Tag: “41st and Central”

“Harlem Is Nowhere,” an Artistic Collaboration Between Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison, on Display at Art Institute of Chicago Until August 28

“Untitled” (Harlem, New York), 1952 (THE GORDON PARKS FOUNDATION)

article by Tamara Best via nytimes.com

Masters of their fields, the photographer Gordon Parks and the writer Ralph Ellison bonded over a shared vision of using their creative talents to address racial injustice. That commitment led to the powerful, enduring 1952 photo essay “A Man Becomes Invisible.”

But that Life magazine project was not their only collaboration. A new exhibition, “Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem,” for the first time shows images from a lesser-known 1948 project of theirs, “Harlem Is Nowhere.” On view through Aug. 28 at the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition offers the two men’s counternarrative (the reality, that is) of the living conditions of black Americans during that time. Among the show’s more than 50 objects — the known surviving material belonging to both “A Man Becomes Invisible” and “Harlem Is Nowhere” — are newly discovered images, photographs that have never been exhibited and items that had not been definitely identified as belonging to either project.

The black-and-white photographs are vignettes of life in Harlem: street scenes of adults and children; political advocacy in real time; and imagined scenes from “Invisible Man,” Ellison’s watershed 1952 novel. The photographs are placed next to the passages that correspond with them, giving a sense of the tight collaborative process. Among the other highlights are drafts of captions for “Harlem Is Nowhere,” and images include a man in an alleyway; Harlem in literal ruin with a clinic building acting as a bright light; and a patient waiting to be seen, sitting in solitude, head in his hands.

Ellison and Parks “lived parallel lives, and they intersect in a creative splendor,” Adam Bradley, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has written about Ellison’s work, said in a telephone interview. “They both understood the capacity of dark and light, light and shadow, black and white.”

These artists were compelled to focus on Harlem, their adopted home, which despite being the center of a cultural revival during the Harlem Renaissance, suffered a great economic toll tied to the Depression. They also witnessed the mounting postwar frustrations among their neighbors, black men who had been enlisted to fight but whose freedoms remained limited upon their return home.

Continue reading ““Harlem Is Nowhere,” an Artistic Collaboration Between Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison, on Display at Art Institute of Chicago Until August 28″

R.I.P. Author and Los Angeles Black Panther Leader Wayne Pharr

Wayne PharrWayne Pharr, former Black Panther who fought the Los Angeles Police in a historic gun battle in 1969, passed away on September 6, 2014 at age 64.  After Pharr and his fellow Panthers defended themselves from the long violent attack by the newly formed LAPD SWAT unit, he became a political prisoner who was exonerated of attempted murder and all other serious offenses.  Pharr eventually became a successful realtor in Southern California, a subject of the documentary, “41st and Central”, and most recently authored the well received autobiography, Nine Lives of A Black Panther: A Story of Survival.

In the infamous battle on December 8, 1969, a handful of young members of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party held off the Los Angeles Police Department’s new Special Weapons and Tactics squad and hundreds of other officers in a five hour firefight.

Pharr was 19 years old at the time and played a pivotal role in the battle as one of the first to repel the invasion into the Panther office by shooting the heavily armored SWAT team members with a shotgun as they entered the Black Panther office at Central Avenue and 41st Street.  No one was killed or seriously injured in the battle during which thousands of rounds of ammunition were exchanged and bombs used by both sides.

Observed by hundreds of members of the community, the Black Panther Party and their supporters considered the defense of the office and the people inside a victory while the Los Angeles Police Department considered this very first use of SWAT a tactical failure.  Pharr and the other Panthers were tried for attempted murder and other charges but were acquitted of all of the most serious offenses after the longest jury trial in Los Angeles history up to that time.

The battle at the Panther Party Central Avenue office was significant for several reasons.  The attack came days after another police assault in Chicago left Illinois Panther leaders Fred Hampton shot dead while sleeping in his bed and Mark Clark killed at the front door attempting to fend off the attack.  These attacks occurred during a nationwide war against the Black Panther Party by local police agencies in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation through the FBI’s illegal Counter Intelligence Program, also known as “Cointelpro”. This was also the debut of the paramilitary SWAT team concept which used military style training, weapons and tactics to crush Black resistance during a time of revolutionary fervor and anti-war activity by activists across the country. Historically, this battle can be seen as the birth of the movement to militarize law enforcement that has swept the country.

In the documentary, “41st & Central”, Pharr describes his feelings about the 1969 battle with the LAPD SWAT team:

“So for those five hours, I was in control of my destiny… I was my own power at that particular point and time. And I relished that, and I enjoyed that and I think about that constantly.  I was free! I was a free negro… yes sir!”

Recently, Pharr wrote the following reaction to the police response to community protests against the killing of unarmed 17 year old Black youth Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:

“Are we Americans, or are we not? If we are, then the police need to stand down, like they did in 1968 with the SDS, Students for a Democratic Society–an activist group made up of white students. With that group, instead of coming in with guns blazing, they attempted to have a dialogue with the student-activists…  If we are not Americans, then we need to go to war. The continuing militarization of police forces is a reminder of my  encounter in 1969, the 5-hour battle we had with the newly-formed L.A. SWAT team at 41st and Central. It becomes a matter of principle, our right to self-defense.”

article by Good Black News staff

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
%d bloggers like this: