By Nyesha Stone
The Black Panther Party (BPP) helped lead the fight for a more equal America, and artist Emory Douglas was a part of that impact. Douglas was the Minister of Culture of the BBP from 1967 until the BPP broke up in the 1980s. This position placed him as the art director and designer of the BPP’s newspaper.
Douglas’s radical but truthful art helped pushed the entire revolutionary movement forward, not just the BPP.
According to Douglas, “We [BPP] weren’t the movement, but we had an impact on the movement.”
Douglas bought his wisdom to the city of Milwaukee to speak with creatives and journalists of color before his event The Art of Cause held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts.
He sat around a table with two young journalists, two creatives and a spokesperson from PBS. Through the questions asked, Douglas discussed his role in the Party, the things they went through, the importance of art and past and current social justice issues going on around the world, specifically in America.
“We’re not too far from nuclear war,” he said.
Douglas even brought up #BlackLivesMatter. He stated that this generation has its own movements, but not in the capacity like BPP, or other past revolutionary movements had.
“We had a whole system,” he said. And, when asked about the state of people’s mental health during those times, he said they had to find a way to deal with them.
He said everyone who was a part of the Party had baggage they brought in, but they had to find ways to transform that trauma into something that would make an impact.
“We had to transform those minds in the best we could,” he said.
Back then, newspapers were the way to get the news out. And the BPP’s newspaper reached a peak of 130,00 readers per week in 1970. They were reaching hundreds of thousands of people, and with the invention of social media, Douglas knows they could have reached an even broader audience within milliseconds.
He credited a lot of the BPP’s success to the media because they were always interviewing someone from the Party, which brought more awareness and attention to them and their mission.
Douglas spoke with the group for over two hours, but time seemed to fly by. Everyone who took part in the interview were all ears every time Douglas spoke. Being in a presence of a person who helped change history can be mind-boggling to some.
But, one topic Douglas kept circling back to was the youth. He said as many others have: the youth will be the ones to fix the issues other generations created.
“[There’s a] whole new mindset thinking out there,” he said. “Look at all those people who voted for Bernie.”
The interview finally came to end with everyone thanking Douglas for his time before he prepared for his event later on in the day.