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Features / February 26, 2009

Emory Douglas and the Black Panther Party: All Power to the People

Emory Douglas poster Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles

This weekend marks the final opportunity for Canadians to view “All Power to the People,” a striking exhibition of Black Panther Party posters, newspaper graphics and broadsheets organized by Toronto curators Heather Haynes and Izida Zorde in collaboration with Los Angeles’s Center for the Study of Political Graphics. (Haynes and Zorde are also, respectively, publisher and editor of Fuse.)

The exhibition opened at Haynes’s nonprofit gallery Toronto Free in September 2008, travelled to Edmonton’s Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists in November and opened at Winnipeg’s Ace Art in January.

Though many of the materials in this exhibition date from the 1960s and 1970s and hold great interest for students of history, the messages conveyed around social change and civil rights still have relevance to 2009 viewers. After all, the systemic injustices that these posters rail against continue to exist, as does government surveillance of those who choose to protest injustices in overt, unapologetic ways. (In the exhibition, this latter point is highlighted by the inclusion of US government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.)

The show focuses in particular on Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party’s minister of culture from 1967 to 1980. In Winnipeg, Douglas’s work around printmaking and identity inspired an adjunct session where community activists did a two-day screenprinting workshop at Martha Street Studio, a centre that, among other activities, publishes editions for Paul Butler’s Other Gallery. Marcel Dzama meets “Massive Change”—who’da thunk it? (2-290 McDermot Ave, Winnipeg MB)