#changingthenarrative

We are committed to:

  • Centering women, gender and sexuality in the history of the Black Panther Party and the larger history of the Black Power movement.
  • Amplifying the varied experiences of Panther women.
  • Creating articles, books, public programs and films.
  • Supporting and creating mechanisms to publicize the intersectional history of the BPP to the broadest possible audience through digital platforms, films, roundtables and writings.
  • Sharing the mic with Panther women.

Why now?

Black women’s participation in the Black Panther Party–as formal and informal leaders, rank and file members, and ideologues– is widely acknowledged but not deeply explored. This is the elephant in the room that persists in 2016–the 50th year anniversary of the founding of the Oakland Panthers in 1966. From PBS documentaries , to #BlackLivesMatter frontlines to pop culture iconography, to a growing number of monographs, autobiographies and articles, interest in the Panthers’ history has never been higher. The image of the Panthers as Black men with guns has not only endured–it has been reinscribed as imperative in the context of police violence. Black women are simultaneously highly visible in this new wave of reclamation and invisible. Too often Panther women remain tokens and symbols: they are present and even heralded, but rarely pivotal. Their actions rarely change, shape or drive the narrative. Panther women like Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, Ericka Huggins, Kathleen Cleaver and Afeni Shakur may appear to be well known, but key elements of their stories remain untold. They comprise a very short list of Panther women that is top down in nature and shallow in geographic scope (NY and CA) who are “awaiting their verb.” And what about the other women—those who never held titles, who dropped out of college or joined from the streets, those who were avid leftists or militant nationalists, those who were queer, those who joined the Panthers all over the country and world? Who will see them and tell their stories? This project seeks to make these women visible.

“On the cause of silence, each one of us draws her own fear– fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we also cannot truly live. Within this country where racial difference creates a constant, if unspoken, distortion of vision, black women have on one hand always been highly visible, and so, on the other hand, have been rendered invisible through the depersonalization of racism. Even within the women’s movement, we have had to fight and still do, for that very visibility which also renders us most vulnerable, our blackness. For to survive in the mouth of this dragon we call america, we have had to learn this first and most vital lesson– that we were never meant to survive. Not as human beings. And neither were most of you here today, black or not. And that visibility which makes you most vulnerable is also our greatest strength. Because the machine will try to grind us into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in out corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned, we can sit in our safe corners as mute as bottles, and still we will be no less afraid. “-“The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” by Audre Lorde

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