A Panther’s Legacy: How the Panther’s visual rhetoric remains part of our pop.cultural imagination

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Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods (2020), a movie by Spike Lee that was released on June 12, 2020 via Netflix, explores the history of Black soldiers who fought for the U.S. in the Vietnam War. Gravillis Inc. who worked with Lee on the marketing of Da 5 Bloods, invited Emory Douglas, to collaborate on a poster for Da 5 Bloods based on his September 1969 artwork of the crying soldier.

Anti-racism protest @ Nelson MandelaPark, Amsterdam

The anti-racism demonstration on June 10th at Nelson Mandela Park in Bijlmer, Amsterdam, drew more than 10.000 participants. Among them this three protesters: all three are wearing black (leather) clothes with one of them wearing a baret. All raising their fist in the Black Power salut.

Actors dressed as Black Panther @ BLM-Protest

On June 3, during a Black Lives Matter protest in Decatur, Georgia (USA), a group of protesters drew the attention of the press. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “They said they were Black Panthers, and they looked the part with all-black attire and black berets adorned with a cat-head patch. Their leader was a tall, thin black woman armed with an assault rifle and a determined look.” The English newspaper The Daily Mail headlined a report: “Armed female Black Panther leads her comrades including a white recruit on a march through Georgia”. The group that was at first wrongly identified as New Black Panthers (which is seen as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), said they are actually part of the Black Panthers Revolutionaries Atlanta Chapter,  “the newest Black Panther Party here in Atlanta.” An article in exposed the group as ‘Actors Dressed as Black Panthers’, who are in no way affiliated with the orginal Black Panther Party of the New Black Panther. ““Nobody was paid” to wear the faux-Black Panther outfits or attend any of the protests.” Michael Pierino Miller, one white man in the group, made sure. Another member of the group, Spiike G, apologised to the original Black Panther Party “for using [Black Panther imagery] and to my people for going about it the wrong way,” […] “We wanted to uphold the ideas and views as the OG’s so we threw in [Black Panther]. He said he “wanted to be a symbol of hope” for protesters. “It wasn’t for fun or anything like that.”

The New Face of the NRA — CH Shorts

In the short clip ‘The New Face of the NRA‘ from 2018, College Humor ridicules the double standard of the NRA (National Rifle Association) regarding the right for every American to bear arms. This reminds us of the Mumford Act and the Sacramento demonstration of May 2nd, 1967. The black character is wearing the Black Panther attire: black beret, black leather jacker and black turtleneck and bandolier. Watch the clip here.

A rare sighting of ‘Black Panthers’ in The Netherlands

In late November 2015, a parade of black-face caricatures named Black Pete, encountered a small group of anti-blackface protesters. A small selection of these protesters were dressed in black uniforms and berets, with raised fist, were chanting anti-Black Pete slogans. According to Hans Visser, president of the local shop owners association, this “immediately led to a fearful and threatening sphere.”

This event eventually resulted in questions in parliament by the right-wing party PVV calling the Black Panther Party a “murderous and totalitarian cult”, and an “organization that excels in anti-white racism” with “prominent leaders (e.g. Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton) who are hard-boiled criminals, responsible for rape and assault?”.  ‘Gelijkwaardigheid Begint Nu’ (Equality Now), the organisation that led the anti-Black Pete demonstration, has announced that it does not appreciate the stigmatization. “We kindly ask you not to portray the demonstrators as dangerous and scary and to ask yourself whether you would have these thoughts if these were white young men with the same attire”.

“Sorry I had a fight in the middle of your Black Panther Party” — Forrest Gump

1994 Hollywood blockbuster ‘Forrest Gump’ tells the story of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75, whose only desire is to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart against the backdrop of historical events that shaped the 60s and 70s of the US. One of the scenes features Forrest beating up ‘Jenny’s’ abusive white boyfriend in the setting of a Black Panther Party Headquarter, complete with posters of Guevara, Newton, Seal and artwork by Emory Douglas. See the clip here.

Black separatist New Black Panthers

The New Black Panther Party (NBPP) is a U.S.-based black nationalist organization founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1989. Despite its name, the NBPP is not an official successor to the Black Panther Party. Members of the original Black Panther Party have insisted that the newer party is not legitimate and “there is no new Black Panther Party”. (wikipedia)