoples Party II (PPII), an organization established by Carl Hampton modeled on the Black Panther Party. PPII became the Black Panther Party Houston Chapter after Hampton was killed by the Houston police. Edwards received his master’s in fine arts from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) film school and is a photographer and filmmaker.
William BJ Johnson (b. March 4, 1949) grew up in Corona, Queens, where he also joined the party. Later he was the road manager for a singing group called the Variations that he says opened for James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., and Aretha Franklin. He is part of the Black Panther Commemoration Committee New York, which hosts an annual film festival in New York City to raise money for political prisoners.
All images excerpted from The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution edited by Bryan Shih & Yohuru Williams. Copyright © 2016. Available from Nation Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.