The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution

Ericka Huggins, Phyllis Jackson, Norma Mtume, Melina Abdullah
In Conversation With Photojournalist Bryan Shih
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Episode Summary

"What happens to revolutionaries in America?" This was the question photojournalist Bryan Shih sought to answer through his lens and the first-person narratives gathered in this powerful new book, Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution, released on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s founding. These intimate and rarely-heard stories of rank-and-file party members whose on-the-ground activism—from voter registrars, medical clinicians, and community teachers—contribute missing pieces to a skewed historical record and offer lessons for the future. #BlackLivesMatter activist and organizer Melina Abdullah joins Panthers Ericka Huggins, Norma Mtume, and Phyllis Jackson for an important examination of the past, present, and future of groundbreaking social movements.

Participant(s) Bio

Ericka Huggins is an educator, Black Panther Party member, former political prisoner, ally, and poet. For 35 years, Ericka Huggins has lectured in the United States and internationally, Restorative Justice practices and the role of spiritual practice in creating social change. In 2016, in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party, Ericka speaks about the importance of inclusive grassroots movements. Ericka was a professor of Sociology and African American Studies from 2011 through 2015 in the Peralta Community College District. At Merritt College, home of the Black Panther Party, she co-created and taught a course, “The Black Panther Party-Strategies for Organizing The People”.

In the summer of 1969, Phyllis J. Jackson dropped out of college and joined the Black Panther Party at the National Headquarters in Berkeley, California. Today, she is an associate professor of art history at Pomona College, specializing in the arts and cinema of Africa and the African diaspora. Dr. Jackson continues the BPP legacy of “Each One, Teach One” by offering mind-decolonizing courses, such as Black Aesthetics and the Politics of Representation, Whiteness: Race, Sex, and Representation, Black Women, Feminism(s) and Social Change, or Cinema Against War, Imperialism and Corporate Power. She co-directed the 1996 documentary Comrade Sister: Voices of Women in the Black Panther Party and is working on a book entitled AutoBiography of an Image: A Black Woman’s Journey Through the Visual Landscape.

Norma (Armour) Mtume, M.H.S, M.A. M.F.T., served as Minister of Health and later as the Minister of Finance in the Black Panther Party. She is a native Angeleno, recently retired Co-founder, and Chief Financial and Operations Officer for SHIELDS for Families, a 24-year-old social-service nonprofit serving families in South Los Angeles. Mtume co-founded two other social service agencies and three free community clinics during her career. She is currently a part-time Instructor in the College of Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Melina Abdullah is Professor and Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and immediate past campus president and current Council for Affirmative Action Chair for the California Faculty Association (the faculty union). Dr. Abdullah earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in Political Science and her B.A. from Howard University in African-American Studies. She was appointed to the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission in 2014 and is a recognized expert on race relations. She is an organizer at the Los Angeles branch of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bryan Shih is a photojournalist and former contributor to the Financial Times and National Public Radio in Japan. His work on the Panthers led to his selection for the New York Times inaugural portfolio review in 2013 and garnered him one of the highest rankings among entries in the LensCulture 2015 Portrait Awards competition. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Japan and is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he completed an audio-visual thesis on “Islamic Converts in Prison.”